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Everything You Need to Know About Book Copyright and ISBNs

May 05, 2021 (Last Updated April 15, 2024)

Marcy G.

You have proudly finished your masterpiece. The files are ready, the cover is designed, and you are ready to get your books printed. This is when some questions start popping up: What about book copyright? How do I get a barcode on the back of my book? Do I need an ISBN number? How long does copyright registration take? Should I have done that a while ago?

These are questions we are commonly asked before orders are placed. If you are planning on selling your books in stores or online, you will need an ISBN and barcode. Luckily, we have made this process easy for you. You can request an ISBN and barcode on your online order form with us. Once the order is submitted, we will send you the application to fill out, then we will submit it on our end. Once we receive the ISBN, we generate the barcode for you and place it on your back cover! If you left a space on your copyright page for the ISBN, we will fill it in for you as well.

Copyright page example with highlighted space for ISBN Back cover of a book with barcode

How to get an ISBN

An ISBN is not the same as a barcode. The ISBN is the number itself, and the barcode is created from the ISBN. You buy an ISBN first, and then generate a barcode from that ISBN. At 48 Hr Books, we're a 1-stop-shop. Here you can buy ISBN numbers and barcodes individually and in packages, simplifying the process, and saving you a little money, too.

*We order your ISBN directly from Bowker, meaning the ISBN belongs to YOU and is valid at any retailer. Other companies like Amazon own your ISBN, therefore it is only valid when sold through Amazon. Keep this in mind when deciding how to obtain one. You can request an ISBN on your online order form with us. We’ll send you the application to fill out then submit it to Bowker. Depending on when it’s submitted, this process can add 2 days to your production time, so keep this in mind! Once we receive the ISBN, we will generate the barcode and add it to your back cover.  If you have a space on your copyright page for the ISBN, we will insert this for you as well – just let us know!

What exactly is an ISBN?

An ISBN is a unique number that identifies a book. Many books have the same or similar titles, so bookstores and book distributors use an ISBN to be sure they're ordering the correct book. If your book doesn't have an ISBN, bookstores (including online bookstores) won't carry it.

If you are planning on printing your book in multiple formats (paperback, hardcover, eBook), then you will need a separate ISBN for each, even if it's the same book title. This is because an ISBN identifies the following: 

- Title/Subtitle

- Author

- Page count

- Format (hardcover, paperback, eBook, audio book)

- Trim size

- Publisher

- Edition

If any of these details vary, then a new ISBN should be obtained.

Ok, you have the ISBN and barcode taken care of, so you can formally sell your books. What about book copyright registration?

What is copyright?

“Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works” (copyright.gov).  It is a form of intellectual property law and protects your authorship.

Do I need to register?

Technically your work is protected from the moment of its creation, so registering is voluntary. However, if you ever feel your work has been copied and a lawsuit were to materialize, a registered copyright would legally protect you and your work. Registering for copyright is recommended if you plan on selling your books.

How do I register?

Go to https://copyright.gov/

Click on “Register a Copyright”

This takes you to the Registration Portal

For more info, you can click on “Registration Processing Time and FAQ’s”

Or directly click on “Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office Registration System”

You will need to create an account then fill out the registration form. You must also send a copy of your work, which can be electronic.

How long does it take?

The time it takes to receive your copyright may vary, but currently web processing takes about 7 months and mail-in applications take about 9 months.

Don’t let the time it takes to receive your copyright information discourage you from selling your books. You can still print your books even if your copyright registration has not been completed yet! To get started, partner with us to print your book.



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Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.


Lacinda Burnom September 14, 2021

Hello. My book needs a cover design, ISBN number purchase, printing and binding. What's the next step I need to complete? Does my book have to be printed, binded with a cover design, before I purchase an ISBN? I'm planning for my book signing late October, but feel stuck at this point.

48 Hr Books September 15, 2021

Hi Lacinda! You can request an ISBN when you go to place your online order with us. We also offer cover design services: https://www.48hrbooks.com/covers/custom-cover-design Please call us at 800-231-0521 to speak with a customer service rep and we will explain the process in detail, let you know what you need to place an order, and answer any of your questions!

Lacinda Burnom September 06, 2021

I do so look forward to information shared from this company. Thank you.

48 Hr Books September 09, 2021

Thanks, Lacinda!

48 Hr Books February 17, 2020

Hi Denise! Technically your work is protected from the moment of its creation, but if you were to ever think someone is copying you, copyright protects this. Unless you run into this before the copyright process is finished, you should not have any issues with protecting your books. Fees range from $35 - $55 to file.

Denise February 16, 2020

Quest# 1 On copyrights, with 7+ months to obtain , if some sold right away , those books would not have the copyright listed and then some would . That would only protect some of the books . Is that correct ? Quest #2 - What is the approx. for a copyright ? Is is bard on the number of pages , or a flat fee ? Thanks !

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