What’s an ISBN?

Do I need an ISBN? Do I want an ISBN? Do I have to have an ISBN? What’s an ISBN? Does someone else take care of the ISBN? What’s my responsibility anyway?

ISBN Explained

“What’s an ISBN?” This is a great question! ISBN is an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. I know, jargon. You’re not supposed to use industry jargon. But we’ll let this one pass—just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

Oh wait, so all books get them? So I need an ISBN?

It depends. If you’re publishing your book and selling it on your own, then you don’t have to get one. However, if you want things like distribution and placement in bookstores, then you do need to have one.

Don’t worry if you already published your book without getting an ISBN—you can still get one post-publishing. It’s fine. As long as you have the number you can add it as a sticker to your book or give the number to the distributor. Really, it’s fine.

What if I wrote a book but someone else is publishing it?

Whoever publishes the book obtains the ISBN. Think of it this way. Whoever is taking the financial risk on the book is the person, business, or organization who applies for the ISBN.

Does one ISBN cover an ebook, a paperback, and an audio book of the same book?

No. You will need three separate ISBN’s. Also, if you publish an updated edition you’ll also need a new ISBN for that. Oh, and also a hardcover and in 17 different languages? Yes, all different ISBNs.

Where do I get an ISBN?

Every country has its own way of doing it. In Canada, you apply for an ISBN through the Library and Archives Canada at no cost. In other countries there may be a fee or service charge.

Is an ISBN the same as a bar code?

No. A bar code is a graphic with vertical lines that gets scanned at a retail outlet. The ISBN is a 13-digit number. That said, you can have your ISBN translated into a bar code.

Still more questions? No problem, just let me know. But I hope this has at least unravelled part of the mystery to the question what’s an ISBN. Crazy-boring, hey?

Other resources

Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas [book review]

Story Sparks Finding Your Best Story Ideas & Turning Them into Compelling Fiction by Denise Jaden

Story Sparks. S.P.A.R.K.S. An acronym of author Denise Jaden’s own making, this concise 166-page book talks us and then walks us through how to come up with ideas and keep the idea train running at full steam.

Seek. Jaden encourages us to change our mindset from coming up with ideas to finding them. Transforming into an Idea Seeker. This means you go out, you search, you look for inspiration. Then when your list feels sufficient, you create. Treating ideas like something to be discovered transformed the idea process into something to enjoy rather than stress over.

Passion. What inspires you? Jaden challenges us to look for what we’re already passionate about and write from that place, rather than writing about what we think we should write. She says for our readers to feel deep emotions, we must write with deep emotions and passion. So, which ideas propel you to write?

Allies. Who do you trust to bounce ideas off of? Anyone? Jaden says we need allies on our writing venture. We need them not only to test ideas but to help spark new ones. But what if our ally steals our idea? Jaden says although we need to choose our allies with care, we shouldn’t worry about idea theft. “Each writer may start with the exact same idea, but each uses that idea to say something unique, perhaps even wildly different or opposed, based on their worldview,” (20).

Resonance. This is the part where we’re warned not to write a book because it’s trendy or selling right now. It won’t resonate. Instead, she says we need to think about what our story satisfies in readers. Don’t worry about the selling part right now, focus on the writing. What about our story will resonate with our readers? Can we make it better? More dangerous? Add higher stakes? Can something go wrong?

Kinetic Energy. At the end of the journey comes the momentum. Action happens first, then momentum grows. Jaden says, “As these elements come together, this ‘kinetic’ energy gives your ideas a unique momentum that will carry you through the actual writing of the story and make the process seem almost easy or effortless,” (31).

And that’s just part one. The following four parts are filled with great tips and inspiration for fanning the spark into a flame, developing the fire along with habits, and useful resources like prompts, themes, and even lists of names.

Reading through Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction I stopped multiple times to jot down ideas, brainstorms, and topics to think about. I couldn’t believe how inspired I was—and that was just from reading! I worked through several of the exercises Jaden suggests and found them fruitful. This is a valuable read for anyone battling writer’s block, perfectionism, or just looking for new ways to keep their ideas fresh.


Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction

Anyone who has been hamster-wheeling a story idea for years or has hundreds of pages exploring various approaches on their hard drive knows there must be a better way. There is. Successful young adult novelist Denise Jaden shows exactly how to create the captivating stories that prevent dispiriting wasted time. Busting the “visitation from the muses” myth, she shows that inspiration is a skill that can be learned by understanding how story ideas work (or don’t), fertilizing the ground for fresh and sound ideas, and moving swiftly through stuck points. Practical and inspiring, Jaden’s approach celebrates the imaginative sparks that make innovations of all kinds possible while pinpointing the precise tools writers need to fan their unique creative flames.

Jaden shares, “I think the idea that everyone has a story in them is universal. I speak with many people who say, “I could never write a book,” but when I start to delve into their lives and the possibilities for stories within them, something lights up.” The truth is, finding great story ideas does not have to be a gift or a talent grown from birth. It is a skill, and it can be learned.

In Story Sparks, you will…

  • Learn how and why stories resonate with us
  • Discover new and fun ways to come up with story ideas
  • Get help in choosing from ideas and then following through with them
  • Troubleshoot ideas for potential pitfalls
  • Find a lengthy appendix of ideas for getting unstuck

Denise Jaden, author of Story Sparks and Fast Fiction, fast-drafted her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon Schuster), in twenty-one days during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Her second fast-drafted novel was published in 2012. She runs a fast-drafting challenge on her blog each March and lives outside Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction will be released on August 25, 2017. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

Sustaining Grayce [book review]

Sustaining Grayce

Remember when you were 14 years old? Remember how hard it was? Let me assure you, Grayce’s 14th year was worse. Here’s a shy, nice girl using all her energy just to keep it together when the school principle asks her a favour—carry co-student Peggy’s books to and from all her classes while she adjusts to her crutches. Grayce agrees to the task, not seeing much alternative, and is surprised when a friendship develops with the pretty, lively, now-one-legged girl.

Through 14 chapters we observe the birth, life, and death of a best friendship. We see how love can cover pain, and how prayer can make us strong. We see how telling the truth releases us from shame and takes power away from our secrets. We see how acting in kindness and obedience are scary but lead to good in the end.

Sustaining Grayce by Sandra Hare is a beautiful story you can read in an afternoon. It’s well-written and gripping. I did find it interesting how an unchurched 14-year-old had become such a master at biblical interpretation and correlation—that would be a miracle in itself—but most of the plot was engaging and believable.

If you’re looking for a sweet story about saying the important things and being vulnerable, I recommend this book.


Sustaining Grayce

Grayce is coping with as much stress as a fourteen-year-old can handle, and then she is asked to help Peggy, a fun-loving teen who happens to be fighting cancer. Share the laughter and heartache as Peggy and Grayce try to live normal lives amidst the craziness that swirls around them. Set in Lancaster, Pennsylvania during the late 1960’s, Sustaining Grayce explores how two girls with totally opposite religious beliefs and very different families can learn to love each other and the broken people surrounding them. Their story is a miracle made possible only by God’s sustaining grace.

Are We Happy Yet? [book review]

Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life

Are we happy yet

What would you say if I told you there’s a formula for happiness? What if I told you happiness is available to all but isn’t something you’re entitled to? Would you believe me if I told you happiness comes from inside and not from anything external—not stuff, not people, not circumstances?

What would you say if I told you the keys to unlocking happiness were available in paperback?

Are We Happy Yet? author Lisa Cypers Kamen says happiness comes from the transformative power of self-mastery, and that happiness isn’t the destination but a byproduct of the journey.

Curious? There’s more.

In her book, she confronts common objections for why we aren’t or can’t be happy. Trauma, genetic depression, real problems, etc. Not discounting the challenges we face, there are ample exercises and quizzes to help us gauge where we’re at happiness-wise and arm ourselves with the data we need to move forward, towards a happier life. She challenges us to deal with the mental horde of stuff packed away in our attic and take a more emotional minimalist approach—let it go!

Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life

  1. Life is tough, but happiness is available to us all
  2. Your inner child is your inner sage available to guide you
  3. More is not always better
  4. We cannot control life, only ourselves
  5. Our happiness is our personal responsibility
  6. Choose activities and people that foster happiness
  7. Treat yourself the way you wish to be treated
  8. Happiness is an inside job. Happiness is your inside job

Each of the eight keys is defined, explained, and unpacked using storytelling, clear language, and motivational exercises. If you’re wondering where your happiness roadblocks are, this book will help you define, deal with, and move past them.

