If you’re a soon-to-be first time self-publisher, one thing you need to know upfront is how crucial creating good metadata is for the discoverability of your titles in the book industry. If you do not have good metadata, you simply will not sell your books. You may have valuable content and extensive inside knowledge about a subject, yet your title will go unnoticed if this step in the publishing process is neglected or overlooked – which unfortunately happens quite often by authors.
So, What is Metadata?
Metadata is essentially a concise description of your book as well as other pertinent details regarding the publisher and author. When you upload your files to any POD publisher, retailer or distribution channel, you will be required to fill out this information in order for them to print and/or distribute your title.
Well executed metadata has the potential to gain better sales results more than any other marketing tactic when done correctly because it simultaneously allows appropriate information about your book to be accessed through multiple channels world-wide such as:
- Online stores and websites – with the help of Google search engines busy in the background completing buyer’s phrases and linking to your sale page thanks to the keywords from your metadata
- Libraries and institutions – with relevant content descriptions, which even tells them where to place your titles on relevant shelves to be easily found
- Wholesalers and retailers – who are face-to-face with customers inquiring about specific topics
Not only do you need to learn how to skillfully input your metadata, you also need to be truthful and accurate as well so you’re not shooting yourself in the foot by promising something you can’t deliver and in the end heaping up bad reviews around the web.
In most cases after you’ve completed your metadata form, you can go back and edit as needed – especially in major hubs such as the Ingram Content Group Inc, or the ISBN Agency where it’s most crucial. It’s not a “set it and forget it” system. Too often, authors will input their data and never come back. The key to successfully marketing your book/s is your commitment to closely monitoring and tracking your sales and adjusting your data and keywords to improve your results. If you let months go by without checking in, you may be surprised to find you’ve lost a lot of profit. With millions of books in the system, you need to be exact and intentional with the information you enter each field in your metadata form.
Before you attempt filling out a metadata form, do some keyword research for your title. You know your niche, so brainstorm some common-sense phrases to start. Also you can find a lot of tools online to spit out variations on your terms in order to cover a wide range of search queries. Your term could be as simple as one perfect descriptive word, as well as short 3-4 word phrases that will succinctly sum up your book type based on a variety of questions or phrases that a consumer might key in. For example you may have found this article by typing in “what is metadata”, or “tips on writing metadata”. The importance of this step can’t be overstated if you want your books to be discovered by a broad audience.
Metadata Standard Form Fields
These field categories are some requirements in the IngramSpark Metadata form, and provides a good basis for you to get idea of what to expect. Forms will vary, but those listed below are pretty standard and along side are a few hints to consider. A great approach is to copy these fields into your own working spreadsheet where you can add, tweak, and edit accordingly as you observe what gains traction in the marketplace and how you do with sales. You will be able to copy/paste the information and use repeatedly for other distributors or wholesalers as the need my arise.
This field is for the main title of the book only. Be sure to keep your titles consistent in all formats of the book you publish and that all the titles in the book and sleeve are the same.
The optional explanatory secondary title of the book. Be sure when creating a subtitle, you choose descriptive keywords and keep it concise (no more than 80 characters), which will help in the discovery of your book.
- Series Name/Number where applicable
If your book is part of a series, make a note of that in this field along with an integer number to represent the current book your publishing.
- Author/Contributor data
All authors, contributors, illustrators, editors should be listed in this section. Often you can include short bios here along with credentials, awards, prior successes and work. For an author’s bios you can also include general living location, hobbies and interests. In terms of length, the recommendation is 50-150 words. Avoid using hyperlinks or anything else that might distract a potential buyer.
This section of the form should start off with a bold headline, followed by the main exposition to give buyers a good understanding of the book. Again, this list is an overview – many details on the book will be written here. However, it needs to be straight-forward, specific with good use of your keywords which will contribute to great search engine results. It would be worth your time to research how to best pitch your title to gain the attention of potential buyers. CreateSpace (now KDP) offers a great article to guide you when you reach this step.
- Short description
This is a brief few descriptive sentences that will be used for sales and display marketing – boards, screens, etc. and placed apart from the regular description.
- BISAC codes
These are shelving codes describe general content of the book, ie. “Cooking”, or “Humor” and are useful for merchandizing, marketing and categorization in libraries and institutions.
- Audience Information
This is basically the recommended age range for your audience readership, ie “juvenile”, or “young adult”
Your number assigned and registered with the ISBN Agency
- Publish Date
Trade Paper, hardcover, edition, etc.
In addition to these, you’re likely to have a section for Quotes and book reviews as well, possibly a table of contents, and image and illustration details.
Keep in mind metadata exists in many places including social media profiles, your website, guest blogs and the like. After gaining a better understanding of the composition of your metadata, you can create short or lengthy, general or specific and reuse based on your need at the time. Whatever the case, don’t underestimate the value of mastering the art of metadata and you’ll be sure to reap great marketing results.
To Metadata or Not to Metadata?
Therefore: yes, metadata! Get that metadata in and do your best to make sure it’s right, and then revisit it to make sure everything is tracking and that your keywords are up-to-date!