In last month’s BookWorks' blogpost, we started a conversation about metadata (book information), defining all the specific data fields that are incorporated within the IngramSpark platform and through other publishing sites. (In case you missed it, you can catch up here). I’d like to continue that discussion and double down on why metadata is so important. Ultimately, I want to educate you on the best practices when it comes to the information you provide on your book.
METADATA: HOW INDIE AUTHORS SHOULD USE BISAC CODES AND KEYWORDS FOR DISCOVERABILITY
- Leg 1 is the content that you’re written and polished through good editing and design.
- Leg 2 is the book’s metadata that is accurate, complete and enriched to help your book be discovered in stores, libraries and online.
- Leg 3 is the book’s promotion to connect with readers who will be interested enough to purchase your book and follow you as an author.
Today, I’m focusing on #2, the book’s metadata and more specifically I’m going to drill into two of the most important aspects of a book’s metadata: subject codes (also known as BISAC codes) and keywords, because these two pieces of metadata are critical to getting your book discovered by the publishing industry, retailers and readers.
Subject Codes: There are 53 primary subject codes (see listing below) with secondary codes under each of the primary codes that booksellers, librarians, and retailers use to know where to shelve your book so readers can find it. The way this works is that you determine the primary subject area and then keep drilling into the sub code until you land on exactly the code that describes your book. In IngramSpark (and many other platforms) subject codes are built directly in when you’re setting up your book. You typically can pick 3 codes, so explore the choices that are available before you make your selection. Start with the subject that covers the biggest part of your book and then move down to the second largest part, and then on to the third.
As an example, say you’ve written a book on restoring antique furniture. You might start with “ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES which has sub codes under that related to furniture, automobiles, china, costumes, coins, etc. In this case, you would likely pick (1)"ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES /Furniture" and (2) "ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES / Care & Restoration". Additionally, if your book is on restoring furniture of the American Colonial period, you might want to also select (3) “HISTORY / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)” as your third code.
|ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES||GARDENING||PHOTOGRAPHY|
|ARCHITECTURE||HEALTH & FITNESS||POETRY|
|BIBLES||HOUSE & HOME||PSYCHOLOGY|
|BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY||HUMOR||REFERENCE|
|BODY, MIND & SPIRIT||JUVENILE FICTION||RELIGION|
|BUSINESS & ECONOMICS||JUVENILE NONFICTION||SCIENCE|
|COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS||LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES||SELF-HELP|
|COOKING||LITERARY COLLECTIONS||SPORTS & RECREATION|
|CRAFTS & HOBBIES||LITERARY CRITICISM||STUDY AIDS|
|DESIGN||MATHEMATICS||TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING|
|FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS||NATURE||TRUE CRIME|
|FICTION||PERFORMING ARTS||YOUNG ADULT FICTION|
|FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDY||PETS||YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION|
Keywords are words or phrases that describe the content or theme of a book that (1) is relevant to the work, and (2) is used to supplement the title, subtitle, author name, description, BISAC/subject codes, and other consumer-facing display data. Keywords describe the content to increase the likelihood that a book will be found by consumers searching on retailer websites, and to enhance search engine optimization (SEO) for book products, most likely through Google.
This piece of metadata is a bit different, but equally important as subject codes. Think of keywords as what someone would use to find information that is contained in your book. Ideally, you want to create a string of unique and accurate words, the more unique the better so that your book comes up on the first page of a Google search. You simply list your keywords and separate them by a semi colon (;) with no space after. Using the book example above on “antique furniture restoration” the keyword string might look something like this:
restoring colonial furniture; do it yourself furniture restoration; antique furniture increasing value
Keywords and phrases should also be incorporated into your book description. As you describe what your book is about and why someone would want to read it, be sure to include those keywords that someone looking for a book like yours might type in when they search. You can test this out by doing some searching of your own to see which keywords produce the desired results.
Spend some time really thinking about your subject codes as well as keywords before you set your book up in IngramSpark or another distribution platform. Typically you can and should update metadata as needed. If you win an award or get a great review, that would be important to add to your keywords.
We hope you find this helpful and we'd love to hear from you. Let us know what else about metadata you'd like to know in the comments below.
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