Though it might not be the sexiest of subjects on the surface, there is simply nothing more vital to the success of your publishing program than good, detailed metadata. Applying good practice to your metadata will increase your sales immediately. What could be better than that, or more of a priority to your business?

Meta means “about”. So metadata is data about. Data about your books. Books that take a lot of time and energy producing and bringing to the book-buying public. Ensuring your title information is displayed correctly across all channels ensures maximum visibility and discoverability for your books. Descriptive data is especially helpful in aiding discoverability of your titles. Particularly online, as correct metadata means the information about your book will be displayed properly in search engines and on retail sites. So ultimately, metadata is marketing and everything we do as publishers needs to come back to getting the data right.

Online sales have become a large part of our publishing revenues. So the data descriptions about your books have become the ultimate selling tool, rather than a customer being in a physical bookshop, seeing how fantastic your book looks, being able to read the back cover, note the supporting reviews and assess the information it provides, the way it is written or the story it tells.

So good quality metadata is crucial to your book’s success. If you work with a book distributor, and completing their requests for metadata feels like a slog, know that doing this job is the most important one to get right. How long do you take over book cover design? A book’s title? Finding the right cover image? Take as much time getting your metadata right, if not longer.

What does good bookdata achieve?

  • A potential customer’s interest in your book, and converting that interest into a purchase – you are telling them in your metadata why they want to buy your book
  • Increased discoverability for your book – it enables potential customers to be able to search for and find your book, rather than numerous others
  • Improved customer service – correct information about your book’s price, publication date, ordering information, title, size, page count, ISBN all help reduce ordering and delivery issues than can prevent a sale happening, or stop a retailer from ordering any other books from you in the future, because of the time it took or the pain it caused them, or their customer due to misinformation

Things to consider when looking to improve your book data?

  • Consider implementing ONIX – the best way to ensure your book data is up to book industry standards, or make sure that your distribution partner is able to output ONIX feeds to Nielsen, Bowker, Amazon, et al from their database
  • Use a title information database which makes it easy to manage the data for all your book’s formats together – you only want to make changes once
  • Ask all your customers about the information they need which will help them sell more of your books: table of contents, keywords, sales rights and pricing (if you have determined international prices for your books, such as the Euro, £ and $ price, include them all in your metadata), author bios and location (local sales opportunities), reviews information (make sure reviews are stored in your title information database and new metadata is supplied to your distributor and/or sales team with these included, and remember these reviews when you’re looking to reprint the book or publish a different format)
  • Make sure you’re thinking about your print and e-book data together, as they support each other in converting a potential customer into making a purchase, whether it ultimately being in print or digital format
  • Make sure all your hard work getting your metadata right is reflected via your own sales channel, most importantly your own website and sales materials, press releases you create for your sales and marketing team, or that they create – if you’re doing all the hard work in getting your metadata right for Nielsen and Amazon, make sure that benefits your own business needs
  • Think about the future – what additional information would you like to have when making your book purchasing decisions? What helps you decide to buy a book? Do you provide this in your metadata? Even if some of these things, like author videos, sample pages, audio excerpts, sample chapters are not able to be disseminated at the moment, they may in the future, and can you find another way to provide this information to your customers in the short-term?

A good distributor will work with you to ensure you provide the best metadata for your books as possible, but remember, only you, the publisher, knows exactly why you are publishing the book, what the book is about, why the author has written it, what it will contain and why someone would want to buy it. Without this level of detail applied to the book’s metadata, a distributor can only do so much to help you sell, promote and distribute your books.

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