I’m a Caribbean writer. Here’s how I got an ISBN for my first book

You’re a Caribbean writer. You’ve completed your first manuscript and you need an ISBN for your upcoming book because every respectable book must have an ISBN, right? Not necessarily, but if you want to see your book in major bookstores and libraries your book really should have an ISBN.

An ISBN is a unique numerical identification for a publication. The barcode you usually see on the back cover of a book. The ISBN helps with stock control, ordering and information retrieval. If you’ve ever purchased a book or borrowed one from the library you’ll notice that the cashier or librarian scans the ISBN to retrieve information about the book.

Caribbean writers and publishers can apply for ISBNs through CARICOM. On some islands, like Jamaica and Trinidad, the National Libraries are the designated agencies through which you can apply for an ISBN for your book. So a publisher with residence in Trinidad would apply for ISBNs through the technical services department at NALIS. You could apply for 1, 10, 100 or 10,000 where 1 ISBN might cost about 20 US Dollars. The more you buy the less you pay per unit.

How many should you buy? Back in 2008 when I self-published my first book I applied for a block of 10 ISBNs since I planned to write more than one book. Buying one costs 20 USD compared to a block of 10 which costs about 50 USD. I filled out an application form, paid via Wire Transfer got my ISBNs in about two to three weeks. Oh, every different format of your book must have a different ISBN so if you have a paperback, hardcover, ebook and CD/audiobook, that’s four different ISBNs.

I applied for a block of ten ISBNs using this form. Today you can pay via wire transfer. Back in 2008 I believe I paid with a certified cheque and submitted the form and payment details to the Technical Services Department at NALIS. 2008 was a long time ago. The details are a bit fuzzy, but there was some back and forth via email but I know I had the ISBNs within two weeks.


If you’re located in Trinidad you can find more details on ISBNs on The National Library’s website by clicking here.

If you’re located in Jamaica request an ISBN online by clicking here.

CARICOM is the Regional ISBN agency. Visit their website by clicking here.


Self-publishing your book with a US-based self-publishing company can cost you upwards of USD 1,500. I’m working on a course that can teach aspiring writers how to format and publish their first book at a fraction of the cost. You can book a consultation below

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