BISAC Codes… Huh? Whazzat?

When my first book came out, I had no idea what a BISAC code was. Nor did I know when the second one was published or the third. The way I found out was that when I was developing the marketing plan for number four – Forgotten, the publisher asked me to identify/segment the market by BISAC code.

Rather than act totally dumb and stupid, I said sure, not having a clue what a BISAC code is. So, you ask, what is a BISAC code? The acronym stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications and were created by the Book Industry Study Group made up of hundreds of companies in the publishing biz. The concept behind codes was to create a standardized way to electronically identify and transfer information whether it was electronic (for a Kindle, iBook, etc.) or physical, i.e. a printed book. Think of it as a new version of the Dewey Decimal System and the card catalogue that some of us remember.

Each BISAC code has nine digits and represents up to a four level tree. FIC for Fiction is the first level and the six digits break it down into the additional levels separated by the forward slashes. For example, the codes for Forgotten are:

FIC 000000 = General Fiction

FIC 002000 = General Fiction/Action and Adventure

FIC 005040 = General Fiction/Erotica/Lesbian (because there are several relatively graphic love scenes)

FIC 006000 = General Fiction/Thrillers/Espionage

FIC 030120 = General Fiction/Thrillers/Historical

FIC 031050 = General Fiction/Thrillers/Military

FIC 320000 = General Fiction/War and Military

Why are the codes important? One, it is one way that agents and publishers define or segregate the market. And two, it helps in the electronic world to be able to gather data that someone or some company puts in a database and is paid to analyze generate all sorts of reports.

How does it affect me as an author? First, the publisher assigns the BISAC codes, the author doesn’t. Second, if one decides to apply for an award, most of the ones to which I submitted either requested the code or used the same categories. And, third, I’ve talked to several companies that supposedly help promote your book and one of the first things they ask are what are the BISAC codes for the book.

So, if you are every asked, you now know BISAC codes are. For those of us in the publishing industry, they’re important. For the rest of you, at least now you know this bit of trivia!

Marc Liebman

May 2017

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