A true self publisher owns the ISBN number in their own name. The author has created a business, with a business license, that has a name – like The Westchester Press, and that name is listed as the publisher of record in all of the book information. That is Self Publishing.
If a service or company offers you the ISBN number for free, then they are the publisher of record. An ISBN number cannot be transferred. They will be the publisher listed for all of the book information. This is the heart of Vanity Press or Subsidy Press. You have paid them for their services in helping you produce some part, or all of, your book… and they are therefore the publisher. It’s called vanity press because any author can pay to have their book published. These services have a place in self publishing… but if they provided the ISBN number, then they are the publisher and it isn’t self publishing.
This doesn’t always mean that they are collecting royalties on your book. Although I used my own ISBN number when I used Createspace, for the print-on-demand and Amazon listing of my book, Just a Couple of Chickens, they do offer the ISBN number in one of their service packages. And then they are listed as the publisher. But you still get a royalty based on each sale.
Subsidy Press is pretty much the same thing as Vanity Press… again it comes down to who provides the ISBN number.
You could provide your own ISBN number and still use the services of these companies – from editing to book design to cover to publishing channel. There is every possibility of hiring out every stage of the process. You should choose where to do it yourself and where to hire out, depending on your time, budget, interest, skill, and computer equipment – connections – software.
But the bottom line is the ISBN number. Own it yourself and you retain your rights. Accept it from someone else and you’ve got a publisher and a possible rights problem.
More on ISBN soon… but if you are self publishing, go to Bowker.com and get a set of 10.
I choose to make it simple…. Own your own ISBN.