What is Metadata and Why Does it Matter to Self-Publishers?

With BEA behind us, there’s a lot of talk about book metadata. In particular, there’s a lot of talk about enhanced metadata. What is enhanced metadata? What does enhanced metadata do? Why should self-publishing authors even care about enhanced metadata?

First, let’s talk about just regular old metadata. The barebones includes things like: title, ISBN, price, length, author name, format, cover image, and BISAC code. It’s used in databases like ONIX to allow for easy searching, categorizing, and preserving book information.

Metadata is an essential part of the book publishing (and marketing) process. It’s the foundation for your book’s discoverability on almost every road to book sales. There’s a direct link between your metadata and book sales. As a result, self-publishers need to know what it is and how to use it.

Enhanced metadata takes this information further, including things like the author’s biography, city of birth and city of residence. Other elements include the book’s table of contents, recent press and media, excerpts, blurbs, jacket copy, and reviews.

This may seem like overkill, but this data contributes significantly to your self-publishing revenue. If you’re publishing your book with a traditional press, this data is what big retailers like Barnes and Noble use to choose the books they’ll buy (and how many they’ll buy!). If you’re self-publishing, enhanced metadata is used to determine what kinds of searches you’ll show up in. It’s also how Amazon targets its advertising.

For authors entering the book production and bookselling world through self-publishing, figuring out what the industry means by metadata, exploring why it’s important, and learning how to get book data into the marketplace can be especially daunting. – Renee Register

At this year’s Book Expo America, the publication of the Metadata Handbook was announced. The book promises to include everything from the basics to “to the latest information on the use of ONIX 2.1 and 3.0.”

The handbook does more than provide traditional publishers and self-publishing authors the real-world details of how metadata works, it solidifies the fact that enhanced metadata plays an important role in the future of publishing.


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