We’re Writing Wednesday: Genre Talk

Greetings all of you genre knowledge hungry writers!

It is time for our next Wednesday installment of Genre Talk (talk amongst yourselves – did I just show my age? Anyone get that reference?)

When we introduced Genre Talk, we started with the BISAC codes for nonfiction and were lucky to get some really general ones in Antiques & Collectibles and Architecture.  We’re going to keep moving down the list.  We’ve had some requests for diving in to fiction, so we’ve made the decision to alternate weeks between the nonfiction and fiction lists.  Happy?  Good.

Today, the first category is ART, followed by BIBLES and then it pairs into the first sometwhat confusing but very helpful BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY (yay!).

The biggest part of selecting a code that trips people up is usually located in the first two sentences of a code description: what the code is not.

In the case of ART, books should be discussing historical works or techniques, NOT how-to’s or crafts.  This sounds very familiar to Antiques & Collectibles where the books focused ont he finished art and not the process.  While we may think, “Wow, great, this book I just put together shows how to cross stitch cats into the Sistine Chapel,” it does not belong under art because it features the Sistine Chapel.

Could you give yourself a secondary, third, fourth, or fifth code in ART? Techinically, yes.  Should you? No.  People that are serious about the Sistine Chapel and likely to buy art books dealing with the time period, location, etc., PROBABLY do not want to make cross stitch throw pillows or thrift store frame wall hangings of crocheted cats in their favorite scene.  Now I say probably because after using Pinterest I’ve realized anything is possible (Thanks Urban Outfitters).

Even if you want to touch this small class of people who love art and color outside of the lines because they’re hardcore artists, we still recommend not crossing that line as bookstores, libraries, and even category systems will likely write you off and you may find yourself on one of Jimmy Fallon’s “Do Not Read” lists.

So according to BISAC, “For works discussing technique from a craft viewpoint, use subjects in the CRAFTS & HOBBIES section. For works on general principles of design that can be applied to various disciplines (such as art, architecture, crafts, and technology), use subjects in the DESIGN section.” (https://www.bisg.org/bisac-subject-headings-list-art)

Art is also placed into further sub-categories:

  • Techniques (techniques involved in a discipline)
  • History (reproductions or history of art/artists)
  • Subjects & Themes (discussing or illustrating specific themes but can be a secondary theme to techniques used in these subject/themes)
  • Color Theory (theoretical works on color)

And here’s where it gets hairy.  The crossing of assignments and sub-categories.  For instance, BISAC recommends always pairing ART/Subjects & Themes with ART/Techniques IF ART/Subjects & Themes is “assigned to works on the techniques used to produce art depicting these subjects and themes.”

Likewise ART/History can be assigned to Western and Non-Western Art, however, it does not negate categories such as ART/Asian, ART/African, etc, etc.

There are actually some extremely radtastic categories in ART.  For instance:


  • ART055000: Body Art & Tattooing
  • ART058000: Street Art & Graffiti
  • ART060000: Performance

As well as categories for textile, book design, etc.  As you can see, BISAC really works to create codes that encompass a full range of what people need.  If you consistently see a missing hole, you can actually email the awesome team at BISAC and suggest they add some new codes.

For the full list of codes associated with ART and to familiarize yourself with what we chatted about above, check out:


The next code on the list is BIBLES.  We feel this is pretty self explanatory and you can check out the link and divisions here:


So our next nonfiction Genre Talk will be on Biographies & Autobiographies.  Next week, we will start the Fiction list to let the genres mingle and get to know each other.



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