Metadata. You can't have a successful eBook without it. Sure, the content of the book itself has to be great, there’s no argument about that. But the eBook that could succeed on the strength and popularity of its content alone is rare and limited to blockbuster titles. Everyone else? We need all the advantages we can get. That’s why we put together this super simple guide to eBook metadata for publishers. It explains why metadata is so important and how to use it to help readers discover your books.
Because it’s essential for discovery. Without it, readers won’t be able to discover your books. Let’s say someone does a Google search for “gluten free cookbooks,” and you happen to have a backlist baking book with an entire chapter on gluten free desserts. If you have “gluten free desserts” in your metadata, your book will show up in search results. If not, it won’t.
And just like that you’ve lost a chance at getting a customer and a competitor with better metadata has gained one.
Now that you see how important eBook metadata is, it’s time to dive into how to do it right. The first thing you’ll need to do is your pre-work. Talk to your distribution and retail partners about their metadata requirements. They're the ones who will be using the metadata so you want to make sure it’s set up to meets their requirements.
Next, you need to determine the markets this metadata will cover and the pricing requirements for each. If your distribution or retail partners can automate your currency conversions, you’re in luck. If not, you’ll need to include the currencies you want in your metadata and optimize for the local market. That last point is especially important. If you do a straight currency conversion and don’t optimize the actual price for the local market, you risk making your books prohibitively expensive for that market.
Got all that? Good. The next step is to decide what genre classification scheme to use. The major ones are BIC, BISAC or Thema. Like metadata requirements, you’ll need to check with your retailer and distribution partners to find out which classification scheme they prefer. A general rule of thumb, though, is that BISAC is American and BIC is British. So, if you want to sell books in US and UK market, you should ideally provide subject classifications for BIC and BISAC.
Here's where things get a little tricky. Providing subject classifications for BIC and BISAC means you're dong the same work twice. The inconvenience of having to do duplicate work is the main reason why Thema exists – it raises the prospect of a single, multilingual and globally useful scheme. And Thema adoption is increasing: it is an integral part of the metadata collected in Germany and Scandinavia already, and is increasing in importance elsewhere.
Once you know the requirements you’re working with, you can go ahead and fill in your basic book data: Title, sub title (if any), author or authors. You have to provide an author, so if there isn’t one for a particular title, you can list your company or collective as the author.
Next up is the basic market data for the book. This is where you list the territories where the book will be available, the pricing and release schedules. Book market data is essential for all books, but especially important for pre-release books. It allows retailers to handle their pre-order add-to-cart or purchase buttons. This way, if a book has already been released, it'll be live and available for normal purchase as soon as the retailer has it.
After the market data, you want to identify all relevant genres in the chosen classification scheme (BIC or BISG, etc), then send the most specific subject classification that applies. If your book is about partial differential equations, then do not say it is also about maths. Reserve the use of ‘Maths’ for general books about all or at least a very broad range of mathematical topics.
Finally, be sure to include the book description. It probably goes without saying, but if you don’t have a book description, no one will know what the book is about. The thing about eBook is they don’t have physical covers. Potential customers can’t read blurb on back page or even a basic book description. That said, providing an attractive "cover image” (as a JPEG file) is really important, even for an eBook. Every major retailer needs a cover image as part of the metadata.
So there you have it, your basic metadata rundown. Was it helpful? If so (or even if not), we'd love to hear from you.
Justin Marks is a Content Marketing Manager at Vearsa. When he’s not helping publishers run and grow their eBooks businesses, he’s running his own small publishing company. Oh, and he loves cookies.
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