What is Metadata

Metadata literally means: data beyond data. Enhanced metadata can increase discoverability of your book and provide marketing information to the entire publishing supply chain by providing a trail for search engines to follow to find your title. There’s Google, Chrome, Safari, and the rest.  Amazon and other on-line retailers have their own proprietary search engines and their own way of associating metadata with your book. Bookstores also use search engines to buy inventory. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms making metadata even more important.

When you assign an ISBN to your book, or when you list your book for distribution, the following metadata should be included. It’s a long list and can be confusing but the bottom line—metadata helps readers and booksellers find your work.

Book Title – Titles are the most frequently used search attribute. However, since book titles cannot be copyrighted, your metadata needs a lot more information.

Subtitle – a subordinate title that contains additional information about the content of your book.

Series Title – A series is a connected set of books, as in Darkwoods Books 1, 2 and 3, by Marta Stahlfeld. The titles are Darkwoods, Pasadagavra, and Graystone respectively. An author can continue to add to the series without knowing how many he/she will write or publish.

Volume number – when the product is sold as a set. (as an encyclopedia) Don’t confuse volume number with edition or print run.

Edition – all copies of a book with essentially the same content and issued by the same publisher. A new edition occurs when a book is released with new content, different from the previous release. (Minor edits can be made without becoming a new edition. A new edition requires a new ISBN)

Description – a summary or synopsis of the story and characters, your opportunity to entice readers. If your book is available online, the words you use in the description are “searchable” i.e. can be found by search engines.

Contributors – people involved in creating your book i.e. author, co-author, editor, illustrator, translator, narrator (audiobook) and others who you want to credit.

Cover image – The name of this image becomes part of the metadata. Usually jpg or tif, the file name should include the ISBN. example:  secrets_lost_9781937454616.jpg.

Keyword – a word or phrase that your target readers are likely to be searching for beyond genre, author name or title.

Returns – The retailer can return the book to the distributor for a refund. Returns are often a show stopper for self-published authors. If you use a POD (print on demand) company like IngramSpark, but fail to offer the return option, bookstores WILL NOT stock your book.

Product form – paperback, hardcover, audiobook, eBook. A unique ISBN is required for each form. Amazon, however, will list your eBook using their own ASIN, making an ISBN unnecessary on the Amazon website.

ISBN – A unique international identification number for each format or edition of your book. Unique ISBNs are required for digital, paperback, hard bound, translations, or when content is changed or up dated more than 20%. (excluding for minor edits)

Price – The suggested retail consideration for sale of the printed book, eBook or audiobook. (Note: The actual retail price of your book can be set by the retailer, but your royalties are usually based on suggested retail price listed in the metadata.)

Publication date – when a retail consumer may purchase and take possession of the book.

Categories – (browse categories) are like the sections of a physical bookstore or library (fiction, history, romance, self-help, etc.). Most online bookstores allow you to select two browse categories for your book. Precise categorization helps readers find your book. Categorization can be an art when it comes to Amazon ratings.

Language – English, German, French, Spanish, etc. If your book is available in multiple languages, each translation needs a unique ISBN, and each with have its own metadata.

Audience – the age of your targeted market: children/juvenile, young adult, primary, secondary/elementary, high school, adult

Book Size:

  • Book size – height/width, example: paper back 6 inches by 9 inches. Thickness is no longer relevant. The same book, with the same ISBN, could be printed by two different printers, using different paper quality, causing a variation in thickness.
  • Page count – number of pages in your print book.
  • Digital file size – Typically 14 to 15 KB/page. If your eBook is listed on Amazon, for example, they will automatically calculate the digital file size based on the number of pages.

Territorial rights – Where in the world will you sell your book?

Distributor – The organization responsible for taking orders and shipping books. This is another big stumbling block for self-published authors. Distributor usually relates to printed book inventory and distribution. If your self-published book is available only as an eBook, distributor is the entity that makes the file available to online bookstores, IngramSpark for example. (REMEMBER: Amazon, B&N and iTunes are retailers, not distributors, not wholesalers. You can setup your own account through Amazon Advantage, but that’s fulfillment from the Amazon online retail store only, not distribution.)

Illustrations – if your book contains graphics or other images, the metadata should reflect how many images it contains: drawings, tables, maps, photos, diagrams, charts, etc. If these are jpg files in an eBook, the titles of the images are searchable.

NOT METADATA: Phone numbers, physical mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, or website URLs, reviews, quotes or testimonials, solicitations for customer reviews, advertisements, watermarks on images or videos, or promotional material, time-sensitive information like dates of promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.