I am very fortunate to often get to speak to writers at publishing conferences around the world. Several years ago the most popular sessions were on topics related to eBooks and eBook marketing. Lately, in conference after conference the most in demand sessions relate to book metadata, which is somewhat surprising because there’s nothing particularly new and shiny about this topic. To give you an example, it’s as if you’re shopping for a sports car. At first you’re drawn to the sleek design and color. But eventually you poke the tires and look under the hood. Similarly, a book’s metadata is like the tires and engine that will transport your new and shiny book into the marketplace.
Metadata is nothing more than a fancy word for information about a product—information that describes it in such a way that it can be easily discovered by potential users or buyers, which, in the case of books, includes booksellers, libraries and readers. Typically metadata is passed electronically from a primary source to other databases. At Ingram, which is considered one of the largest primary data sources in the publishing industry, publishers supply Ingram with metadata related to their books. Ingram in turn will supply that data to its own catalog called iPage, which is accessed by some 39,000 retail and library partners for ordering books. Ingram also shares its catalog with other wholesalers and retailers around the world such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indie Bound, Chapters, Gardners, Apple and Kobo, to name just a few. Sharing of the catalog happens continuously through a standardized process known as ONIX (ONline Information EXchange).
So, you can see if you want your book to be as widely discoverable as possible across many sites, Ingram is a central and essential player in making that happen. For indie authors, IngramSpark is the platform that you would use to supply your book’s metadata to Ingram. And it’s relatively easy to do through a series of six screens during title setup process. You will be asked for the following information related to your book:
- Title and Subtitle
- Contributor or Author name(s)—can list 3 different contributors
- Author biography
- Subject codes
- Book Description (2-3 good paragraphs describing what the book is about)
- Keywords (phrases or words people might use to find your book)
- Reviews and endorsements
- Table of Contents (names of chapters that help to reveal the subject matter)
- Audience (e.g. adult, young adult, juvenile, or age/grade, or skill/proficiency level for "how-to" books)
- ISBN for each format
- List price in multiple currencies
- Print attributes (trim size, # pages, paper color)
- Retail Discount (discount off the list price that retailers get when they purchase your book)
- Publication date (date at which information about your book is first available)
- On-Sale date (date at which the book can be sold)
For each of these fields, you want to provide as much detail as possible in the number of characters allowed. Remember that the goal is to help distinguish your book from all the others, to get discovered if a person were to search in Google or other search engines. Play around with keywords and see what comes up on Google. You want to use terms that are less common and more precise to help in having your book rise to the top of the search list. For the description field, make sure to pack it with terms that will also help with discoverability. It’s more important to use terms and words that will help your book be found than to use flowery language. Also know that Ingram as well as retailer sites like Amazon may not list your book if you include links to other websites (including your own) in your description. This is a big no-no so don’t do it.
Rest assured that metadata can easily be changed in IngramSpark simply by editing the data fields in your account. That updated metadata will be supplied in data feeds to Ingram’s partners so they can update their own sites, but be aware that some updates happen faster than others. Don’t expect the new information to filter through immediately; it does take time to spread throughout the vast publishing universe.
Have fun and be creative with all the metadata you provide for your book and about yourself as the author. Be thoughtful, engaging and thorough to ensure your book has the best chance for success in the marketplace. In future posts, we’ll explore some of these metadata fields in more depth and look at examples of good and not so good metadata.
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