Self Publishing-bar codes, ISBN#, copyright


There were some Guide To Self Publishing books at the library I took out just for fun—they had a few things I think a self publishing tarot artist/designer might need to look into.

1. ISBN numbers. You have to buy one. The U.S. ISBN Agency should be available online now. The book (published in 1996) says the cost back then was $115 and required 20 days to turn around—but costs might have gone up. Each ‘edition’ apparently gets it’s own ISBN number, best check into that if you’re doing several reprints. Not sure if a reprint that has no changes done to it requires a new number. You can also request a SAN (Standard Address Number) which makes for a quick lookup & double check of your name, address, etc. It makes you look ‘bigger’ as a company, you request it when you request your ISBN. An ISBN# has the first digit showing the country of origin. The next series identifies the publisher. The next series shows the title/edition. The last # is a check digit.

2. BAR CODES. To be carried by the bookstores & shops, most require a bar code so the item can be scanned. There are two types -- EAN and UPC. Bookstores always need an EAN type, supermarkets & mass market outlets need UPC codes. You need to get these (they’re findable online) but before you can do this you need to establish your price AND your ISBN number. The bar code is read as: first 3 symbols show what product this is (book, etc.), next 9 is the ISBN# minus the last digit (which is a check number), the last figure is a check digit. In the smaller extension right of this is a continuation of the bar code, the first digit is the type of currency (US Dollars) the next 4 is the retail price.

3. COPYRIGHT – Get it on your stuff BEFORE starting any full scale production. I’m not sure if a deck needs to be sent in as a ‘deck’ where all the cards are loose & boxed up, or if you can get away with sending flat copies uncut on the card stock (which would make it easier to store at the copyright office). The Register of Copyrights is online & you can get the forms there. I believe cost is now $35 to register. It used to be $30 but changed a few years ago.

4. Know the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor—and some wholesalers call themselves distributors, which makes a more confusing problem. Distributors have agents who go out and push the books/products they carry. Wholesalers don’t, think of them as a warehouse only.

5. Bookstores order from distributor catalogs or wholesaler catalogs. To get INTO the catalogs you need to get your info to the right person before the next catalog goes to print. In October the catalog for the January-June sales season closes. It’s printed in Nov., shown at the sales meetings in Dec. and the sales people sell from it in Jan. In April the catalog for July-Dec. selling season closes. It’s printed in May, discussed later that month and starts showing to bookstores in July. They have long lead times.

6. Have a name for the deck that’s 30 characters long or shorter. 30 characters is the most room publisher databases allow for basic listings. If yours is longer, part gets cut.

7. If you’re calling yourself a company, think up a good name, don’t call it after you. Apparently that’s the kiss of death in the publishing business, nobody wants a small time Mr. Joe Bloe selling Joe Bloe books at Joe Bloe Publishing. The book recommends impersonating a large business by using a name other than your own. If you don’t, it says reviewers won’t look at your stuff (well, they’re talking about books, not tarot decks) and the Library of Congress won’t accept them figuring these are a type of vanity publishing and not legitimately offered to the public.

8. PRICING. They recommend doing it from the bottom up & top down, to see where they meet. Top down is what books are currently going for at retail. Bottom up is used when you’ll sell through stores—you price it at 8 times the unit production cost. Otherwise you won’t have enough money to promote the item, considering the amount you have to give away to distributors and wholesalers. This is 8 times the printing & shipping costs. Not sure here how much applies to a tarot deck. Using their formula, if it costs you $4 to make up the deck/box package, you take 4x8=$32 and look at the top down to see if this is feasible (remember that this is ‘self-publishing’ info they were talking about, if you have a publisher you don’t worry about pricing, the publisher does it for you).

At least this is what I've read in 3 books, which might be applicable to self publishing a tarot deck that you want to get into the bookstores & general market. Any thoughts or comments are welcome.


thanks so much for listing this information - great to hang onto for future consideration.


Oh, neat stuff! Do you do agenting too? (trying to look demure and reasonable, and not let too much saliva drip from the mouth)

Note to the moderator: this one should be a sticky!


AGENTING??? Me? I'm still trying to finish up my tarot art for the deck, I just read a lot.... **cough--anal retentive--cough***

Best go to Baba-Prague for that! They're way ahead of me on the marketing thing.