The categorisation of your work may be something you haven’t given all that much thought to as an author. After all, beyond knowing which basic genre and sub-genre you have chosen to write in, most writers will have seen no need in delving into the more technical side of publishing, myself included. However, after doing research into the topic of categorisation in publishing in order to write this particular article, I’ve come to realise that gaining even a basic understanding of the process of classifying books is vital not only to improving yourself as an author, but also in helping you to gain an advantage when it come to the selling of your work. In this article I aim to help you, the reader, gain a greater understanding of the importance of this facet of the more nuanced side of publishing, as well as familiarising you with some of the key terms associated with the topic.
Approaching the topic of categorisation (also known as ‘classification’) for the first time may appear daunting, especially without first being acquainted with the aforementioned key terms. The first of the terms that you will hear affiliated with categorisation is ‘BIC’, which stands for ‘Book Industry Communication’. BIC is an independent organisation which handles the promotion of supply-chain efficiency in all sectors of the publishing world both physical and digital. The creation of an increased efficiency supply chain in publishing means that less time can be wasted between the submission of an authors work to their publisher, and the moment that said authors work goes on sale, freeing up valuable time for you, the author, to begin working on your next project. The second key term to become acquainted with is ‘THEMA’, a ‘multilingual subject category scheme’ which helps to boost the merchandising, discoverability and potential sales of books through the concise categorisation of books on a worldwide scale, reducing the need for publishers to keep track of a litany of subject schemes.
This being said, the actual act of categorising a book involves assigning a book with an exact genre and sub-genre. This, in itself, may not appear to be of much consequence, however, the act of doing so is important as it not only allows books to be advertised directly towards customers who are specifically interested in a particular genre but also lends itself to the precise tracking of sales relating to any one genre. In a physical sense, this would mean the placement of specific genres of books on specific shelves in a bookstore, allowing readers who are interested in, for instance, books with a fantasy theme, to easily navigate the store in order to find works that will appeal to them specifically. However, although the analogy carries across into the online world, the online retail of books allows for far more precise tagging of genres to books. Categorisation in a digital sense holds special importance due to the advances that are still being made into the development of a more specialised system of tagging. For example, the online categorisation of books allows for a work to be tagged with multiple genres as once in order to increase the number of matches with readers which it experiences. As well as this, the genres applied to a book can also be changed easily online in order to align it with what is currently popular with readers in order to increase sales (meaning that a book that was tagged as ‘fiction/comedy/romance’ when it was originally published can be re-tagged as ‘fiction/fantasy/adventure’ if these particular genres experience a spike in sales).
However, for all of its positives, categorisation, both physical and non-physical, is not an infallible form of management – mistakes can still be made. Books can still be placed on the on the wrong shelves in a store based on its title or cover art, just as one miss-click can lead to a horror novel being advertised along with crime noir titles. However, the advantages of categorisation surely far outweigh the disadvantages, and, with adjustments and improvements being made to this system on a regular basis, it is clear to see that the importance of categorisation is paramount, and can only seek to ease the pressure of publishing from both publishers and authors alike.