You know that manuscript you want to publish? Where do you start?

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Just thinking about all your self-publishing options is enough to make your head spin. With so many companies all offering just one piece of the puzzle, and those pieces scattered everywhere, you’re left trying to figure out how to make them all click into place.

Dizzy yet?

That’s how my mom and I both felt when she recruited me to help publish her memoir, A Chardonnay a Day. We did some research, and the results were overwhelming: BookBaby, Nook Press, Amazon, LuLu, CreateSpace, Lightning Source, etc., etc. And who does the book cover? Who does the formatting? What is formatting, come to think of it? Oh boy…

Eventually, we published the book, and it turned out beautifully. But now, years later, I know exactly what works. All those puzzle pieces? Now, they just fit together, and guess what? It was just 6 simple steps all along!

So today, instead of freaking out about all the options, I just follow an easy checklist. Bam, done! Gorgeous published book.

In this series, I’m sharing the checklist with you. I’ve narrowed the whole book publishing process down to 6 steps that I call Laptop-to-Bookstore, and it quickly untangles the self-publishing process so you can publish your book and get on with your life.

Step 1 was editing, in case you missed it. Step 2 is…drumroll please

ISBN and barcode. If you fell asleep reading the name of this step, you can be forgiven. But if you could manage to prop your eyelids open with toothpicks for just a few moments, I’ll tell you why this is important.

What you need to know is that an ISBN is basically a serial number for your book that helps you track sales, which is important because that’s how bestseller lists are created. Maybe you’re thinking that you won’t sell very many copies of your first novel, but plenty of authors who thought that ended up selling tons, so you definitely want to track sales from the get-go.

(ISBN, by the way, stands for International Standard Book Number.)

An ISBN is super easy to obtain from an outfit called Bowker (“BAO-ker”) at With my Laptop-to-Bookstore system, you’ll be publishing a print edition and a Kindle e-book edition, both of which need their own ISBN. The most cost-effective way to do this is to get the 10-pack of ISBNs. You’ll use 2 now, but you’ll have the remaining 8 forever, and you can use them for your next book projects.

A barcode is the scannable UPC that is placed on the back of your print book so that the bookstore cashier can ring it up. Since e-books don’t require barcodes, you only need the one for your print book, and for $25, Bowker will generate one for you. This is easier than it sounds, and I explain it to you in more detail in my Laptop-to-Bookstore audio course (coming soon, but sign up for my mailing list to get updates!)

Now you know both Step 1 and Step 2 of Laptop-to-Bookstore. Coming next, step 3!

I’m Timothy Pike, publishing consultant based in Philadelphia, PA, specializing in helping you publish a beautiful book and get it into the bookstore. Be sure to sign up for more info about my simple publishing system!


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