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Book Business January/February 2013 : Page 26

METADATA Think about it: Metadata is your book online. the online preview doesn’t waste pre-cious pages on the prelims; that your author Brian Smith doesn’t link by mis-take to Brian W. Smith, author of My Husband’s Love Child—a Novella ; that the video shows up online; and many more concerns. Basic metadata is pretty easy, but ONIX, the metadata standard, now de-fines more than 200 fields. And these days there’s intermediate metadata, and then there’s advanced. Today we’re going to test your skills: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. are slipping down your backlist, no lon-ger carried in bricks and mortar stores, waiting to be discovered online. Most people think about famous titles when they think about metadata. Like 50 Shades of Whatever . Perversely, metadata doesn’t matter quite as much for books that feature the best metadata—new books and bestsellers. Readers are going to find those titles one way or another. But Pets and Heaven—What the Bible Says About Our Animal Friends could use some additional metadata to move up the “Pet Loss Grief ” section of Amazon from its current position at No. 852,554 in books. 2. Know which metadata matters the most. ment comes close for sales impact. Cov-ers still sell books. 3. There’s a difference between findability and discoverability. You Think You’re A Beginner You’ve got the basics in hand—if you’re in the U.K. you know they’re called BIC Basic 1 and in the U.S., it’s BISAC Core Data Elements 2 . Did you know: 1. Metadata Matters No matter what you might think, meta-data matters. A lot. It won’t make bad books sell well. But with literally millions of books for sale online, it makes a huge difference for those deserving titles that The cover is the most important metadata element. For sales, no other element comes close. 26 You’ve got to walk with metadata before you run. Metadata mastery takes time. Title and author are searched more often than publisher, subtitles more than the number of pages. Different national organizations that oversee book metadata have different names for the most important metadata. The U.S.’s BISAC/BISG talks about the “Core Metadata Elements.” There are 31 in all. Some are mainly important to resellers—like “Case Pack/Carton Quantity”—rather than to readers. BIC in the U.K. is more down-to-earth with its 11 BIC Basic elements. They’re mostly what you would expect: title, price, pub data, ISBN, and so on. Included in both lists is something you may not think of as metadata: the cover. Nielsen’s metadata study, “The Link Between Metadata and Sales,” 3 released in early 2012, proved that the cover is in fact the most important metadata element. Sales for titles with all 11 elements, including the cover, were 473 percent higher than for titles missing the cover. No other metadata ele-Discussions about the value of metadata move quickly to proclaim that metadata is essential to discoverability. Discover-ability isn’t defined: We’re left with the vague sense suggested by the word’s root “discover.” Most people know that there are too many books and too much infor-mation, so the idea that it’s challenging to find a book resonates. Certainly everyone who’s part of the publishing supply chain, whether author, publisher or reseller, is well aware of the problem. They know that just because a book is good doesn’t mean it will ever be found. Metadata’s first task is mere findabil-ity—and the distinction is important. For argument’s sake let’s assume that half of the books purchased or borrowed from libraries are searched for just by title or by author. Those books must be found, not discovered. It’s the other half that will be discovered, whether by wander-ing through the stacks at the library or strolling the aisles of a bookstore (or the online equivalent). Findability is the challenge of locating exactly what you’re looking for (even if you have incomplete or inaccurate infor-mation about the book). Discoverability is the process by which a book appears in front of you at a point where you were not looking for that specific title (al-though you are looking for something in the same direction). Metadata plays an important role in both of these tasks, although the role it plays is substantially different in each. 4. Metadata is your sacred duty. These days most publishers are doing a pretty good job of assigning basic meta-data to their new titles as they’re pub-lished. You won’t find many bestsellers missing a description and a sampling of the advance reviews. The book cover shows up loud and clear. It’s the backlist that’s a mess. FEBRUARY 2013 | BOOK BUSINESS

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