Metadata in publishing is all information about a book: it includes author, title, description, keywords and much more. Smart metadata input is not only important to keep distributors happy, but is a powerful tool to improve sales. PublishDrive has teamed up with a publishing metadata expert, Zsofia Dedinszky who has kindly agreed to share her extensive knowledge and experience with us. This article is the second in a series: we talk about best practices regarding author’s name, title, subtitle and series fields.
The first article about metadata in general and most important metadata guidelines is available here.
Key metadata fields and best practices
In the following, we’re going to go through the most important metadata fields and collect best practices.
It is best to decide your author name before you start publishing. There are no pros and cons for using a pen name, except if you are writing non-fiction in a topic you are considered an expert in. Please make sure that your pen name is not in any way misleading to readers: don’t call yourself Dr. John Smith, if you are not a doctor.
Once you have the name, Google it, and run an Amazon book search. Make sure that nobody else uses that name – or nobody in a similar genre, at least. Even little modifications will do the trick: if you’d like to write under the name of John Smith, but it is already taken, try John W. Smith. The key is in consistency: if you are called JW Smith in the metadata of one book, John W. Smith for the next and John William Smith for the third, your books won’t be grouped together by stores or under your author profile.
Once you have your pen name, stick with it. Changing your pen name at a later stage of your career, especially if it means to republish your books under a different author name is painful. It can result in losing your readers, your sales ranks, your Goodreads reviews, and – sometimes – even prompt a copyright investigation. Nevertheless, if you decide to change your pen name at any stage of your career, make sure to completely erase traces of your previous author name in the bookstores before starting trade under your new name.
For multiple authors, don’t be afraid to add every author: Amazon will show the book on everyone’s author page, if applicable. (The little downwards arrow shows that you can visit the author page.)
Adding the translator in the metadata is a requirement for public domain books, and is common courtesy for copyrighted books. The same goes for the illustrator. Adding these names in the contributor field will help your book’s visibility and not compromise your achievements in any way.
Title and subtitle
A good title is unique. Like your book. It should be interesting enough to catch the eye of potential readers who are just browsing through the selves of a store.
- give titles that are considered very common in your genre, eg. ‘Hidden Secrets’ or ‘Keto Recipes’. Readers might confuse your book with another book of a similar title.
- give very ‘keywordy’ titles and subtitles, like ‘Murder Mystery’ or ‘Lesbian Romance’ if publishing to Amazon. Amazon has a tendency to flag and disable keywordy titles. We will talk about using keywords later in this series.
- enter the title only in large capitals: just follow the capitalisation rules of your language. For example, there is no need to enter your title as FIRST LOVE, just because it is how you put it on the cover. Just enter First Love.
- enter the subtitle or series information in the title field. It’ll show up next to the title anyway. For example, don’t enter First Love: To Find Your Pair in the title field. Instead, enter First Love in the title field and To Find Your Pair in the subtitle field.
- exceed 200 characters in total: this is the maximum length on Amazon for title and subtitle together.
- enter anything in the title or subtitle field that is not on your cover, for example keywords, or promotional content (FREE or Best Selling). Check this article for prohibited items in the title.
- use any special characters in your title or subtitle.
- enter the title and subtitle exactly as it is shown on your cover. Retailers flag the books where the title in the metadata and the title on the cover don’t match: it is confusing for the readers.
- give meaningful and unique titles and subtitles.
- use the subtitle field to tell more information about your book and specify the topic, especially if writing non-fiction. For example: ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ or ‘Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World’.
How will it be displayed
Amazon displays the subtitle right next to the title, separated with a colon. Just enter the title and the subtitle in the corresponding fields, and Amazon will do the rest. It is thanks to the correct metadata entry that Amazon is able to ‘group’ the Kindle, the paperback and the hardcover edition.
Google Books, Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble display it the same way. As the metadata has been entered correctly, Google is able to display the audiobook version next to the ebook version.
