International Book Category List & Category Strategies
Every Book Category List, Codes, and How to Use Them
Think about this:
In the 1,000+ years that books have been around, it’s always taken large teams of people working together to create, publish, and distribute a single book. Only in the last decade or so have we had the technology that allows one person – the author – to publish a book by fulfilling every single role of a traditional publishing team. Crazy when you think about it, but for veteran authors, it can be hard to remember a time before self-publishing existed.
Self-published authors are used to wearing many hats. The process of taking even one book to market typically involves 50 or more tasks, so it’s easy for a self-published author to overlook a couple of things in their haste to share their book with the world. When it comes to researching book metadata, keywords are normally the star of the show, but there are also huge advantages available for self-published authors who strategically select their book categories.
This article will explain how self-published authors can use advanced category book marketing strategies to target their books to specific countries for better sales, how to use the international book category list codes, and the best methods for adding up to 30 categories to a single title on Amazon.
Start by downloading this book category list that contains the categorization codes for each country’s unique book serialization system.
This comprehensive book category list includes the most up-to-date categories for:
- KDP Categories (All 4,356 Amazon Book Categories)
- THEMA Codes v1.4.3 (All 8,249 THEMA Categories)
- BISAC Codes (All 3,888 BISAC Categories)
- BIC Codes (All 2,689 BIC Categories)
- Other country-specific book category codes required for publishing globally.
First, we will break down how and when to use each of these book category codes.
Book Category Classification Systems
Chances are, you’re already familiar with Amazon book categories, BISAC category codes, and if you live in UK or Australia, BIC category codes as well. For years, each country has developed its own unique system for book classification until a new international book category list called THEMA was created in 2013. More on that later in the article.
Global Book Classification Codes
The Thema Subject Classification Scheme is intended as a subject scheme for classifying book content, for use with digital and physical products, for all sectors of the global book and e-book trade, and for both online and physical retail sectors.
KDP Book Category List
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Book Categories
Amazon’s self-publishing interface, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) does not use any of the existing book categorization systems used by other book publishers. Instead, KDP created their own way to categorise books based on sales and customer interest. This allows them to add new book categories to their cumulative list without notice and as part of their larger sales strategy.
Book Industry Standards and Communications Codes – North America
The Book Industry Standards and Communities (BISAC) is the primary book categorization system in the U.S. and many other countries. The BISAC index was created in 1995 by the Book Industry Study Group to support trade, education, professional and scholarly publishers, as well as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and libraries.
Book Industry Communities Codes – United Kingdom, Europe, Australia
BIC is an independent organization based in the UK and sponsored by the Publishers Association. Booksellers Association, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library to promote supply chain efficiency in all sectors of the book world through e-commerce and the application of standard processes and procedures.
Commussion de Liason Interprofessionnelle du Livre (CLIL) – France
France is discontinuing the CLIL in favor of the international THEMA book category list system.
Warengruppen-Systematik neu (WGSneu) – Germany
Germany is discontinuing the WGSneu in favor of the international THEMA book category list system.
Universal Decimal Classification – Russia
The Universal Decimal Classification used by Russia is a book categorization system from the era of Dewey Decimal Classification. Although many libraries in Russia still use UDC, most Russian academic institutions have started using THEMA codes.
Nippon Decimal Classificaon – Japan
The Nippon Decimal Classification (NDC) is a system of book categorization created by the Japan Library Association since 1956 based on the Dewey Decimal System. Japanese book retailers will often use BISAC and BIC codes to categorize their books.
GKSS – Korea
GKSS is a method for book categorization native to Korea and Korean literature. Korean books in English use BIC codes or BISAC codes.
Was your country’s book classification system not represented here? Although most countries are starting to adopt THEMA codes, the author community would love to hear about how books are classified in other countries. Leave a comment below and let us know which system your country uses to classify books.
Where can I use International Book Category Codes?
Although using a book category code from a country different than your own will make your book easier to find for international readers within that marketplace, this is normally a sales tactic reserved only for translations of books into different languages.
Today, most book retailers only use one type of book categorization system based on the country where they operate. Meanwhile, there are a handful of international book distributors, such as IngramSpark and Google Play Books, who give authors near complete control over their book’s category metadata. Since they serve an audience of readers in countries all over the world, it’s much easier for book retails to let the authors decide how they classify their book and which system they use.
