Selecting a BISAC Code
Not sure which BISAC code is right for your book? If so, you've come to the right page. We have a full FAQ section for all other BISAC-related question as well.
The Two-Step Process
We recommend a simple two-step process that starts on our Complete BISAC Subject Heading List page.
Step 1: Determine the major heading that best describes the content of your book. Click on one of the headings listed on the Complete BISAC Subject Heading page for more specific headings within that category.
Once you've selected a major heading (for example, Fiction) you move onto step 2:
Step 2: Determine the specific term that describes your book. In reviewing the choices, note that an asterisk (*) identifies a heading that is new for the current edition.
At this point, you select a heading on the Fiction page that best represents the subject matter in your book. For example, if you have written or are publishing a police procedural mystery, you would select: "FIC022020 FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural".
What if my book has more than one subject matter?
You may select more than one subject code. BISG best practices recommend that you select no more than three BISAC codes for any title. Choosing fewer than three is also best practice, when the codes chosen fully describe the book.
For this example, you are trying to find the right BISAC codes for a book on Charles Lindbergh. The book is a biography about his life, so you select as the primary subject code "BIO034000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Aviation & Nautical". There are more subjects in the book, though, so you would like to select at least two other codes.
Since Charles Lindbergh is a well-known historic figure for aviation, you select the code "TRA002010 TRANSPORTATION / Aviation / History" to express this. Another well-known part of his life, and a feature in the book, is the abduction of his son, so you also select "TRU006000 TRUE CRIME / Abductions, Kidnappings & Missing Persons" to show this.
To summarize, you use the following codes:
- BIO034000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Aviation & Nautical
- TRA002010 TRANSPORTATION / Aviation / History
- TRU006000 TRUE CRIME / Abductions, Kidnappings & Missing Persons
As noted above, if you would like to select only one of these codes, you are welcome to do so.
How do I pick a primary code?
As noted above, the first code that appears is the primary code. The primary code should be the main subject of the book. In the above example, this book's main focus was the life of Charles Lindbergh in regards to his place in aviation history. However, had the main focus of the book been his child's abduction, then the code "TRU006000 TRUE CRIME / Abductions, Kidnappings & Missing Persons" would have been a better selection.
Avoid Using "General"
BISG also recommends that you use the most specific codes possible for your book. The practice of supplying both a specific and a general subject heading on a given product is discouraged; use of the most specific heading possible is strongly encouraged. For example, for your police procedural mystery, you would not want to use "FIC022020 FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural" and "FIC022000 FICTION / Mystery & Detective / General".
The more specific the codes, the more useful it is to you and your book.
Will BISG select the codes for me?
The short answer is "no". The longer answer: we often get asked this when an author or publisher calls our office or emails us. We consistently recommend that the author or publisher pick the code for themselves. We are not subject matter experts on a book we've not read. That means, we aren't in a good position to select the best code for the book.
What about adding new codes?
BISG's Subject Codes Committee meets once a month all year to discuss the BISAC codes. The codes are updated annually, typically in late October or early November. The most recent code list was published in December 2022. A current code list cannot be changed, but new codes may be added to the next code list.
The Subject Codes Committee regularly reviews suggestions for additional codes. If you feel like we are missing a code, please submit your suggestion here. Please note: BISAC codes are not added for one specific title, author, or publisher. Any new code must be relevant to the publishing industry as a whole, so when providing examples for your suggestion it is best to include as many as possible from as many authors and publishers as possible.
It is unlikely a code will be added if it benefits only one author or publisher.