What the heck is metadata

Metadata: What The Heck is that?

From BookBaby

Book metadata is a critical component to your book’s discovery and marketing… but do you know what metadata is? Let us explain!

There is one thing that many indie authors forget that is critical to their marketing and sales success, and that is book metadata.

Book metadata… what the heck is that?


So, you might be thinking, What is metadata? Why does that matter? How does my book metadata relate to the marketing and sales of my book? Metadata is often described as “data about data,” which in this case, is all the crucial and important information about your book. This includes:

  • your title and subtitle
  • your author name
  • the contributors to the book (e.g., illustrators)
  • the short and long description of your book
  • the ISBN
  • the price point

Metadata helps readers find your book

Your book’s accurate metadata will help ensure that if someone searches online for “murder-mystery Elizabethan Period,” and you’ve written a detective novel set in England in 1580, your book will appear in the search results.

But it’s not always that straightforward, and crafting the right information and picking the proper genre and categories might not be as simple as you think.

Book genre and categories

Let’s say you’ve written a book that is heartfelt and dramatic, so you select “drama” as a category. Sounds good, except that retailers and bookstores use the word “drama” to categorize plays — such as Shakespeare and Arthur Miller — so that might not be the accurate category for your novel.

Or, let’s say you’ve written a children’s book, and you think “education” makes a great descriptor. But a parent searching for a Christmas gift for an eight-year-old might just look up “children’s books” — and while children’s books can be educational, it depends on who your audience is. “Education” might be better directed at a school teacher looking for educational tools.

These crucial distinctions have huge impacts on the visibility of your book. It is so tempting to rush because you just want to get your book out there, but don’t rush through this. Categorizing your book incorrectly with inaccurate metadata can hamper your success.

Book descriptions

Another key factor about metadata is your long and short book descriptions. It is super important, and it is your sale’s pitch to your reader. A compelling, concise, and well-written book description is what will draw your reader into your book and be the determining factor as to whether they buy. In fact, readers don’t solely judge a book by its cover, they judge it by its metadata.

Writing an excellent book description is also harder than you think. I mean, how on earth can you condense a 300-page novel to a short couple of paragraphs? But it’s so important. If a reader sees a huge wall of text detailing every single thing that happens in your book, they might get overwhelmed and choose not to purchase.

But if you tease your reader with too little, they might not know what’s going on in the story and whether they want to purchase the book.

Keywords are key

Crafting a book’s description is a delicate art that balances succinctness and intrigue that will best represent your work to your potential readers.

Having accurate keywords takes market research and an understanding of what kind of person and audience will be best interested in your book.

Getting strong metadata right the first time significantly increases your chances at successful book marketing, but it is the most forgotten step in the self-publishing process.

Learn more about BookBaby’s Metadata Optmization services at www.bookbaby.com/sell-your-book/metadata-optimization.

See all our Indie Author Minute videos on the BookBaby YouTube channel.

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