One marketing strategy I have been using on Google Play Books to help me sell a few more non-fiction books is to target multiple countries by using 2 of each book categorization codes based on their book’s subject matter. Knowing the buying trends of each individual country is important and I’ve been able to sell a few more eBooks by targeting the international market this way, but even then, this strategy involves A LOT of time and research, and my book sales on Google Play just aren’t consistent enough to put that same amount of time or energy into implementing this strategy with each of my books.
Alternatively, Amazon KDP went the exact opposite direction with this, creating entirely different websites for each region. (Amazon.co, Amazon,UK, Amazon.mx, etc.) As of October 2021, Amazon has 16 distinctly different marketplaces: 4 in North America, 4 in Asia-Pacifica, 6 throughout Europe, and 2 in the Middle East.
Instead of using any of the existing book classification systems that are unique to each country, Amazon KDP create an entirely new created their own way of categorizing books internationally based on a combination of customer interest, author demand, and book sales. This gives Amazon KDP complete control over adding, removing, and re-classifying book categories into improve the overall customer experience and book sales.
Did you know that you can request KDP create a brand new sub-genre just for your book?
Authors need to understand that a lot of books get self-published to KDP every day. Some say as much as 7,500 new books are self-published to KDP in was 24 hour period. Whenever one Amazon book category becomes oversaturated with books, they tend to create one or more divergent book categories. As of October 2021, there are currently 4,356 Amazon book categories with hundreds of new categories being created each year.
So what do you have to do to get KDP to create a new book category specifically for you? Simple. Just ask.
Yes, it’s really as simple as filling out a Contact form within the KDP Dashboard requesting a new type of sub-category for your book – but here is the thing – they won’t do it for the author. KDP only creates new categories when their data tells them that it would benefit the customer, and these are almost always new sub-categories based on an oversaturated primary category.
If you’ve never had a #1 best-selling book on Amazon, just imagine having the #1 book out of 1 book in total in a new category.
What Authors Need to Know about THEMA
Thema is a multilingual subject category scheme designed to meet the needs of publishers, retailers and trade intermediaries in all sectors of the global book publishing business. It is managed by EDItEUR and an international group of stakeholders, and is free to use. Thema aims to enhance the merchandising, discoverability and potential sales of books by simplifying the communication of accurate and detailed subject information across international markets and reducing the need to maintain numerous national subject schemes.’
Thema is intended for use by all parts of the book business, from publishers to retailers, and even in public libraries. Unlike other book trade subject classifications, it aims to be globally applicable. And in contrast to various academic library classifications that are used internationally, it is tailored for commercial use within the trade. It is a flexible standard that allows each market to retain its unique cultural voice while still presenting a unified subject hierarchy that rationalizes book classification.
The goal THEMA is to reduce the duplication of effort required by the many distinct national subject schemes and to eliminate the need for scheme-to-scheme mapping that inevitably degrades the accuracy of classification, by providing a single scheme for broad international use. It can be used alongside existing national schemes like BIC, BISAC, CLIL, and although this is not a primary goal, it has the potential to eventually replace them.
The Future of Book Categories
It’s truly astounding how quickly THEMA has been gaining traction in other countries in such a short amount of time, but stop for a second to consider THEMA’s goal.
“It can be used alongside existing national schemes like BIC, BISAC, CLIL, and although this is not a primary goal, it has the potential to eventually replace them.”
Although it’s not their primary goal, THEMA is essentially asking over a hundred different countries to abandon the book classification system they’ve used for hundreds of years and recategorize all books.
Do you feel that gust of wind just now? That was a million librarians from all over the world fainting simultaneously.
But the truth is that most countries are more than happy to start using THEMA and have already started the recategorization process.
And feel free to go call me a communist hippie author in the comments section if you want, but to be honest, it’s kind of ridiculous that we haven’t had a single international book classification system until now. Then again, until the advent of the internet and borderless book sales, we haven’t really needed one.
Then, once COVID hit, a lot of librarians got really bored. What better way to pass the time during quarantine than to recategorize 130 million or so books, right?
Although THEMA codes are quickly becoming the world’s first internationally accepted bok classification system, technically Amazon was the first to create a way of categorizing books on an international scale – even if they are the only ones who use the KDP book categories. But is there a future where THEMA and KDP book categories co-exist? Let’s break it down.
The question on a lot of authors’ minds is: Will Amazon eventually replace their existing KDP book categories with international THEMA codes? Although it seems unlikely that Amazon would suddenly change their entire book classification system, forcing authors and readers to learn a new system in order to find their favorite books, what about, say, 20 years from now?