The new revised edition of Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life releases March 20, 2017.


Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life

Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life is an exciting fusion of science and heart, offering a guide in creating our own personal “happiness revolution.”
Lisa Cypers Kamen, an internationally known applied positive psychology coach, lifestyle management specialist and Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio show host, gives us the keys to her breakthrough system for cultivating sustainable wellbeing and happiness in our lives from the inside out— regardless of external circumstance. Lisa’s techniques combine mental, emotional and spiritual muscle-building training for greater resiliency, self-mastery and optimal living.

Her inspiring and practical tips, keys, and exercises will boost your “Happiness-Factor” to new levels and show you how to tap into the joy and peace you deserve.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Accept the past for what it is—a reference point, not a destination
  • Embrace the truth that while life is tough, you can be happy
  • Transform your relationship with yourself from enemy to ally
  • Appreciate why less is often more
  • Focus on what’s right with your life, not what’s wrong
  • Control the only person you can—yourself
  • Invest in yourself to become more mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit
  • Use your newly discovered joy to become a more positive and productive influence in the world—and much more

Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life is available at your favourite neighbourhood or online bookseller.

Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation [book review]

Travel Canadian Pacific

If you know anything about Canadian history you know the Canadian Pacific Railway company played a role in shaping it. Marc H. Choko’s Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation tells the story based on CP’s publicity output—their marketing and graphic design in particular. It’s a unique take on telling a brand story while educating readers on how public and private interests can align for the greater good. In this case, forming a unified Canada.

Being raised in Canada, I learned about CP’s scandalous beginnings from a political point of view. I imagined the private company as the big baddie, trying to monopolize the rail industry by outbidding all competitors and making backroom deals with politicians. While it’s not not what happened, this book adds another side to the story, the part where provinces (NS, NB, BC) refused to join the Canadian Confederation without the promise of a railway linking them to (now) Ontario/Quebec and how the British government wouldn’t/couldn’t fund it. Also added was the HUGE obstacle of the Canadian Shield and Rocky Mountains—and even once CP had the contract they were near bankrupted several times finding ways across these untamed wilds.

Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation cover


Oh, and if the railway didn’t happen out west then the United States would have annexed BC—the history of the Pacific Northwest (up until 1846 this was Alaska-California under the control of British North America) was interesting in particular as the motivation for keeping British Columbia under British control was for two reasons: 1) it seemed like a shorter route to Asia and 2) gold rush. Those were the only reasons because everyone out east thought the west was worthless.

CP had an uphill battle because this opinion was so prevalent. So the company advertised. They convinced their workers to talk up the west whenever they returned home to their families and communities, they brought in influencers (sorry, travel journalists) and gifted them all-inclusive luxury vacations so they would return to Europe and share their adventures. They built stunning hotels and created a steamship line to lure wealthy travellers across the sea and continent. And over time they even created mid-range accommodation so the new middle class could come too.

Duchess Steamships Newest and Largest

Building a national railway was all well and good but CP was a for-profit company and therefore needed profits. Tourism was one thing, but to keep the rail lines safe and to increase land values they needed more people living out west. So they advertised. They worked with the government. And they built ready-made farms for people.

Because the (eastern) Canadian settlers had such a poor opinion of the west, CP reached out to Americans and Europeans instead, offering amazing deals and door-to-door (ish) travel. This was of interest to me because this is how my great grandparents came to the Canadian prairies—the promise of affordable land, a farm, and a home. I knew they got a good deal on the land but this is a whole other layer to their story.

Own Your Own Home in Canada

For 374 pages of Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation, take in the history, complexity, and ingenuity of a company created from a prime minister’s vision for a transcontinental railway. Learn how the company overcame devastating obstacles like political scandal, sabotage, financial ruin, the Great Depression, two world wars, recession, competition, and critique by holding on to a clear vision, creative marketing, influential graphic design, and diversification.

One note: I read a PDF review version and must say, I have missed out. I thought this was a marketing book so didn’t mind the digital format but more than half the pages are images of CP advertisements and historical photos. If I had the hardcover I would have enjoyed this book much more. As it stands, it was a joy to read, even if it did take me six months.