ISBN Problems by Christine Duncan all started last fall when my book, Safe House, was published actually, although I didn’t know it at the time. My family and friends told me they were not able to order the book. I thought it was just the usual problem that someone who is published by a small press goes through all the time. I told them to insist in (Borders, Barnes and Noble, other national chain, pick one) that they knew the book was available through Baker and Taylor and could be ordered.

Still no one was able to order it.

Then my local paper did an interview and the CRM at my local Barnes and Noble promised to order the book in exchange for me mentioning that it would be available there in the interview. All was good–or so I thought.

The local paper even put me, holding the book on the cover of paper. And sure enough they mentioned that the book was available at the local Barnes and Noble. But when I emailed the CRM a few days later, she was upset with me. She had ordered, she said, twenty copies of the book. And she got someone else’s book.


The local library ordered the book because of the newspaper interview and had the same problem. They got in copies of a Western book that my publisher had released at the same time.

Of course, I immediately notified my publisher of the problem. But it took months to fix. Before it was finished, Safe House had appeared on major websites with the other author’s name, the other author’s cover, and sometimes with no cover. At one point, Amazon said it had only one copy for sale and it cost $250.00. My publisher, I and the other author involved sent emails to Baker and Taylor, Bowkers, the printer, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon. People didn’t want to do reviews because it appeared the book was unavailable. I could go on and on.

At first, I thought it looked bad for me and the publisher if this kind of thing gets out. But when I started talking to other writers,even those published with big NY presses, each had a story of some kind like this. Oh, not exactly like this. There were tales of the last page of mysteries being left out of the published book, upside down covers, and yes, other ISBN problems. And as one friend remarked, if you don’t tell people what happened, they’ll think the book just sank out of sight because it was no good.


Yet now Safe House’s ISBN’s problems are fixed, I’m left wondering what to do. I’ve got a book that looks as though it’s been out for months but in reality has only been made available on the major bookseller’s websites… well, this week, actually. There is still a bit of a problem on Barnes and Noble unless you know the ISBN.

So I’m asking you authors, what would you do? When the book was originally scheduled to come out, I had a story about it on holidays mysteries in a mystery magazine. I did radio and podcasts and blog tours. And now that the book is supposedly 6 months old some of this stuff is too late.

If you don’t have a suggestion for me, can I ask, will you please go request that your local library buy Safe House? I need a jump start somehow.

Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Book two, Safe House is now available.


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