Your Book’s Shelving Category

Choosing an appropriate shelving category for your book is a key step toward making your book visible to potential readers.

The right category, or subject heading, will help your audience find your book when browsing in bookstores or searching online booksellers.

To determine the shelving category or categories for your book, use the official list published by the Book Industry Study Group: Complete BISAC Subject Headings List, 2016 Edition. (BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications.)

You’ll start with a large category like Biography & Autobiography, Fiction, or Self-Help. Click on the most appropriate heading for you book, and you’ll then see a list of possible subheadings, which are listed with alphanumeric codes, like this:

Example of shelving category

An example of a shelving category. Note its placement above the barcode on the book’s back cover.

BIO000000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / General

BIO032000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Social Activists

FIC019000 FICTION / Literary

FIC049040 FICTION / African American / Historical

SEL005000 SELF-HELP / Aging

SEL027000 SELF-HELP / Personal Growth / Success

You’ll want to leave out the alphanumeric code and use only the subject heading on your book cover. See the image above for an example of how to display a shelving category on a book cover.

If you want to know more about how the subject headings are used by booksellers or need some pointers on how to choose a category for your book, check out these handy FAQs.

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