What is a BISAC subject?

When you assign an ISBN to a book, you will need to determine the book’s most suitable categories. These categories should match or be similar to its BISAC subjects.

First, let’s get that acronym out of the way. BISAC stands for “Book Industry Standards and Communications.”

Next, it’s important to understand the purpose and application of BISAC subjects. The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) created this list to standardize the electronic transfer of subject information between businesses within the North American book industry. This includes Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Bookscan, Bowker, Indiebound, Indigo, Ingram and most major publishers. Even some libraries use a book’s BISAC subject to make it easier for patrons to find books.

A committee within BISG is responsible for creating a hierarchy of topics, breaking them down into sub-categories. While they don’t provide a description for what topics belong in every subject, they do create usage notes for the BISAC Subject Headings (the highest level of the hierarchy of codes).

You can access the complete list of BISAC subjects here. The list starts at the top level of the hierarchy. As you drill down into the subjects (the “parent”), you’ll find a variety of related subcategories (the “child”).

Every entry in the hierarchy has both a code and a name. This information does not need to appear anywhere on or in your book (as a matter of fact, we recommend that you don’t include it in your book), but it’s often used when creating an online book listing. Some online retailers will request the BISAC code while others ask for your book category. They represent the same information.

Optimizing Your BISAC Subject

When identifying suitable categories for a book, one of the strategies we use at Emerald Lake Books is to select child categories from different parents. This gives the title more exposure.

For example, when we published The 143rd in Iraq, we selected a BISAC category in History and another in Biography.

When we published Stress-Free Chicken Tractor Plans, we selected a parent category of Business & Money because one of the subcategories is Agriculture. We also chose Science & Math because Sustainable Agriculture is a child category there. And, given that it is a set of plans for constructing mobile chicken housing, we included the book in Engineering & Transportation as well.

You can’t afford to be dismissive of this process. An improperly classified title can significantly impact how quickly new readers find your work. We actually spend quite a bit of time understanding a new title’s audience so we can determine its best categories.

The categories can be changed later if you find they aren’t working for you. As a matter of fact, that’s a strategy we employ to give our titles even greater visibility, especially within Amazon.

Since we don’t include the BISAC subject on the physical book anywhere, we can change categories as often as we’d like. Therefore, we can target Amazon categories with very low competition, ranking the title quickly in that category, which impacts Amazon’s algorithm and gives the title more visibility. Once we’ve created that visibility, we can tackle a more competitive category.

In retail stores, shop owners will use the BISAC subject to determine on which shelf your title belongs. So you always want to make sure that whichever categories you choose, you are selecting those that will make sense to the reader. This is just one more reason why knowing your ideal reader for a title is so imperative.

As a result, part of your on-going strategy for marketing your book should include periodically re-evaluating and adjusting the BISAC subject you are using to maximize the exposure of your book.

What is a LCCN or Library of Congress Control Number?

The Library of Congress has a program called the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program. Its purpose is to enable the Library of Congress to assign control numbers in advance of publication to those titles that may be added to the Library’s collections.

Once the book is published, these preassigned control numbers become “Library of Congress Control Numbers” or LCCNs. Strictly speaking, the LCCN is the control number for the bibliographic record entered into the Library’s database, not for the book itself.

However, libraries use the Library of Congress database, as well as other databases, to stay up-to-date on available titles, and the only way they will find your book is if it has a bibliographic record listed in the Library’s catalog.

When an LCCN is assigned to a title, the publisher adds it to the copyright page of the book. This number is then referenced in the Library of Congress database so that libraries know it exists.

It is important to note that there is no relationship between applying for an LCCN and copyright registration. They are two different programs entirely.

Unfortunately, the LCCN isn’t something that most authors even know to ask for. Yet it’s something that all libraries use. So by not requesting one, authors often miss the opportunity to have their books discovered by libraries.

Unlike ISBNs, which retailers and distributors rely upon, libraries use the LCCN to identify a title, not a format of the book. The version you apply the LCCN to should be your “best version.” Meaning that if you have a hardcover version, apply it to that. If not, apply it to your paperback. If you lack that format as well, then apply it to your eBook. As a result, you only need one LCCN as opposed to ISBNs, where you need one for each format of your title (excluding Kindle versions).

And also unlike ISBNs, LCCNs are free.

It typically takes about a week to get the number assigned, although depending on the time of year and current demand, it can take significantly less time (we’ve received them in as little as 2 days) or much longer if there’s a backlog of current applications for numbers (like around the holidays).

To apply for an LCCN, you start by creating an account at http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/newaccount.html and following the prompts. It can take one to two weeks before your account is issued, so make sure that you account for that in your book launch planning. It’s best to apply early and have it for when you’ll need it than to wait until the last minute and be held up by not having it.

Once your account is issued, you log in to the system and provide all of the relevant information about your book.

While we typically apply our ISBNs very early in the publishing process here at Emerald Lake Books, filing for an LCCN is done much later in the process. The reason is, for the LCCN application, you need to specify things like the approximate page count, trim size and a few other things that we may still be adjusting very late in the design stage.

Therefore, in an effort to be as accurate as possible, we wait until all edits are done and the interior design is fairly complete before filing for it.

However, since it belongs on the copyright page of the book, it’s something we must be sure is completed before we send the book off to the printers.

It’s also very important to note that once you’ve published the best version of your book, you are required to mail a copy of it to the Library of Congress for cataloging and inclusion in the Library.

Submitting your book to the Library does not guarantee it will be cataloged, but if you don’t submit it, you can be certain it won’t be!

Unfortunately, the Library doesn’t respond to status updates, so the only way to tell if your title has been accepted into the catalog is to periodically check the Library of Congress Online Catalog.