This author believes that the future of publishing will be one in which two type of book classification systems exist: THEMA codes and KDP book categories. That’s assuming Amazon continues to retain the lion’s share of digital book sales. Even if there is pressure on KDP to change the way they categorize books, why would they give up the sweet thing they have going for them right now?
Will KDP book categories ever be used by book retailers outside of Amazon? Probably not. Amazon can add or remove as many book categories as they want, any time they want. But the main takeaway about KDP book categories should be this:
- Amazon’s book categorization system is automatically structured the way it is to drive more sales to books that are already popular based on reader behavior.
With that being said, let’s jump into how authors can add up to 30 book categories to a single book title on KDP (another feature that is exclusive to Amazon! Most book retailers only accept 2 book categories.)
Amazon Book Categories
How to Change Book Categories on Amazon
If you urgently need to change the original 2 Amazon book categories you enrolled your eBook into, you can always do that from within the KDP Dashboard.
Go into the Edit Details page by clicking the “…” button next the book whose categories you want to change.
This will take you to the first screen when you originally published your book.
Scroll down to Categories section and you can change the original two Amazon book categories you enrolled your book in.
Note that the categories for published paperback and hardcover books on Amazon cannot be changed manually. To change the Amazon book categories for paperback, hardcover, and expanded categories for KDP ebooks, see the following section.
How Do I Add More Categories to my Book on Amazon?
Adding more Amazon book categories isn’t a topic that appears on the KDP help page, and they don’t really publicize that authors have this ability. That’s because adding categories to your published book used to be strictly for traditional publishers, but once that self-published authors caught wind of this, we have finally evened the playing field.
Benefits of Adding Amazon Book Categories:
To get the most out of additional categories, authors should add new categories before book sales start coming in, since they increase the bestseller rank within each category individually.
There are many sub-categories where you need less than 10 book sales in total to become the #1 best-selling book in that category, after which the Amazon algorithm starts promoting your book independently, increasing the likelihood that it will suggest your book to shoppers.
- Note that these instructions assume you already picked out the 30 categories you want to add for Kindle eBook, Paperback, and Hardcover version of your book from the KDP tab below. I also recommend Publisher Rocket for finding the least competitive categories in KDP.
*You can select 2 categories when initially publishing your book. Once published (or once the presale page has been published) you can add up to 10 categories for each book.
Once logged into Author Central, click on the HELP button on the upper right hand side.
On the next screen, click “Contact Us” on the lower righthand side.
On the next screen, click “Amazon Book Page”, then “Update Amazon Categories” from the dropdown menu.
In the text box, write the title of your book exactly as it appears on Amazon, followed by the ASIN. After that, copy and paste this sample text below into the Contact form, but make sure you replace the placeholder book title, ASIN, and categories with your own.
I am requesting that the following categories be added to my book due to the fact that the categories in which it is currently enrolled do not accurately represent the entirety of the book content. By adding my book to the categories below, I believe it will improve the overall reader experience in finding this book. Please notify me as soon as the categories for this book are updated. Thank you.
Please add the following categories to the Kindle eBook edition of my book in the Amazon.com and other marketplace. Thank you.
(then list your Kindle categories like so)
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense >
(continue to add up to 10 Kindle categories to enroll your Amazon kindle eBook in)
ISBN-13 : 979-8577022563
Please add the following categories to the paperback and hardcovers editions of my book in the Amazon.com and other marketplaces. Thank you.
(then list your book categories like this)
Paperback & Hardcover Categories:
Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Reference
(continue to add up to 10 Book categories to enroll your Amazon paperback and hardcover in)
Once you submit this info to Amazon, you will receive an email within the next 24 hours confirming that your book has been enrolled in the new categories. They are pretty quick about it, so if you don’t receive an email from KDP confirming your additional Amazon book categories within 72 hours then you send them another message through the same contact form.
Where Can I Find a List of All Amazon Book Categories?
The list I am giving away for free contains over 4,000 Amazon book categories, plus all BISAC codes as well as every international book categorization code for BIC and THEMA. Get the Swipe Files via Google Drive for my Ultimate Book Category List of International Classification Codes.
If you want to use the other book category list individually, you can find them under “Book Categories” within the Free Author Tool index.
Author Community Question
How have you leveraged book category codes to help promote your book? Share with us in the comments section below!