June is Pride Month! Last year, we looked to BiblioShare to investigate publishers' use of keywords and subject codes to classify LGBTQ+ titles and found that 75 publishers were using LGBT BISAC codes on their titles. This year, that number is up to 435 publishers using LGBT BISAC codes on a total of 6,084 ISBNs.
We also found that there are now 5,977 ISBNs using LGBT keywords ('LGBT,' 'gay,' 'lesbian,' 'bisexual,' and 'transgender'), though many of those are not classified under an LGBT BISAC code. So while there are 360 more publishers using LGBT BISAC codes than there were last year, many are still using keywords to denote LGBT titles instead of BISAC codes.
New LGBT BISAC codes
Since last year's post, the BISG has added a few new LGBT BISAC subject codes for Bisexual and Transgender (the 'B' and 'T' of LGBT) titles in both the LGBT Fiction and LGBT Romance categories. Each year the list of LGBT BISAC codes grows and changes ever so slightly, and with each new addition and adjustment, book classification becomes more thorough, useful, and inclusive.
Just three years ago, publishers had the option of classifying a book as 'homosexual' or 'LGBT,' which was not only mildly offensive, but also unhelpful for book classification. Change is slow, and the publishing industry is still trying to catch up when it comes to talking about books with diverse characters, but updates to the BISAC code list and increased usage of these codes (alongside appropriate keywords) by publishers is incredibly helpful in determining how these books should be displayed and marketed by retailers, which in turn helps readers discover these books.
For reference, here is the current list of LGBT BISAC codes:
- FIC072000 FICTION / LGBT / Bisexual *
- FIC011000 FICTION / LGBT / Gay
- FIC068000 FICTION / LGBT / General
- FIC018000 FICTION / LGBT / Lesbian
- FIC073000 FICTION / LGBT / Transgender *
- FIC005030 FICTION / Erotica / Gay
- FIC005040 FICTION / Erotica / Lesbian
- FIC027390 FICTION / Romance / LGBT / Bisexual *
- FIC027190 FICTION / Romance / LGBT / Gay
- FIC027300 FICTION / Romance / LGBT / General
- FIC027210 FICTION / Romance / LGBT / Lesbian
- FIC027400 FICTION / Romance / LGBT / Transgender *
- CGN009000 NON-FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / LGBT
- CGN004130 NON-FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Manga / LGBT
- DRA017000 NON-FICTION / Drama / LGBT
- POE021000 NON-FICTION / Poetry / LGBT
- BIO031000 NON-FICTION / Biography & Autobiography / LGBT
- HUM024000 NON-FICTION / Humour / Topic / LGBT
- LIT004160 NON-FICTION / Literary Criticism / LGBT
- LCO016000 NON-FICTION / Literary Collections / LGBT
- SOC012000 NON-FICTION / Social Science / LGBT Studies / Gay Studies
- SOC064000 NON-FICTION / Social Science / LGBT Studies / General
- SOC017000 NON-FICTION / Social Science / LGBT Studies / Lesbian Studies
- TRV026070 NON-FICTION / Travel / Special Interest / LGBT
- JUV060000 JUVENILE / Juvenile Fiction / LGBT
- JNF053080 JUVENILE / Juvenile Nonfiction / LGBT
- YAF031000 YOUNG ADULT / Young Adult Fiction / LGBT
- YAN032000 YOUNG ADULT / Young Adult Nonfiction / LGBT
* Indicates new additions to the 2017 subject headings list
Publishers using the new LGBT BISAC codes
To date, there have been very few ISBNs using the new BISAC codes. According to BiblioShare, there are 18 ISBNs classified as FICTION / LGBT / Transgender, and no Transgender romance novels. People who identify as bisexual are often the most underrepresented in mainstream media, and likewise there are only 3 ISBNs classified as FICTION / LGBT / Bisexual and 8 classified as FICTION / Romance / LGBT / Bisexual.
However, taking into account last year's research on publishers potentially using keywords in lieu of BISAC codes, we looked at books using "bisexual" and/or "transgender" as a keyword. We found that many of the books using these keywords were classified under different BISAC categories. Though Amazon has a whole category for Bisexual Fiction, none of the books in this category use the FICTION / LGBT / Bisexual BISAC code. Instead many of them are classified under FICTION / Romance / Contemporary, among several others.
For example, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an Amazon #1 Bestseller in the Bisexual Fiction & Literature category, but it's categorized under the FICTION / Contemporary Women BISAC, as well as FICTION / Romance / Contemporary and FICTION / Family Life. Meanwhile, it uses "bisexual" and "queer" as keywords to classify itself as an LGBT title.
The data below is displayed using our Chrome extension Biblio-o-matic, which automatically detects ISBNs in webpage content and quickly brings up the bibliographic information on any ISBN from BNC BiblioShare.
Amazon doesn't have a category for Transgender Fiction, but upon reviewing a few popular LGBT titles, we found several books that feature transgender characters to be categorized under FICTION / Family Life or Contemporary Romance instead.
LGBTQ+ keywords vs. subject codes
It could be that publishers are using LGBT keywords more readily than subject codes because pinpointing an exact LGBT BISAC code can be difficult with the acronym constantly evolving to be as inclusive and as representative as possible. The structure of BISAC codes also forces publishers to determine a title's single main subject code, often resulting in a tough choice between, say, FICTION / Family Life and FICTION / LGBT / Lesbian, when both may be representative.
The discrepancy might also illustrate the difficulty of fitting people, even fictional ones, into neat categories, especially when those categories are indicators of identity. Keywords may give publishers the freedom to describe their characters and their stories more broadly and, therefore, more accurately.