what is book metadata

Book metadata is in the end, what really sells ebooks, so you need to know about it.

If you are an author and self-publishing on Amazon, Kindle, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Apple, B&N or anywhere else, you need to know what book metadata is, and how to use it to help sell more books.

Take it from me, as an author who has been chronically lazy and left many of my long list of previously published books unchanged from the day they were published; times have changed. And how!

I have been booted into action, however, by this book metadata stuff because, well, um, here comes my admission. Because my book sales were falling, and I know why.

I have not made it easy for readers to find my books. No matter how many great reviews my books may have, if readers can’t search and find my titles on retail sites, how can I hope to sell more books?

The word metadata may sound technical, but in reality, it is very simple, as it is only about words and phrases that will help readers find your books. For the sake of simplicity,

I’ll use the example of what metadata can be added to an ebook on Kindle Direct Publishing, but it will work almost exactly the same for all other publishing platforms.

So what is book metadata and what does it do?

Book metadata is what Amazon and search engines such as Google use to list your entry (book) so it can be found by using the search feature on Amazon, or on Google Search. There are defined fields that hold this data. For an ebook they are:

Title, subtitle, series title, author, contributors, book description, categories and keywords. For Amazon KDP, there is also Age Range and US Grade Range. All of these fields are metadata, and they will be indexed and used to make your book more discoverable online.

While it will take me some time to do the necessary research to update all of my books, and in particular in selecting keyword phrases, I have noticed that after modifying the metadata on only one of my books that changes in the way my book is listed happened immediately.

Firstly, instead of my ebook appearing in only the two general categories, it is now listed in four! This is because I chose keyword phrases that were already listed on the Kindle Store.

Whereas before I had selected espionage and spies as separate keywords, by combining them into espionage and spy thrillers, which was suggested when I typed espionage into Amazon’s search field, it gave me a search term that has been used before by book buyers.

It also suggested, wartime espionage and military and spies, which I also used as keyword phrases. By making these changes to my keywords, I now have four genre listings.

Even better, now when someone searches for wartime espionage, my book, Louis, is listed at number 4! This is the power of metadata. My previous keywords had my book listed at the wrong end of 1,000’s of books, so it was almost impossible to find.

My seven new keyword phrases now get my book up into at least the top 20 search listed books.

Book metadata is all about making your book more discoverable

If you look at the image below, notice the categories listed on the left. These are the keyword phrases that can become new category listings for your book if you use them as your keywords, and really help in making your book discoverable.

amazon keywords and categories

The other change I made was by adding a subtitle. As this is again searchable metadata, it helps readers find your book. As my book title, Louis, says little and is not going to be found by search, adding the subtitle of, The Life Of  Real Spy, guides readers interested in the spy and espionage genre towards my book.

The most difficult change for me was in rewriting my book description, as although it needs to contain all the normal SEO norms such as repeating keywords from the title, subtitle, perhaps series name and using some SEO power words, it should NOT include the words and phrases used in the categories.

This is a bit weird, but as I have researched, it is a peculiarity of how Amazon uses metadata.

Lastly, the choice of categories is very important but limited to only two. Select wisely, but avoid using general categories such as romance or science fiction. Dig deeper to find two, more specific to your book. In the book I have changed, I selected FICTION > Thrillers > Espionage and FICTION > War & Military in place of my old categories of FICTION >  Drama and FICTION > Historical.

Dig deeper to find two, more specific to your book. In the book I have changed, I selected FICTION > Thrillers > Espionage and FICTION > War & Military in place of my old categories of FICTION >  Drama and FICTION > Historical.

Now, does all this work? Yes, it definitely does help in making your book more discoverable.

One other important factor to know about metadata is that if you don’t get it right first time, you can try again, and again, and again. Experiment to see what works or doesn’t work.

It could be as simple as finding just one golden keyword phrase, changing a category or editing your book description that will make your book more discoverable and hopefully, improve your book sales dramatically.

While I would not suggest that improving your metadata alone will magically increase book sales ten fold, it should be considered as one vital part of your package of book promotion strategies.

This page was last updated on August 30th, 2017

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