Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Business of Writing: My Book is Bi-What?? (BISAC codes demystified) #ASMSG #MFRWOrg

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There is no magic-bullet formula for getting your book noticed out of the millions of titles that are published each year.

The right subject matter categories and keywords, however, can help your work float to the top of potential customers' search results pages.

For assistance with defining keywords, I direct you to this post published earlier this year on The Maze. Today I discuss...

BISAC Basics
If you’ve spent any time defining your book’s information in Bowker, CreateSpace, IngramSpark, or any of the e-book vendor accounts, you’ll see the acronym BISAC, or Book Industry Standards and Communications. Managed by Book Industry Study Group Inc., BISAC is a list of several hundred classifications for identifying a book’s subject matter.

Amazon calls this classification the browse category and likens it to major headings you'll find labeling the aisles of a brick-and-mortar bookstore. It's an apt analogy.

As of this writing, the BISAC 2015 edition is the most recent list.

For the record, the BISAC category Non-Classifiable (NON000000) applies to books containing no subject matter, such as blank books. It is not intended for use with a book that contains multiple nonfiction topics or elements of many fiction genres. (Fess up: if I thought about applying it to one of my books, you considered the idea for yours too. :D)

Some distributors, like Amazon and Draft2Digital, kindly lead you through the selection process by giving you expansion choices when a BISAC code (e.g., Fiction, FIC000000) contains subordinate codes. Others, like Google, expect you to know the codes off the top of your head… or else you must know where to find the latest list.

I’ll save you the headache. The BISAC 2015 edition may be viewed via this page. If you write fiction, save yourself a click by starting here.

In theory, you may assign as many BISAC codes to your book as you wish. In practice, you must heed each distributor’s rules.

Amazon and IngramSpark, for instance, limit a book’s BISAC identification to two codes; with Kobo you may choose three. Nook Press, on the other hand, permits the assignment of up to five codes. Most third-party book distributors, such as Draft2Digital, will allow you to assign the maximum number supported by at least one of their partner e-tailers, but they advise you to make your selections in order of importance because not all e-tailers will accept that many BISAC codes for your book.

I’m not certain when BISG plans to publish the next BISAC edition, but I will endeavor to keep you informed when it does.

Best of luck with classifying your books!

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  1. Love the title of your post, Kim! I found Createspace to be extremely helpful with the BISAC coding. I tend to limit mine to only two. Excellent advice, as always.

    1. Thanks, on all counts! My editor for The Business of Writing agreed with me that I should come up with humorous titles for all my sections, and that (along with all her other excellent markups) is what I've been working on this week. Today's text happens to be material she hasn't seen; I realized I had left out talking about BISAC codes when discussing the application of keywords. They do go hand in hand. Thanks for visiting and good luck with your work! :)


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