How to Set Up Your Self-Publishing Company on Bowker

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How to Set Up Your Self-Publishing Company on Bowker

When you self-publish, you become the publisher. Congratulations! Now you get to make some executive decisions concerning your new publishing company, but before you do that, read through this Cliff’s notes version of

  • what is Bowker and who needs it,
  • setting up your Bowker account,
  • choosing a name for your publishing company,
  • creating imprints,
  • purchasing ISBNs,
  • what to do about barcodes,
  • and choosing a logo for your new publishing company.

Who/What is Bowker?

Americans have to buy their own ISBNs through a company called Bowker.

“Bowker supports the needs of all publishers, big or small. Whether you’re a self-publishing author or general trade publisher maintaining a backlist of thousands, Bowker offers critical resources to satisfy your needs, including ISBNs, barcodes, and business intelligence.”–Bowker

Like most people, they are in business to make money. So while they provide needed services, they, of course, will also try to upsell you on things that you don’t necessarily need or for services that your cover designer and book designer will often include for no fee (like barcodes).

I did sign up for them to email me with offers, and, lordy, do they send out the emails. If I wasn’t doing so much research, I would have unsubscribed long ago.

Here is a screenshot of all of the emails I have received from August 9 through August 23. I saved them just to show you 🙂

Setting Up Your Bowker Account

You will register for an account and purchase your ISBNs through this link: My Identifiers

I am attaching a screenshot showing how I filled in information when I set up my account.

You’ll have a place to put your actual name and then at the bottom a place to put your company name. This is where your publishing company name will go.

If you already have an EIN (Employer Identification Number), then your publishing company will become a DBA (Doing Business As) under that EIN. If you want to, you can actually file a DBA and have all of your ducks in a row. Or when you open your account with Bowker, you can set it up under whatever publisher name you choose without being organized. I’m not saying this is the best way. I’m just saying it’s an option.

It is recommended that you choose a company name that does not include your own name. Like I chose Purple Snail Press for my publishing company name, not Martin Books.

Divisions (Imprints) within Your Publishing Company

Part of having a publishing company is that you can set up different divisions inside your publishing company for different genres. For instance, Thomas Nelson is a huge publisher. They have several imprints: Nelson Books (Christian non-fiction), Tommy Nelson (children’s division), and Grupo Nelson (Spanish division). You don’t have to set up different divisions. I’m just letting you know that this is an option incase your publishing company grows into something bigger.

If you do NOT set up different divisions, then your imprint will be the company name that you chose during your Bowker setup.

To set up different imprints, you will navigate to My Account–>My Profile Data–>My Company.


I don’t have any imprints at this time, so mine just shows a single-level Purple Snail Press.


Note About Imprints On CreateSpace

If you’ll notice at the very bottom of that last graphic on Bowker’s site, it says in red “DO NOT ADD your imprint as the same name as your publisher.”

However, CreateSpace’s system will require you show your book’s publisher as the imprint name that it is associated with, whether that is your top-level name or your second-level, which is the actual imprint.

Purple Snail Press isn’t my imprint. It’s my publishing company name. Since I only have a top-level, that will also be what I use as my imprint when prompted by CreateSpace.

Part of purchasing the ISBNs is assigning each ISBN to the book it belongs to. During this process, you will be asked to choose the imprint name for this ISBN. You will get a drop-down list, and if you only have a top-level, then that is what you will have to go with. For me, that will be Purple Snail Press.

Let’s look at another example using “Homeschool Basics”. You can see here that the publisher for “Homeschool Basics” is listed as “Thriving Homeschool Press”. However, the publishing company name is actually Raising Clovers. Thriving Homeschool Press is the imprint.


Part of the publisher’s responsibility (that’s you!) is purchasing the ISBN(s) for your book. Your best option is to buy 10 ISBNs for the $295 (if you’re fixing to blow up the world with books, then get the 100 for $575). You can use these ISBNs on future books.

Most projects will require 2 ISBNs: one for the print book and one for the epub.

  • The epub version will have its own ISBN.
  • For physical books, each size, each binding style, or any combination of the two gets its own ISBN.
    Example 1: If you do a 6×9 paperback and an 8×10 paperback, then each size will get its own ISBN.
    Example 2: If you do a paperback and a hardback, then each binding style will get its own ISBN.
    Example 3: A spiral-bound 6×9 will get its own ISBN and a 6×9 perfect bound (traditional glued spine) will get its own ISBN.
  • You CAN choose to assign one of your purchased ISBNs to your Kindle version, but it’s not necessary. Your Kindle book will only be distributed through Amazon, and they will assign your Kindle version an internal number called an ASIN.

IMPORTANT: Do not choose the free ISBN that CreateSpace and other companies will offer you unless you want them to own distribution rights to that version of your book.



I have written a separate post on barcodes, “Barcode Options for the Self-Publisher“, that goes into great detail. It covers

  • Who Needs a Barcode?
  • What Is a Barcode?
  • What Is in a Barcode?
  • Information to Pair with Your Barcode
  • Using CreateSpace’s Free Barcode
  • Bring Your Own Barcode

and has its own photo series dedicated to barcodes.

Some key takeaways from that article follow but are by no means a replacement for reading the whole article:

  • Bowker sells “distribution ready” barcodes. These are barcodes that contain both an EAN-13 (ISBN) and an EAN-5 (retail price).
  • You may not need to buy your own barcodes, though. If you are not focusing on bookstores or libraries and will only be selling your book via Amazon direct to individuals, then your cover designer should be able to generate an ISBN-only barcode for you. If he can’t, then this is a sign of an unseasoned book designer. If your designer is serious about designing book covers, then she will provide and place a “distribution ready” barcode on your cover.
  • Most of your print-on-demand printers will generate the barcode for you for no extra cost but not all of them provide “distribution ready” barcodes.
  • Some printers (independent book binderies) may require you to BYOB (bring your own barcode), or they will offer you an upsell to have them do that for you.

Publishing Company Logo

Ideally, you would also have a logo created for your publishing company, and that will be used in certain key areas on your cover and inside your book to show the world that your book was professionally published. It gives your book more credibility in certain people’s eyes.

You can just do something text-based for now until you decide what you want to graphically represent your new publishing company.

Here is a publishing company logo design I created for Thriving Homeschool Press. It should be placed on the back cover and on the spine. Notice it’s in two different formats: rectangular and square. It’s also in color and in white. Your logo should be versatile (any logo, not just your publishing company logo).


If this is your first venture into getting started as a viable business with a goal of making an income from your publishing efforts, you will want to get Carol Topp’s book, “Business Tips and Taxes for Writers“. I have personally met Carol, and she is a very well-respected member of the author and blogger community that I stem from.

Would you like some IRL support? Schedule a no-fee call with me and we can get you pointed in the right direction.

Do you have questions or comments? Was I wrong about something? I promise I don’t know it all, and if you have had a different experience, I’d love to learn from that. Use the thread for this topic in the Self Publishing Support Group on Facebook.


If you are looking for someone to format your book's interior, design a full cover, create marketing materials, or if you just need a little hand-holding, contact me today for a consultation or a quote.

I also admin the fantastic Self Publishing Support Group on Facebook and am happy to answer your questions there for no charge, and the rest of the group is also super helpful, bringing an array of experience, knowledge, and wisdom to the table.