By Jonathan Perry, Jared & Perry
[Originally published at Jared & Perry Metadata. Used with permission.]
In addition to the new subject for PTSD, the Self-Help section has nine other new subjects this year, including five that are together in a “tree,” or sub-category grouping, of Compulsive Behavior subjects:
SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior / General
SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior / Gambling
SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior / Hoarding
SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior / Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior / Sex & Pornography Addiction
No matter what the subject of your books, you need to know a bit about these trees. First, if you are planning a book in one of these specific areas, you are in luck, because you now can apply a standard subject heading that is just specific enough to lead people to your exact topic. If the subject read “Poker Playing” rather than “Gambling,” it would be too specific for many books; that is, it would be a perfect fit for books aimed at gambling addicts who only played poker, but inaccurate for books on other kinds of gambling addictions. The BISAC Subject Committee spends a great deal of time thrashing out how subjects are structured, what terms to use and how specific they should be.
Second, if your Self-Help book is on some other specific aspect of Compulsive Behavior not in the tree, you can still get pretty far using Compulsive Behavior / General. In a perfect world, those books that could carry the most specific subjects would, leaving plenty of room for the “General” books in search results. Likewise, if your book covers Gambling and Hoarding and OCD, etc., you’d give it the subject Compulsive Behavior / General. You would not use all of the specific subjects stacked up one after another, unless the majority of the book’s text addressed any one or two of those topics.
What you would not do is to deliberately assign the more general term when the specific one was an accurate fit. In subject assignment, be as specific as you can while still being accurate. I’ve often discussed this situation with publishers who try to cast a wide net and use a more general subject, in fear they might possibly exclude a potential customer. That thinking just doesn’t hold up in a world with tens of millions of books. If your book is truly about Hoarding, use Hoarding, and whenever people or machines search for Hoarding books, there you are. By using the specific subject SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior / Hoarding, you also have made your book findable with SELF-HELP / Compulsive Behavior and even the most general audience for Self-Help. The narrow net actually gets you more hits than the wide net.
Third, the tree structure, and in fact the whole BISAC subject schema, are set up to be expandable. If you think a new subject belongs in the list, you can contact the BISG and suggest it. If it appears to relate to a significant and growing area of publishing, BISG will almost always refer the request to a committee of your peers.
The BISG website has a short tutorial on these and other helpful points, at www.bisg.org/tutorial-and-faq. As I have said before and will again, even a modest amount of knowledge of subject headings will go a long way towards making your books discoverable.
About the Author: From my first day in my own bookstore, I quickly realized I needed correct information – to find a book for a customer, to order inventory from a publisher – to organize my store in a way that made shopping pleasurable and actionable.
While working in bookstore management, and later in sales and sales management for a couple of established publishing companies, I found I was spending up to 25% of my time doing database and metadata work. I chose to do so because many of the books I was trying to sell had such limited information; customers could not find them, much less make a purchase! It was clear to me that without complete, accurate information – metadata – I had problems; and with it, I had happier customers and increased sales.