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Table of Contents


An example can help: A novel like Huckleberry Finn may be sold in stores and used in schools, but the “01” trade book and the “04” school book would be different and designed for their audience group. An “04” book would include additional supporting materials designed for a limited grade range and may include reinforced binding. The trade book may still contain an introduction that provides context for reading a problematic text, and it’s even possible it may be bought by schools who may want a less expensive book without extensive supporting resources. It’s even possible that a book club might prefer to use a school edition for it’s rich supporting resources and a retailer may choose to stock it. The point is simply that a single audience category still supports those choices better than an ambiguous layering of multiple codes. You can help professionals and consumers find your book by being specific and accurate. An example where a dual Audience Code might make sense is a beautifully illustrated scholarly book on the ecology of sea shores that is designed to fulfill the needs of beachcombers and as well as academics. In such an exceptional cases, especially for publishers associated with a specialized market, adding a trade code makes sense when it’s appropriate for the book to be sold outside of the publisher’s typical market.

When in doubt, use “Trade” identifiers as they are the most common and generic.

Audience Codes and Subject Codes support each other

Trade subject schemes like BISAC or Thema are used with a “main subject” – a single primary subject code. If Audience Codes are used to create broad categories of books their creators would expect to see subjects appropriate to their selected category. 

For BISAC Subjects:

  • Books identified for Children/juvenile or Young adult  MUST be supported by appropriate BISAC Subjects lists for Juveniles or Young Adults

  • Books intended for Adults (Trade books) MUST be supported by appropriate subjects from the non-BISAC subjects and NOT include any Juvenile or Young Adult subject listscodes.

No one says this is a perfect way to do things, but professionals actually know what they are doing and allowances are made — particularly for YA novels as cross-over products for adults. Also be aware that BISAC Subjects are created so that all subjects are isolated to a single Audience category within the scheme – mixing should NOT happen Thema is less structured in terms of mixing categories of codes to create a subject picture, so the Audience category association would apply to the main subject only.

For Thema Subjects:

  • The Thema Main subject code must be match the audience code (juvenile codes for juvenile or YA books) and be usable to create the broad differentiation for Fiction vs Non-fiction

BISAC has guidelines in it's PDF or Word version and Thema has an excellent guide as well as worked examples.  Please refer to documentation for each subject scheme for more information using it properly. 

Audience ranges

Juvenile books (both Children's and Young Adult titles) must be supported by Audience Range information. If there are any points to be emphasized here it is that:


Grade Ranges (US or Canada are considered equivalent) can highlight that book has potential for classroom use. A grade ranges range doesn't correspond to any specific curriculum assessment so they are still generic and best supported by other types of documentation that provide curriculum support


If a librarian or book buyer assesses your range information as wildly inaccurate it will taint the rest of your good work.

If in doubt, don't supply it.

Want to know more?  The US based Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has two publications: