Part 4: How to Publish Your Ebook (Metadata and DRM)

Last week at the How to Publish Your Ebook the all-important subjects of Metadata and DRM were covered. In week 1, Joel Naoum, Publisher, Momentum Books, Pan Macmillan’s digital-only imprint, presented Part 1 The growing market for eBooks and recent developments. In Part 2 participants heard about Preparing and Producing an Ebook. Last week in Part 3 Jim Demetriou, Sales & Marketing Director at Allen & Unwin covered How Can I Sell my Ebook?

Part 4:  How can people find my eBook? Metadata and DRM.

In this session Airlie Lawson explained how to ensure your ebook is listed in the right places and make sure people can find it. She also explained Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the arguments for and against it. Airlie  has more than 15 years experience in rights management, including translation, film, television and digital.


  • What exactly is metadata?
    • Metadata is the information around the book — the ISBN, the title, the author, the category, the description. But it is also the sales pitch, the blurb, the reason why people should read your book.
  • It’s is important to understand that good metadata is crucial if you want your ebook to sell. Poor metadata will mean your book is invisible to your potential readers.
  • Search engines use metadata and when dealing with etailers you are dealing with algorithms and codes, not people, so the data needs to be right.
  • Metadata is entered at the point you upload your ebook to an etailer like Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo or others.  Different etailers will have different forms for entering metadata; if you are using a distributor, they will have one spreadsheet that you fill in that they can then use with  multiple etailers.
  • Metadata forms usually default to world rights, so if you are restricting your ebook to certain parts of the world (because another publisher has e-rights in a particular territory) you need to specify.
  • If your book is part of a series, put the series name in the title, as the ‘series’ box in the metadata may not always show up.
  • You should check your metadata as you would a blurb.

The Product Description:

  • The blurb needs to tell the reader why they should buy the book.  Think of your book description or blurb as a sales pitch.  Is the book groundbreaking? Original? Does it have a great endorsement from someone? Has it won prizes?  Think about signals such as “In the tradition of …” that can give readers an instant grasp of the kind of book it is.

A Short Description:

  • You will also need a two-line description — a catchline — as well as the product description.
  • These two descriptions, short and long, need to work together as well as independently of each other.  For that reason they should not repeat each other.  Some etailers will only use the short one; some will only use the long one; some will use both together.  So your copy needs to be able to accommodate this.
  • Do “think punchy” for your copy, and use key words/catchy words. Say what it is about your book that is different.

Category Codes:

  • It is important to understand category codes. A good definition of Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) and how they are used can be found here.
  • BISAC (US) and BIC (UK) are vital.  These codes tell booksellers where to put your book, and are important for getting bestseller listings.
  • Be specific, especially with non-fiction.
  • A culinary travel memoir could be listed first as travel, second as food, third as memoir (in descending order of importance — the major category goes first).
  • For fiction, you don’t need multiple categories, eg. ‘fiction’ is already incorporated in ‘crime fiction’
  • You could also be strategic (but accurate) and use very specific categories, like ‘female detective’, Carolyn McCray’s post on Digital Book World: Maximizing Digital Sales is great on this.

Biographical information:

  • You should keep it brief and relevant to the book.

Digital Rights Management (DRM):

  • Airlie described the different kinds of rights that could be sold and emphasised that copyright cuts both ways — you need to get clearance (and pay) for any copyright material you have used in your book, and clear it for all the territories where you will be selling your book.
  • There is a shift to publishers not wanting highly restrictive DRM on their books — it is seen as less attractive to consumers as depending on the DRM imposed, they may not be able to lend, print, or read the ebook on multiple devices.
  • The best antidote we have to piracy is books being easy to find and reasonably priced.

Parts 5 and 6 of the How to Publish Your Own Ebook

Week 5: Wednesday 1 August 2012

How can I let people know about my eBook? Promotion and social media. How to make sure people know it’s out there. Natalie Costa Bir, Web Content Editor, University of Sydney; former Manager, Voyager Online Marketing at HarperCollins. she also co-presented the course Excellent Ebooks for the APA.

Week 6: Wednesday 8 August 2012

Stories from the world of epublishing.

Convener of the workshops: Linda Funnell has over 30 years publishing experience. Linda worked for ten years as HarperCollins Publisher, Fiction and Literary Non-fiction. She is a book editor and publishing consultant and co-editor with Jean Bedford of  The Newtown Review of Books

Information on the course can be viewed on The Australian Society of Authors site.

You may also like to read:

Part 1 of How to Publish Your Ebook –  The growing market for eBooks and recent developments.

Part 2 of How to Publish Your Ebook – Preparing and Producing an Ebook.

Part 3 of How to Publish Your Ebook – Sales and Distribution

Launch of Kobo Writing Life Self-Publishing Platform.

What Makes a Great Ebook?

3 thoughts on “Part 4: How to Publish Your Ebook (Metadata and DRM)

  1. You can embed a lot of metadata in the EPUB package prior to upload. The Dublin Core specification is confusing as all hell, but it offers a lot of different options for different types of metadata to use as part of the EPUB. However, do you happen to know if any of the eBook stores use this embedded metadata? I sort of feel like I’m wasting my time embedding it for clients, and then they have to enter the same metadata again when they upload their eBook for sale. Any inside scoop on this situation would be highly appreciated. Great post!

    • Hi Paul
      Gosh, I hadn’t even heard of The Dublin core specification! I’m afraid this question is outside my realm of knowledge! If YOU get the answer, would you mind coming back to answer?!

      • The Dublin Core spec is recognized by the EPUB people, but the metadata rarely gets used by the eBook vendors. It’s a way to specify rights, contributors, and other things as part of the XML that goes to making the eBook. I’m not sure why the eBook stores don’t use it.

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