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How to Get a Bar Code for Your Book

If you're a small publisher or self-published author, you'll need a bar code in order to sell your book through distributors and booksellers. Here's how to get one.


  • Step 1: Physically check the bar code before affixing it. There should be 1/4-inch of white space on the left and right sides of the bar code. Check that it will scan.
  • Step 2: Apply the bar code strip to your book's back cover. For small publishers, apply the bar code file in pre-production through graphics programs. Now you can list your product for sale and make some money.
  • FACT: In 1952, the first bar code wasn't made of vertical lines; it was a series of concentric circles shaped like a bull's eye.
  • TIP: Be sure to ask the right questions before selecting a vendor and buying a bar code. Are their bar codes verified by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI)? Do they have small publisher discounts?
  • Step 3: Search the internet for bar code vendors using an online search engine.
  • Step 4: Learn that a bar code is a graphic representation of a book's ISBN number and price. The vertical lines containing encoded info are for point-of-sale scanning.
  • Step 5: Establish a retail price for your book. A bar code consists of two bars of vertical lines. The smaller bar code, typically 5 numbers, represents the price.
  • Step 6: Go to the U.S. ISBN Agency website to buy an International Standard Book Number, a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies your book.

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