Did You Forget the Subject Headings?

September is Read-A-New-Book Month. To celebrate, not only will I read a new book this month (I do that every month), I will also share with you about a new book I recently read.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has over 125 member publishers. These publishers produce materials for the Christian marketplace and CSPA offers information and services to help our members market their books to this unique market.

One of the services we offer is representation at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), making it affordable for smaller publishers to utilize this resource for marketing their books. This year, we represented over 50 titles at the show. One of these books was Found Missing: A True Story of Domestic Violence, Murder, and Eternity by Linda Slavin and published by Inspired Authors Press.

The book was an easy read and I found it interesting. However, since my blog deals with tips on publishing and marketing books, I am not going to give you a full review of this book.

If you pick up a physical book in your house that has been published by a large publishing house, you will find subject headings on the back cover. These headings tell you what kind of book the book you are holding is. They also provide a guide for retailers as to where to shelve the book in their stores.

These subject headings are usually found on one of the four corners of the back cover of the book. They may say “Juvenile Fiction/General”, “Religion/Christian Life/Family”, “Education/Homeschooling”, or “Self-Help/Depression”.

Many independently published books don’t list subject headings. I think this is a mistake. Subject headings make your book look professional and retail ready. However, don’t get too zealous with your subject headings and list too many. Listing too many can be confusing for the reader and retailer. In my opinion, Found Missing listed too many subject headings on the back cover. The book listed “Mystery/Murder/DomesticViolence/Non-Fiction/Christian.”

As a retailer do I file this book under the “Christian” section of the store, or do I file it under the “Family/Relationships” section? Maybe it needs to go under “True Crimes”?

Here is my advice. When picking subject headings to put on your next book, stick with the ones that BISG has established as industry standards with their BISAC Subject Heading List. Choose one, just one off that list. The BISAC Subject Heading List can be found for free on BISG’s website.

In the case of Found Missing, I would have chosen one of the following subject headings to use:

  • FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Abuse / Domestic Partner Abuse
  • RELIGION / Christian Life / Relationships

Since the BISAC Subject Heading list is offered free, you have no excuse to not include a subject heading on your next book. Just heed my advice and don’t use too many.

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Fully Booked

Great marketing requires out-of-the-box creativity. Since marketing is all about connecting people to your product, anything that makes others aware of your book is marketing.

Do you like to camp? If so, here is one unique marketing idea—a tent that looks like a book.

Image having a tent designed with your book cover. Then, whenever you went camping all your fellow campers would be exposed to your book. Just think of all the great conversations your tent would evoke, supplying you with multiple opportunities to tell people how your book can meet a need they have.

Of course, the price is steep. The Fully Booked tent featured in the above photo is 11’8″ x  5’7″ x  4’7″. It has enough room for two bookworms to sleep and costs $769.96.

Most likely, that $769.96 would be more effectively used on other marketing venues, but if you have money to burn, like to camp, and are enthusiastic about your book, this is one creative marketing idea.

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Independently Published

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the term self-published?

For a number of people, especially those in the publishing industry, the following word comes to mind:


Personally, I find the term self-published confusing. Does that mean that the author published it through a vanity publishing house such as Xulon, Winepress, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, PublishAmerica, etc.? Does it mean that they published it through Lulu.com or CreateSpace.com and have that company listed as the publisher? Does it mean that the author, herself or himself, is the publisher and listed as such? Or, does it mean that the author published the book through a publishing company or business they own?

While self-published books are gaining ground in the industry, a prejudice against them remains. Many awards, book review publications, and even author and publishing associations do not allow “self-published” books or authors.

If you have self-published a book—by which I mean that you are listed as the publisher or a company you own is listed as the publisher of the book—then I suggest you use the term Independently Published to avoid stigma.

The English language is constantly changing. Words fall in and out of favor as different connotations become associated with them. For instance, “handicapped” used to be acceptable when taking about a disabled person. After a while, the associations with that word became negative, so “disabled” came into vogue.

The same is true for self-published. The term has gathered too much negativity. I suggest we start fresh. Let’s use the term independently published because that does describe what you have done—published your book autonomously.

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