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5 Ways to Make Your Metadata Work for You

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1. Refresh Metadata Regularly

Develop a regular process for revitalizing your metadata by timing it around recurring events, such as the annual implementation of new Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) codes from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) or seasonal promotions such as back-to-school campaigns. Prioritize your titles for review, starting with your frontlist, followed by bestsellers, then backlist titles. Within each area, prioritize titles by sales rate, category, and reader age range. News-driven categories such as Diet and Health or Business and Investing may warrant more frequent reviews.

Look for monthly sales trends that could point to metadata issues. A large downward trend for a group of titles may indicate that it’s time to update your category metadata or pricing.

Keep pace with changes in how metadata feeds to retailer sites and individual title product pages by revisiting older titles to be sure they conform to current standards and verifying that title details show up correctly on retailer sites. Make sure that title information is accurate across series and retailers. Don’t lose sales to inconsistent spelling and punctuation!

2. Choose the Right Category

Up-to-date BISAC codes allow retailers to create effective themed marketing, so be sure your category codes reflect the latest BISG guidelines on trending topics, such as the entirely new Young Adult categories introduced at the end of 2015, which were previously encompassed by juvenile codes.

Apply as many BISAC codes to each title as possible—for e-books, use at least four codes to really hone in on your market, even if you typically use fewer codes for print books. Titles with unique BISACs (such as Young Adult Fiction/Pirates) often find great visibility on bestseller lists and less competition than those with generic codes (such as Young Adult Fiction/General).

Review each of your titles across all retailers to identify the BISAC category that’s driving the most sales. Then place the most relevant BISAC code first in each book’s metadata.

3. Watch Trends in Top Categories

Create a chain of command within your company for tracking keywords. The marketing department may take the lead on category keywords, while the book’s editor may be the best person to track keywords for each title, with marketing and publicity next in line.

Track top search terms for categories and topics in which you have the most titles so you can easily update book subtitles and descriptions with critical and timely keywords.

Sites like Google’s Trends and Play Awards sections and Amazon use the auto-populate tool to see a dropdown of popular search terms. Keep an eye on the number of global monthly searches for each term.

4. Leverage Keywords Wisely

Use as many relevant keywords in your book description as possible. Use your hottest main keywords in the first two sentences of your book description, as these are the most visible on most retailer websites. Don’t use paragraph breaks, which can cause some text to be hidden beneath a “more” tag. Instead, use standard returns to create readable paragraphs.

Reach out regularly to your authors to request additions to their biographies, such as awards or bestseller status that might result in higher keyword search results.

5. Use a Flexible Metadata Delivery System

The most efficient way to deliver metadata to the publishing supply chain is with ONIX, a single data feed that includes variations in price by wholesale, retail, and library markets, as well as by territory.

For publishers who don’t have ONIX yet, here are a few options to consider:

  • Develop the means to create and distribute ONIX yourself
  • Use a service provider to create ONIX for you and distribute it to retailers yourself
  • Use a service provider to create and distribute your ONIX feed and e-book files

Just like a great bookseller, smart metadata puts your books in front of the right readers and closes the sale. The more you refine your metadata, the better it will serve you.

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from INscribe Digital’s whitepaper “Five Ways to Optimize Your Metadata,” which includes more tips and case studies, and was co-written and edited by Charlotte Abbott, Abbott Communications.


About the Author:

Anne KubekAnne Kubek is executive vice president and general manager of the San Francisco-based tech company INscribe Digital, specializing in e-book distribution, print solutions, as well as marketing and sales reporting for a wide range of publishers, authors, and literary agencies.

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