Kobo is displaying the subtitle underneath the title, with smaller letters. Nevertheless, the subtitle field works just as well as the title field for finding the book: you are able to find this book by Jordan B. Peterson even if you are searching for the subtitle only.
As most major retailers (including Amazon, Google, Kobo and iBooks) treat the series field the same way as they treat the title and the subtitle field when it comes to search results, it is a powerful tool many authors don’t think of.
Most indie authors know that writing more books does increase the sales of their previous books, their backlist. We all know about the effect of offering the first book of the series for free. Even if you loath series and you prefer to write standalone books, writing connected standalone books will let you utilise the advantages of writing a series.
But not every writer remembers to group their books into a series using the corresponding metadata field. Grouping books into a series on retailers’ page is not only a great tool if you want your first book to be found, but it helps readers easily find your next book. And the next one. And the one after.
- mislead your readers. If your book is not part of a series, leave series field empty.
- give very ‘keywordy’ series names, like ‘Murder Mystery’ or ‘Lesbian Romance’ if publishing to Amazon. Amazon has a tendency to flag and disable keywordy series names.
- put the series name in the title or subtitle field. It is enough to only put it in the series field.
- use the same series number for multiple books: it’ll confuse distributors.
- add ‘Book 1’ in the subtitle field. It’ll be clear from numbering.
- enter the series name consistently. ‘A Miss Marple Mystery’, ‘Miss Marple Mysteries’ or ‘Miss Marple Mystery Series’ are all acceptable, but you have to use it always exactly the same way. If you are not consistent, ebook vendors don’t group your series together.
- put the series name on the cover: if you wish. It is not a requirement.
- group together titles that are connected by a certain topic: this is true regardless of whether you are a fiction or non-fiction author.
- use the series field to convey more information about your book if appropriate. There is no need to add words in your series field that are already present in your title or subtitle: it won’t enhance visibility.
- use numbers for numbering, eg. 1 and 2. While Amazon only groups numbered titles together, if numbering doesn’t make sense in case of your books, please don’t use it. If you write ‘Book 2’, that won’t group together. While often there is a need to add new volumes between already existing volumes, volume numbers like 1.5 and 3.2 won’t be accepted by ebook vendors.
- specify in the description if books can be read in any order. You can refer to the previous books in the series in the description, eg. “Sequel of the best-selling novel My Amazing Book”.
- include the name of main character in the description (or use the name of main character to name the series). This way, your readers have a better chance of finding your next book, even if they don’t remember the author’s name or the title of the book, but only who it was about.
- include a teaser of the following book at the end of the book: if your readers are already hooked, it is more likely that they’ll buy your next book as well.
How will it be displayed?
Amazon uses the series name and adds it in parentheses after the book, in the same line as the title. It also includes the book number if the series is numbered. They automatically create a series page, and list all books underneath.
To achieve this result, enter ‘Creepy Hollow’ in the Series name field and ‘1’ in the Volume field.
Google Books displays the series name underneath the title, but uses it for search. Volume in series is also displayed as ‘Book 1’. Google also groups together books in the same series and displays the series page next to each individual book. Series pages are (currently) not customizable. They only group together numbered items in a series (so you can’t group together series without volume numbers), but bundles can be added by request. (If you reach Google through an aggregator, you can ask them.)
iBooks displays the volume first, then the series name, right under the title.
You can click the series name, and it’ll bring up all books in the series. iBooks is able to manage numbered and not numbered entries together, on the same series page.
Kobo also displays the series name under the title, adding the volume with a hashtag. Interestingly, Kobo is able to group together series even if some items don’t have volume numbering.
Barnes and Noble doesn’t group series together: the series name is not clickable, unlike in other stores. Series name is displayed next to the title, in parentheses, and volume is added with a hashtag.
Please, come back for the next installment of our metadata master course. We’ll finally talk about categories and keywords.