Making Your Own Ebook – Part Ten – Metadata, Your Digital Book “Cover”

In the Digital world, your book’s Metadata may be the only way that customers will ever find your book! When a customer types search words into a search engine, and some of those words match your Metadata, your book will appear in the search results.

Metadata provides the trail that leads the customer to your book and is a vital tool for all independent authors and publishers. It is one of those things that few authors take the time to focus on. It gets forgotten about and it is only when prompted, by Amazon or Smashwords, when the book is being uploaded, that we quickly throw together the information that they ask for. Often just the bare minimum of data is entered but the “bare minimum” will not get your book noticed. If you spend a little more time / thought on what goes into your book’s Metadata it can make a big difference to your marketing impact.

What is Metadata?

In the world of Digital Publication Metadata is the equivalent of the book cover in the Print Publication world. The Metadata enables the E-retailer to categorise your book properly.

Metadata is the data about your book. As well as your Book Title, it holds your book description, the genre/classification of your book, and those all-important Keywords. The Metadata is probably more important than the cover and, if your Metadata is poorly crafted, your customer may never get the chance to see your cover.

Example: If you have used Amazon and other online stores, you will have seen instant promotions on your search page along the lines of “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”or “If you liked that, then you might like this….” The E-retailers do this by searching the Metadata, that YOU have given them, of their book stock. This is a great way to have your book promoted to potential customers who have already declared that they are interested in a book that is “similar” to yours.

Why Metadata is so important – Competition!

Something in the region of 500,000 new English language titles are released each year. Then, even if you look at just the past five years, you have at least 2.5 million ‘current’ titles available to the potential reader. If your book does not stand out in some way, how will your potential customers ever sift through all those titles and end up picking yours? If you think these are just “theoretical” figures, take a look below!

Amazon is a great source of information, so I went into the Kindle store on both the USA site and the UK site and it immediately showed me how many Kindle books are available. Here are the results (yellow highlight) from a look on 01 Feb 2015!

Survey 1 - Books on Kindle USA 01 Feb 2015Survey 2 - Books on Kindle UK 01 Feb 2015There are differences in the number of Ebooks offered by Kindle depending on your country but we can safely say that they have over 3.5 million books to choose from.

When you look down the left side of the same page you will find the books sorted into. categories and will see what the competition is like in your particular genre as they list the number of books available in each classification.

When you upload your book to your own website, or to any of the book aggregators, you have to make sure that your book stands out from others. We have talked about making sure that the quality of your book is high, and that the cover needs to have “instant” impact but this assumes that someone has already “found” your book. How can you tip the balance in your favour as people search for books to read?

In reality, we all know that the only thing that makes a real difference is Marketing; spreading the word, in every possible way, to your potential audience. Many authors make very credible efforts to do that, through Social Media, Radio & Press interviews, etc. but this effort tends to happen only at the time that the book is launched and the effects inevitably wear off over a relatively short period and the book’s “profile” begins to fade. We have to find a way to get an edge in the longer term so that sales of the book can continue over time. Taking a little extra time to get your book’s Metadata just right, is one way to achieve that.


Think about how your customer will search for a book. Web searches are becoming the primary way that readers look for what will be next on their reading list.

Metadata included in websites and Ebooks to enable Search Engines to find them more easily. When a website is launched, one of the most important jobs that the developers do is to look at Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A big part of SEO is about the “Keywords” for the site. Although many major search engines, like Google, no longer factor in the Keyword metatags in search results, they DO read the Description tags and the Keywords you use there WILL be examined by Search Engines.

Your Ebook Metadata has to be crafted in the same way as the Metadata of a website if it is to be “found” more frequently than other sites during searches. The first step is always to identify the Keywords, the words that a searcher will use when looking for a book like yours.

Identifying Keywords

Creating the Metadata for your book is an essential part of your marketing campaign and will need time and effort if it is going to work for you. Treat it like you would treat your “Book Poster” in the electronic bookshop’s window.

The Keywords for the book must be selected carefully. You have to think about how they will work when your customer is searching for a book to read. They should not just be the first words that spring to mind when filling in a form when you submit it to an E-retailer. You are an author; crafting words is your business and these words are vital. So take the time to craft them well.

If you know who your audience is, and you can fill out a form, you can create metadata for your book.

The process

You need to step into your customers’ shoes and think about the words and short phrases that they would use when searching for a book in any search engine. When looking for something new to read, we rarely have the patience to “Browse” along a bookshelf looking at covers, it is just too slow. Today we Search, and we search using a few key words to isolate what we are looking for. Your job is to find search words that potential customers might use that will lead them to YOUR book.

You can use the help of anyone when gathering keywords, and if someone has read the book ask them to contribute keywords. Think about the genre of the book first. If your book is a thriller, a mystery, a romance, etc. get this in. Most people have a favourite genre and will search within that genre for new books. Your first list should be as long as possible and should contain anything that is unique and identifiable that might be included in a search.

Some starter ideas:

  • Title: Some SEO experts suggest that you include the full title and subtitle of your book in your Description / Keywords.
  • Genre: Include words that describe the category of your book, such as “novel” or “essays” or “collection.” You will have space elsewhere to select from a list of generic genres for your book and you need to choose something there that best describes your book. However the available lists of categories are not always specific enough so you can always add something much more accurate in the Keywords and description. E.g. “romantic period action thriller….” This helps focus on the precise audience for your book.
  • Words: Use adjectives. Tell your customers how they will feel when they read your book. Name the emotions: fear, love, happy, excited, thrilled…
  • Characters: Talk about the characters, their state of mind, their emotions, the location, the time period…

Once you have your master list you need to do some sorting and prioritising. I have found that the best way to start the sorting is to pick out the top three “Definite Yes”, and then the bottom three “Definite No”. Then go through the rest of the list in the same way till you get a shorter list on the “Yes” side. Repeat the process until you have a manageable number of words & phrases. Aim for a final list of 10 to 20

When you use “phrases” in the Keyword list you need to avoid repeating words.

