In my last post I wrote about why Metadata Matters. Last Tuesday I attended the Australian Publishers Association workshop Metadata Magic to find out more. Gavin King from Integral presented the training and his knowledge and ability to communicate clearly to the attendees made this an enjoyable session. Although the training was aimed at publishers, the information was just as useful for self-publishers.
Firstly, a quick reminder of what metadata actually is! Metadata is a broad term describing all the information about a book that enables it to be discovered and purchased online.
The magic of propagation
Something that is important for publishers to understand is that metadata ‘propagates itself through the internet’. This is why it’s SO important to get right because it’s not just where you upload the metadata, but also through indexing by Google (and other search engines) it appears on search results. Get it wrong and you may be seeing this for a while.
Metadata isn’t just for ebooks
Metadata is just as important for printed books as ebooks. It is how your book is discovered online. Gavin showed us the same book on three different retailers so that we became familiar with how they emphasised different factors in the metadata.
Metadata is a broad description
Metadata is a number of items added by the publisher but can also be added by the retailer or consumer. It is not just text but can also be video or anything used to sell a product online including author interview videos, customer reviews and ratings.
How to build metadata
One of the most important messages that came through the workshop is to build metadata into your publishing workflow. Don’t let metadata be an afterthought, especially when considering extra collateral like author interviews and videos. Make everyone and every division responsible for metadata, but make sure you know when it is complete.
A question that was asked was how to ensure you review your metadata over time. This is important as awards are won (we hope) for some titles or favourable reviews. It’s important to build this into your schedule and regularly review for any information that needs to be added or deleted.
Where is the metadata held?
Gavin explained that the ideal place that metadata should be stored is in a database that everyone can access. “A single source of truth, accuracy and approval.”
Use your database to push metadata to the retailers and also keep a list of all possible metadata there – it’s a great checklist and a way to ensure you build all items into your workflow.
A few database options were mentioned, but Gavin King said Integral were building one – Metabuilder – that would be available on a subscription model. Both self-publishers and publishers would be able to use this and freelancers would also be able to access. And yes, if you must it IS possible to use excel, but make sure you have good version control!
I was interested in hearing more about Metabuilder and asked Gavin to tell me more.
“Metabuilder is an online database designed specifically for publishers to easily manage and control their eBook metadata. Data can be entered manually or imported into the database providing one source of accurate data for all people involved in the publishing workflow. The database collates all the metadata needed to publish out to multiple eBook retailers in one place, prompting for specific information for each retailer where needed and utilising the same fields for all retailers where possible. This simplifies the process of collecting metadata into a uniform de-duplicated process. Once all the metadata is collected and the ePub file is ready to be published, the database pushes the ePub file and metadata information out to multiple eBook retailers in one step. Metabuilder is due to be released in April 2013 providing a low cost solution to publishers with access starting at $39.95 per month.” Gavin King, Chief Technology Officer, Integral
For enquiries please contact Gavin King via email.
Sending metadata to ebook retailers
Gavin showed us how to submit metadata to Amazon’s KDP program, iTunes Producer and Google Books and what was particular to each of them as a retailer. Throughout the demonstration he also gave us some handy tips, including:
- Some retailers allow you to enter the names of various contributors (editor, illustrator, photographer etc).
- All ebook retailers use different categories – try and add as many categories as that particular retailer allows.
- The title of your ebook is very important. While with a printed book people discovered it by browsing physically, online searching means checking you are using a unique name more important.
A lot of what we were showed could be automated, but we had the opportunity to see the differences between the retailers.
It is possible to send metadata to retailers by spreadsheets (excel) but they must not be used as a data storage tool and each retailer will need a template.
Transmitting metadata by Onix is only offered to really big publishers at this point although over time this may change.
Adapting your blurb for discoverability
Gavin told us “Ebook blurbs often need to be re-written to adapt to the online world of search and increase the ebooks chance of being discovered”. A great research tool for this is to use the Google AdWords: Keyword Tool.
An interesting discussion was do you need to use a different ISBN for each different digital format? Clearly you DO need to use a different ISBN for your ebook versus your printed book, but although it is often said to use one for each digital format, Gavin believes that unless you intend to really dig down into the data it’s fine to just use one ISBN for your ebook. That was interesting to hear and changed my thinking on this subject.
For more reading on metadata you may be interested in: