Clair ButtonWhat are BISAC codes?

As I was working with one member of our Writers Guild of Eastern Oregon to design her website as a standard and model for our group, she asked the question, “What are BISAC codes?” It was one piece of information I believed we should include in the data about her books. Why? Because my first publisher told me that was industry standard data, and necessary.

When I self published later (don’t even ask about that #@*&% subsidy press publisher), I continued to follow that advice because I did a little research and discovered the purpose of the codes.

BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) codes are a “standard used by many companies throughout the supply chain to categorize books based on topical content.”

The codes are often required for participation in many publishing industry databases, which may seem obscure to those of us involved only in writing. However, you can understand it more clearly if you realize that those codes provide your local bookstore manager a means to categorize, store, and decide how to display your book. Without your knowing it, those codes may be incorporated in the bar code on the book cover.

BISAC codes are established and controlled by the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), the industry’s leading trade association for policy, standards and research. Membership consists of publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians and others engaged in the business of print and electronic media. The BISG mission “is to create a more informed, empowered, and efficient industry supply chain.”

When you think about participating in the book industry as a publisher, recognize that electronic standards, efficiency, and reducing the operating costs of your suppliers, distributors, and retail outlets are part of your mission, too. Take the time to look up and list your own BISAC codes.

Note updated 2010 revised list of codes:

Article by Clair Button, Writers Guild of Eastern Oregon,


  1. I am new to the BISAC business and am trying to find a suitable code for a book on English for Spanish Speakers that is written in Spanish. I have looked through the codes and can’t find a suitable one. I had a 2007 list. Is a new one out? Any ideas? Thanks

  2. Clair Button

    I would suggest the following codes from the 2007 list as possibilities for you in the order I think might best apply. Remember that if more than one applies, you may list multiple codes. Consider the intent of the work, and the system’s definitions of the code usage. While the definitions are not explained in detail on the website, a little extra research might get you zeroed-in on the appropriate use. Librarians are always a good choice to ask for advice as well.


    FOR007000 FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDY / English as a Second Language;
    LAN023000 LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Translating & Interpreting;
    EDU020000 EDUCATION / Multicultural Education

  3. Thank you for the article. But where do I list my BISAC codes? On the copyright page? and what about BIC codes? Are those also listed on my copyright page?
    Do I enter these in some database somewhere?

  4. Rick,
    I’ve seen them listed on the copyright page, though usually as the literal heading (genre type) rather than the code itself. It may be helpful on the back cover or book jacket. In those cases, the purpose is to assist the retailer to stock shelves or help the customer to identify the subject matter, so the codes are not as useful as the literal genre heading.

    I list the codes and subject headings on my own website and also on “sell sheets” which I pass out to retailers.

    Your publisher probably already lists those codes in their database, and it should appear in Books In Print when your books are referenced there. Generally, even subsidy press publishers query the authors or assign subject headings to all their books. In all likelihood, if your books are available to the distribution chain, those categories have been assigned by someone else.

    However, if your books are not currently listed in “Books In Print,” then you should go to the Bowker company website and register (free) to add your own data through “Bowker Link” at

    Note that they will offer you an online ISBN logbook (a charge service) which you do not need if you already have your ISBNs.

    As for BIC, you may know something I do not. I thought that stood for Bank Identification Code, which would only be appropriate for financial transfer transactions.


  5. Claudia Newcorn

    Outstanding explanation and the comments are also very helpful. I have suggested your page to which was discussing BISAC codes in a recent newsletter.

    Claudia Newcorn
    Author of Crossover & Dark Fire
    Award-winning fantasy fiction like nothing you’ve ever read!

  6. I am ready to publish my first book. The broad subject matter revolves around Ancient civilizations, dating of ancient civilizations, Archeoastronomy, etc. I was thinking of categorizing under ‘Archeoastronomy’ or Ancient Civlizations. I did not find Archeoastronomy. I did find Ancient civilizations…and here is the interesting part. under ancient civilizations.. sub choices include Egypt, Rome, Greece!! My book essentially establishes that these 3 civilizations (within BISAC code as only choices on ancient civilization) are much younger civilizations! Any thougths for BISAC code I may register it under? For now I have selected History/civilization. Appreciate your help.

  7. Nilesh,

    As you describe several cultures, I would use the broader category of Ancient Civilizations rather than the narrower subcategories. It is perfectly acceptable to use the generalized category. There is also a science subcategory for Astronomy, but I would use that code only if the text is really focused on the science of ancient astronomy rather than the cultures and societies. In some societies one might consider “archeoastronomy” as a form of ancient religion, but again, I would use the code for religion only if the primary subject was the religious practices of the societies.

  8. Today I purchsed the BISAC for non-member 195.00, but the digital delivery won’t come for several days- I guess I thought digital meant over the internet. Oh Well, To make a long story short I’m grateful for your list of codes. My book The Hellandback Kids: Be Careful What You Wish For won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. But, I got it published by Createspace/Amazon. Would there already be a code on the book or do I need to add one. If I need to add one for my book which is: MG/YA Juvenile Fiction Fantasy & Magic (JUV037000) is this correct. I’ve read where it is important to get the code correct. Thank you so much for your time. Laura L Helland

  9. JUV037000 looks correct to me also. Note I have updated the link to the subject matter headings in the original post. The old links were broken because of edits to the BISAC website.

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