Your Book Description

Once you have your keywords list, you need to make sure that you use as many of them as possible when writing your book description, when creating tags on blog posts, and in any of your other social media activities. It is best to target the search engines’ needs first and users second when composing the Description. Beautifully crafted prose won’t work here; you need to keep it short. Keep the number of characters under 900. Some search engines will only look at the first 100–150 characters so get to the point quickly and include Keywords as early as possible.

Keep in mind that you will have more leeway on some E-retailers than others in terms of the number of Keywords you can enter and in the number of words that you can use in your descriptions. Make a variety to match your needs; short, medium and long. For Social media sites a maximum of 150 characters may work better.

Entering Metadata

Any of the Ebook conversion software packages that you are likely to use has the facility to add metadata. This is the best place to enter your data if you are doing the conversion yourself. It is much simpler to enter the data when converting. If you want to change the Metadata after conversion it is not so easy; you have to crack open the Ebook file, make the changes and then reassemble the E-file.

If you publish with any of the Ebook aggregators, like Amazon or Smashwords, they all offer the opportunity to enter your Metadata during the submission process for the book.

ISBN Metadata

If you own the ISBN for your book you will use the same Metadata information when you register the book in the ISBN databases of Nielsen (UK) or Bowker (US). The advantage of owning the ISBN is that you own the Registered Metadata related to that ISBN and you can change it whenever you want. It is another opportunity to get the details of your book circulated.

If you have more than one book to write, or want to market under your own Publisher name, you may want to get your own batch of ISBNs. However, you do NOT need to own the ISBN to publish with Amazon or Smashwords. Both will supply a unique number free of charge. If you take advantage of the “Free” ISBN (or ASIN from Kindle) it is the E-Retailer whose name appears as publisher and who controls the Metadata related to the ISBN.

One point to note is that if you want to have your own ISBNs; there is a cost – and you may need up to 4 per book, if you publish in Print, EPUB, MOBI and PDF, as each format requires a separate ISBN.

ISBNs are not exactly cheap so you may want to consider whether having your own Publisher name on the books and retaining control of the external Matadata is vital to you, especially if you have written a good set of Keywords and a good Description to upload to the E-retailers.

Most of the E-retailers will let you go into the site Metadata and change it so take advantage and refresh it if you have new ideas that might help your marketing.

Spread it around!

Use your Keywords and description wherever you can and make sure that it is linked to the title and / or a place where the book can be found and purchased.

Social Media sites are good places to spread info about your book. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube all have space for tags, so use them wherever possible using your Keywords or Description. When you put your Bio on a site make sure that you use your keywords there too, and if you write guest blogs, or articles, get some keywords into your signature at the end of each blog or article.

Next time  Facts about Fonts!

©DavidCronin 2015 The Ebook Doctor

For more information on David and the work that he does

The previous nine parts of the series to refer to.


26 thoughts on “Making Your Own Ebook – Part Ten – Metadata, Your Digital Book “Cover”

  1. Pingback: Making Your Own Ebook – Part Ten – Metadata, Your Digital Book “Cover” | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. I am getting ready to publish. Okay, soon. I have books on self-publishing – and I just discovered your wonderful resources. Thanks for putting things in black and white.

    I love the indie world. Compared to the secret world of the old-fashioned publisher model and the writers who are too scared to tell you anything real lest you take up their one spot in the Fall catalog, it is open air and blue skies and cookies with lemonade.



    • Thanks Alicia and glad you have found useful. We went into publishing because my first two books were stressful to say the least. When we first set up Moyhill it was to publish books that were a collaboration with authors. Self publishing in those days was regarded as a five minute wonder that churned out rubbish books.. That has been turned on its head now and rightly so. However, we have authors who are competing with the millions of titles on the various sites. Funnily enough the better all those books look and are accepted the better our authors will do in the long run. We know that there are always going to be authors who choose to self-publish and want to complete the process themselves so we are delighted to offer the information free of charge to enable them to do that. The authors who need assistance to publish, especially those who still would like print as well as Ebooks know where to find us and we also are here to help people out if they need a final professional finish that involves a few hours work. Good luck with your books – when you do publish them let me know and will be delighted to reblog and put a note on Twitter. best wishes Sally

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Sally. I’m enjoying the very idea of being able to do it myself. So novel, you know.

        Even the print part. I figure I’ll try it first, and locate help for the pieces that are not professional enough to satisfy my own taste, developed as it has been in over six decades of reading.

        I’ll make my share of mistakes, but having information out there from people like you means I have a chance to learn some things vicariously.

        And the control to change things even after publication is heady.


  3. Pingback: Making Your Own Ebook – Part Eleven – Fonts | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  4. Pingback: Writing your own Ebook – Part Twelve Finale– Images – and Useful Links | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  5. My ebook will be made and uploaded by Publisher directly. So, using my Amazon Author profile, can I manage to tweak Metadata later? You already mentioned that is a convoluted process – so any alternatives for modifying Metadata using Author profile?


  6. Pingback: The Saturday Round-Up – People, Posts, Pets and Promotion! | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  7. Pingback: Formatting your own Ebook – Q & A with David Cronin | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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