Novel Marketing

Novel Marketing

How to Use Metadata to Sell More Books

April 27, 2020

What is the one thing that can prevent your book from dying a cruel death by obscurity? 

In publishing, what you don’t know can get you into trouble. But today, we’re going to talk about a topic that many authors don’t know that they don’t know.


Yes, that’s right. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to nerd out about metadata.

Don’t click away yet!

Good metadata can save your book by making it easy to find and increasing your sales. 

To help us understand why it’s so important, I interviewed a true metadata nerd. He’s helped publishers do metadata and technology well. He’s an expert in metadata and an acclaimed teacher on digital publishing who serves as the Director of Sales and Education at Firebrand Technologies—Joshua Tallent.

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: Some authors feel allergic to metadata. Can you give us a simple definition that will simplify the concept?

What is metadata?

Joshua Tallent: Metadata is descriptive information about something. For example, I have a blue mug on my desk. To describe it, we might say it’s ceramic. It’s blue, It’s got “greatest dad” written on the side. Those are all metadata descriptors of that cup. 

When we’re talking about books, metadata is information about the book. It’s the title, author, keywords, the price, and all the details about your book.

Thomas: If you don’t pay attention to that information about your book, it’s left blank, or it’s inaccurate. If metadata is innacurate or left blank, your book will be hard for readers to find, and your book will not sell.

Joshua: Metadata is a critical component of book sales. There is a direct relationship between metadata and sales. What you put in your data will make a difference in your book’s visibility to readers.

It also affects whether or not readers view your book as a professionally produced work. Many clues tell consumers about the quality of a book, whether it’s on Amazon or Barnes Noble, or anywhere else. You must acknowledge the connection between your book sales and your metadata.

It’s about quality. As an independent author and publisher, your goal is to create the highest quality book so you can compete with more prominent voices that have more money and power. Your book’s quality must be equal to or better than your competitors. That’s where metadata can help.

Thomas: I remember my mom taking me to the library to research for my first report about the planet Jupiter. Back then, the library had card catalogs. Each book in the library was represented by a physical index card that had metadata on it. The author, title, topic, and every piece of information you’d need to find the book was indexed on that card.

Every drawer of cards was a perfectly egalitarian space. There were no shining golden cards for traditionally published books or tattered cards for indie books. It was just information to help you find the book you wanted.  

The card catalog is a good metaphor for how metadata still works. All the information about a book is now stored in a digital database. In some ways, that makes it more important because now you can search that database quickly and easily.