BISG Implements New Subject Headings for Young Adult Books

In News by Erin L. Cox

By Erin L. Cox  | @ErinLCoxbisg logo

For the last 10 years, there has been exponential growth in the children’s book market, largely in the Young Adult category.

As an interesting outcome to that growth, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has implemented new BISAC code subject headings, migrating from Juvenile Fiction (JUV) and Juvenile Non-Fiction (JNF) to YAF (Young Adult Fiction) to YAN (Young Adult Non-Fiction).

The reason for adding the YA headings is that, over time, YA has become its own subject or genre.

Although discussion around the codes has gone on since 2003, it wasn’t until 2014 that the idea of creating a new section devoted to young adult books began to gain more ground.  After a survey of BISG’s entire membership showed that more than 80 percent of members would find it valuable if the BISAC included specific codes for teen/young adult content, talks were undertaken with some of the biggest stakeholders—such as Penguin Random House, Nielsen, Barnes and Noble—to define the benefits of this change.

Stakeholders noted that YA content would benefit from its own designation for potential sales opportunities, awards tracking, and to help with unreliable audience codes and age ranges and grades.

Amazon, Baker and Taylor, Bowker, Barnes and Noble and Overdrive reportedly are all prepared for the implementation. One of the major concerns of publishers since the announcement is that data recipients will reject the YAF and YAN codes if their systems are not ready and erroneously add JUV and JNF codes to YA titles, but, with hope, that transition will be mostly seamless.

One thing that this designation does not seem to solve for publishers is how to quantify the reader age for YA titles. At the Nielsen Children’s Book Summit last September—as at Kids Launch prior to the 2015 Digital Book World Conference—Nielsen reported that 80 percent of YA books were purchased by adults for their own reading.

This statistic complicates publishers’ efforts to get an accurate picture of the audience for their books, thus making it more difficult to market, optimize sales channels, and even acquire new titles.

BISG recommends not listing adult headings on YA titles, because these codes are used to best describe book content, not the possible audience.


For more information or to register for a February 24th webinar hosted by Connie Harbison, Chair of the Subject Codes Committee and Director of Quality Assurance at Baker & Taylor, go to BISG’s website.

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox is the Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives and a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.