The Basics of Metadata

Book metadata is important to your book's categorization, discovery and overall book sales. It should be part of any author's overall book marketing strategy, and successful self-publishers know how to incorporate as much quality metadata as possible into their sales plans. 

Metadata and keywords might seem scary, but they’re really only the words and phrases that you use to describe yourself and your book. Your book metadata will consist of basic things such as your title, author name, author bio, book description, publication date, etc. Keywords are one or more words used to indicate the content of your book. Simply put, metadata and keywords are what make your book appear when a reader goes looking for a specific thing, whether that thing is a book or not.

Search engines use metadata as an information retrieval system to connect searchers with content and products more efficiently than ever before. To search engines, all words have a value, and keywords and phrases have even more value still. Your task is to strategically select keywords that best describe your book and place them in the right spots around the web. If your book is about the best hiking spots in Colorado and someone types that into their browser, they may not have known they were looking for a book specifically, but if you’re using the right keywords and your book is displayed as a resource to that user, you could potentially make a sale for being in the right place at the right time.

We've listed some highlights and key information about metadata below. You can read more by clicking on our attachment at the bottom of this article. 

How to Create Good Book Metadata

Creating good book metadata takes an initial time investment but once it’s done, you’ll have a great marketing tool that helps you sell books. You can set it and forget it, until it’s time to update. Creating a list of relevant and targeted keywords and phrases enables you to write a keyword-rich author bio and book description to give the search engines reason to bring attention to your book when users search for those words or phrases in particular.

For this reason, the most vital book metadata you’ll need to craft are:

- Keywords and key phrase
- Book description using those keyword
- Author bio, also using keywords

Once you create a master document with this data you can use it to disseminate your book information in all kinds of places:

- Your ISBN record
- Your IngramSpark record to be disseminated to online retailers
- Any online retailer where you’re selling direct
- Your website author page and book pages
- Your Amazon Central author page
- Your Goodreads profile
- Social media profile pages
- Online interviews, guest blog posts, and other promotional appearances

Creating a master document for your book metadata is a huge time saver when you realize how many places this data will be placed. Keep this worksheet handy and refine it over time. Revisit it every few months, to make sure it remains relevant.

How to Create Good Keywords and Key Phrases

Record words and short phrases you think your readers might enter into a search engine to find you and your book. Eliminate less important and more generic words and phrases from your list. The more specific the keywords, the more likely the person searching for those specific words will be happy to find your book among the search results. Enter your keywords and phrases to find books like yours on Amazon, and if those terms do not return books that are like yours, try again. Then use the Google Keyword Search tool to help you think of other keywords for your book. Google Keyword Search will show you how popular those keywords are (volume data) and help you find keywords with lower competition. Try to keep the number of repeated keywords to a maximum of three. Work on this task until you have a final list of no more than 10 to 20 words.

Enter the most important keywords and phrases first. Settle on 10 keywords and list them in descending importance. Return to Google Keyword Search every few months to evaluate new trends, check popularity and volume, and to improve your keywords list. These same top keywords and phrases should appear in your book descriptions wherever possible.

Your Book Description and Author Bio

Considering both your keywords and your title, draft a succinct but keyword-rich description of your book. Make the description informative to users first and search engines second, and remember, it’s better to go narrow than wide, more specific than general. You want your conversion rate to be high. That is, when buyers come to your book sales page they should be compelled to buy—not click off because they were lured in falsely or in too general a way. Your book descriptions should be attention-grabbing, keyword-rich copy that sells your books. Similarly, your author bio, like your book description, should be succinct and keyword-rich. The initial search of your potential reader is your first opportunity to make an impression, so make sure you’re using the right book metadata and keywords to do it.

7 Facts about Book Metadata

1. Title Metadata Describes Your Book

Title metadata can be used to describe what a book is about. Descriptive metadata should include elements such as what genre the book fits into, who is telling the story, and keywords or information that will appeal to the intended audience. Specific descriptive information that includes terms like "beach read" or "authoritative biography" will help put the book title on the radar of readers who are looking for a certain kind of book.

2. Title Metadata Tells Librarians and Booksellers Where to Shelve Your Book (and Who'd Want to Buy It)

Including Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) codes in book metadata explains what genre the book is. These codes allow marketers, retailers, librarians, online stores, search engines and others to know where to shelve a book or how to locate it online. More than one BISAC code can be assigned to a book in the metadata, ensuring it reaches the targeted potential audiences.

3. Title Metadata Sells Your Book to Consumers Online

Online consumers unwittingly access book metadata when searching for a book online. There is so much information that can be added to the metadata including title, description, contributors, genre, keywords, related titles and the like. This makes it easier to discover by potential readers—including those who already know the author's work as well as those who don't.

4. Title Metadata Provides Search Engines with the Perfect Answer

This is one of the most important aspects of metadata utilization. As noted above, book metadata can include all the answers readers have about a specific book—even if they don't know what book they are looking for. The inclusion of keywords, positive book reviews, and comments, authoritative recommendations, similarity to other titles and everything else in the metadata means that search engines can find it. That's a big part of how specific books get into the hands of specific readers. It's especially important to include series information in the metadata, too. That's how readers can find the next book in a series like "Harry Potter" or "Game of Thrones".

5. Title Metadata Tells Readers Who You Are

Title metadata should include as much relevant information about the author as possible. Whether or not the author has received recognition, awards or special education can make a difference for multitudes of readers. Let's face it, there is so much competition when it comes to attracting readership—especially for new authors—that anything that puts the author "above the crowd" in any way can help sell the right books to the right people. For example, a writer who grew up in Ireland might have personal experience that lends itself to a book set during the time of—say, the Irish potato famine. American authors might write an equally well-written book about the Irish potato famine, but associations like this can help sell books.

6. Title Metadata Links You to Your Contributors 

Information about illustrators, collaborators, other contributors and even reviewers should be part of your title metadata. Searches for positive reviews by respected critics link authors to the critics —and the "paper" or online source for whom they write critiques. Similarly, any metadata that includes information about co-authors and other contributors will increase the likelihood that a book will appear in multiple and varied searches. Collaborators want their work discovered, too, even if they only played a small part in a book; for instance, in writing a foreword or afterword.

7. Title Metadata Preserves Images and Illustrations

Many illustrators have dedicated followers who buy books solely for their artwork, some of which end up being highly collectible. Including associative information in book metadata helps books reach a wider audience and that means more sales. Furthermore, the metadata of illustration and image information ensures that pictures and artwork will not be lost in the dungeons of the world wide web. Authors will find that images that have been tagged with metadata are, and will always be, easy to access.

Book metadata might seem confusing at first but it's actually easy to learn and has a genuine impact on your book sales, helping readers discover your book and know they want to read it. The more exposure your book gets, the better it sells.


Have more questions? Submit a request


Please sign in to leave a comment.

Contact Us

Didn't find the answer you were looking for?

Submit a request