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Guidelines for Choosing Categories

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Guidelines for Choosing Categories

by Tanya Hall

During production, many new publishers commit one or all of the following category crimes:

listing the wrong category on the cover

using descriptive terms instead of industry standard category names

listing multiple unrelated categories instead of a primary category with one or more subcategories

The category designation serves an essential purpose in retail distribution and should not be taken lightly, so here are three tips to help you choose the right categories for your book.

1. Use BISAC subject codes. Many of the systems that wholesalers, distributors, and retailers use to set up titles require a BISAC subject code, and you can use these codes to help you determine the most appropriate category to include on your book cover.

When selecting your title’s BISAC subject code(s), consider the audience you will be marketing to and the content of the work. Gather some objective opinions from people outside the project and research the classification of similar titles.

If your title closely matches two different subjects, choose the one you think your target audience is most likely to use when looking for it. Bear in mind, however, that booksellers’ cataloging departments may override your subject listing if it doesn’t fit their shelving systems.

The full list of BISAC Codes is available at bisg.org.

2. Discuss category choices with your distributor. If your book can be classified in multiple categories, talk to your distributor before you assign a category label or labels to it. The distributor may have reason to think that one buyer will react better to your book than another, and may suggest a category based on that understanding. This decision could have a huge impact on a distributor’s ability to negotiate for big sales and good store-placement.

3. Consider location, location, location. Your book’s category defines not only your audience, but also the location of its placement in bookstores. Remember that a book cannot live simultaneously in Business, Fiction, and Self-help, so choose its main category in terms of the location that is the most desirable and most appropriate for its content.

Tanya Hall is special projects manager at Greenleaf Book Group. This article is adapted from “What’s in a Genre? 3 Tips to Name the Right Category for Your Book,” available at bigbadbookblog.com.



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