Understanding Distribution and ISBNs


Much like Bigfoot and Chupacabra, ISBNs and Distribution remain a mystery to many Lulu authors. While we can’t explain Chupacabra or Bigfoot, we can help you understand Distribution and ISBNs.

What is distribution?
Distribution is a service that gets your book out to the world. We make your book available through bibliographic databases, online marketplaces and distribution catalogs. Lulu currently offers 3 distribution options: extendedREACH, globalREACH, and marketREACH. I will explain each of those in a little bit.

What is an ISBN?
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a controlled, 10- or 13-digit identification number that allows publishers, libraries, and book dealers to locate books. You may get a free ISBN from Lulu or you can bring an ISBN you own and assign it to your book.

In September 2009, Lulu separated distribution and ISBNs so authors could get distribution for ISBNs that they own and bring to Lulu. We offer distribution options for ISBN and non-ISBN titles. Each Lulu project may have one distribution option and/or ISBN. Once an ISBN or distribution option has been applied to a project, you cannot change it.

Our current distribution options:

extendedREACH – Free This distribution option can be applied to books with a free Lulu ISBN that are an eligible size. When your book is approved for extendedREACH distribution, it is submitted to bibliographic databases, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

globalREACH – $75 This option can be applied to an eligible size book with an ISBN (bring your own or Lulu ISBN). When you approve your proof copy, your book is submitted to bibliographic databases, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and other online retailers. Your book will also be listed at Ingram Book Company. Most brick and mortar bookstores can order from this listing.

marketREACH (non-ISBN distribution) -$25  This option is for non-ISBN paperback books, paperback photo books, and calendars. Hardcover books, eBooks, CDs and DVDs are not eligible. Your project will be listed in Amazon’s Marketplace and eBay.com.

You can view the eligible sizes for extendedREACH and globalREACH here.
Read more about getting distribution for your book.

Our current ISBN options:

Lulu-owned ISBN: You can get an ISBN from Lulu FREE in the Lulu Publishing Wizard. You will need to purchase a Distribution package to have your ISBN submitted to Bowker’s Books in Print and Nielsen Book Data (ISBN agencies).

Bring-your-own ISBN: Assign an ISBN you already own to your book. The imprint (publisher name and information) attached to your ISBN will remain the same and Lulu.com will not be listed as the publisher. You must be the owner of the ISBN and cannot use this ISBN with any other distributor. You will need to purchase globalREACH for Lulu to distribute your book.

yourISBN: This is a service for Lulu to obtain an ISBN for you from the US ISBN agency using your registered details as a publisher.  You must be a resident of the U.S., Guam or Puerto Rico to order this service.  After you receive your ISBN, you may assign it to a project as a Bring-your-own ISBN. You will need to purchase globalREACH for Lulu to distribute your book.

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  1. Linda Nelson

    Thank you for explaining this feature. I was orginally confused by the offer of the global distrubtuion package. I was under the impression that I would need to buy another Isbn number on top of the free isbn number from Lulu.
    Now I see differently. Thank you for clearing this up for me.
    Now I will be ready to take my Hardcover Global.
    Thanks again for the article.

  2. Liam Worth

    If lulu could charge less for yourISBN this might make sense. Right now you can purchase directly from Bowker – myidentifiers.com. $125 a pop @Bowker, for *one*. But for $250 you get TEN.
    If Lulu purchases these ISBNs in blocks of 1000, it is costing you a dollar per ISBN. So sell them for 10 bucks and everyone is happy.

  3. Glad we could help, Linda.

    Liam, two points: yourISBN is single assignment ISBNs. These are purchased using the author’s publishing info, so we can’t purchase them in blocks of 1000 or everyone would have the same publisher info listed.

    Lulu ISBNs are purchased in large blocks making them affordable enough to give away. We can only purchase the single assignment ISBNs one at a time. Customers are able to to go to Bowker for larger blocks.

  4. Liam Worth

    Thanks for clarifying Carol.


    “…so we can’t purchase [single assignment ISBNs) in blocks of 1000…”

    The single assignment ISBN provided by Lulu is therefore costing Lulu $25 for each transaction?

    Bowker:single assignment ISBN=$125

    Is the above an accurate summary?

    If my dollar amounts are correct Lulu deserves applause for helping authors acquire ISBNs at a better rate.

  5. Is the global reach a one time fee? I have my own ISBN and am in Canada so i need to get global reach but was wondering if it was a one time fee (and if it was per book).

  6. AJ


    Global Reach is a one time fee per book. You must also make sure your book is eligible for the service. Find out more here: http://www.lulu.com/services/marketing/retail_listing/#global

  7. Shalonda Purdy

    Thank you for the article. I am a new author and this will be my first time publishing my work. I am excited and don’t know anything about publishing and so I am glad that you wrote this blog. I know that I have options now and moreover I understand what those options are. I am however a little fuzzy on one thing can you clarify for me the difference between lulu-owned ISBN and yourISBN.

  8. AJ

    Shalonda Purdy,

    Check out this link for everything you need to know about Lulu ISBNs: http://www.lulu.com/services/marketing/isbn/

  9. Mandy White

    When you submit a book for Extended Reach distribution, how long does it usually take before you know whether it is accepted? Also, how will I know if my book has been accepted by Extended Reach?

  10. AJ


    Distribution typically takes 6-8 weeks to go through. You should be contacted by a services rep. when you purchase the distribution package. Be sure to check your spam folders or trash if you haven’t heard from one of them. Otherwise, you can contact them by visiting http://www.lulu.com/customerservice

  11. Cheryl

    I purchased Global Distribution three years ago ($99) and now I’m wondering what that is called today. Is it “Global Reach Distribution”?
    Also, do you know if these books are listed on Baker & Taylor? I’m guessing, yes, since B&T is affiliated with Ingrams. So, am I safe to say that my book is listed on B&T as well as Ingrams? Thanks so much for your blog. 🙂

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