The ‘No B.S. Guide’ to Self-Publishing — Part Five — One Honest Indie

Debbi Mack
3 min readNov 15, 2022

Picking up from where we left off in Part Four.

I believe we were going to talk about ISBNs. Let’s also talk about pricing your books. Especially print books, which requires only the most basic math skills.


Let’s back up a moment and talk about ISBNs. If you decide to self-publish on your own, you’ll have to buy your own ISBNs. Every book has one and a different one is assigned for books in each format. This means print (hardcover and paperback), audio and ebooks each get a separate ISBN. In the U.S., ISBNs are assigned by R.R. Bowker. You can also get them in the U.S. at Unless you think you’re going to be as prolific as Isaac Asimov or plan to write a 10-book series really soon, I’d start off buying a set of 10 ISBNs, to keep the costs down. However, you can buy them in sets of 100, if you’re ambitious and think you can use them. They’re cheaper in bulk.

ISBNs are currently not required on Amazon ebooks for Kindle. However, be advised that some distributors do require them on ebooks, which is another reason why you’ll want to purchase them in bulk if you plan to write more than one book. In any case, buying one ISBN simply isn’t cost-effective, so buy them in sets of 10 or 100.

Setting your book’s price

If you’re self-publishing under your own trade name, you’re entirely responsible for setting your book’s suggested retail price. This involves more than just looking at what other authors are charging for their books and setting your price somewhere in the same neighborhood. First, you need to know how much it costs to produce a copy of the book. (IngramSpark provides a formula for determining this.) Once you’ve determined your production cost per book, consider the market price for books similar to yours, then factor in a wholesale discount of 55–60%. The difference between the discounted price and the cost of the book is your profit per sale. Therefore, make sure the discounted price ends up being higher than the production cost of one copy of your book.

Or to put in terms of an equation:

Wholesale price (55–60% of suggested retail price) — Cost of producing book = author’s profit

Debbi Mack

New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including the Sam McRae Mystery series. Screenwriter, podcaster, and blogger. My website: