In the most basic context, metadata means “data about data.” What about when we talk about self publishing—what is metadata?
When was the last time you went to the library, pulled out one of the card catalog drawers and rifled through the 3×5 cards printed with the information of each, individual book in the library?
For most, the concept is archaic, replaced by modern technology. With a simple search query and the click of a button, readers can find any book they want to read.
As a self-published author, the interior workings behind that simple search are of the utmost importance. Without understanding how search results are found and presented to readers, you cannot expect your book to find its way into many hands.
The key to understanding? You guessed it: metadata.
What is metadata?
The most common three pieces of metadata for your book are exactly how you would expect a reader to find your book:
For example, if you were searching for my first novel, the metadata would look like this:
- Gambit of the Glass Crowns
- Volume One of The Sundered Kingdoms Trilogy
- Ethan Risso
The next three are included on the copyright page of your book. As the author, you are more familiar with these than most readers.
- Format (ebook, trade paper, etc.)
- Publication Date
Overall, those are fairly simple. However, what if a reader does not specifically search for your book? I think we can all agree, most readers will not. That is where the bulk of the information you provide for your metadata comes into play.
Searching and Metadata
When you upload your book to Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook Press, Createspace, etc., you are presented with a form to fill out the information about your book. You will find a similar form also needs to be filled out if you submit your book to any existing catalogs, contests, etc. The content you provide by filling in these forms is your metadata.
When someone searches online for a book to read, it is the metadata you provided in these forms that the search engine will use to recognize whether or not your book is related to the search terms. This is why it is so important to fill out as much information as you can and to make sure your metadata is correct before you finish uploading your book.
Keywords or Phrases
There is some confusion for first-time publishers when it comes to keywords. The term is misleading, as it is not often you use only one word. Instead, the most accurate descriptive phrases for your book might contain two or more words—although it’s best not to use exceedingly long phrases.
The best places to insert your keywords when creating your metadata would be your title, subtitle, and description. Other than those, most of the other information included in your metadata will be related to the properties of the book itself: page count, physical size, weight, etc.
This is not a step to rush through. Take time to do research on your audience. What are the terms they search for most frequently?
While doing the research and creating your metadata might seem like a boring chore, it is one of the most important steps during the publication process. A well written description utilizing your keywords and properly written metadata will see your book rise above the glut of books published every year.