Discoverability. It’s key to selling books. In a vast publishing ocean teeming with new releases, you need a powerful method of getting found immediately via search engines.
While building your author platform, marketing, and going social are all important elements of the discoverability game, your secret weapon to discoverability lies beneath the hype: metadata.
Metadata. In today’s digital publishing arena, keywords and descriptions can bring your audience to your book’s front door. But you already know this, right? You’ve been testing categories, keywords, and book descriptions on Amazon, iBooks, and a host of other online retailers. In fact, you’ve copied and pasted those words to every publishing platform…and then edited them because each online retailer has a different category system, limits on keywords you can add, and word limits on your description.
But here’s the secret: an ebook carries its metadata in a backpack, so wherever it goes, its data is always there.
Metadata: The Secret of Search Engines
Your book title, subtitle, ISBN, and your name listed as the author are common metadata that follow your book to every destination. But unless a reader is searching for your book title or author name in a search engine, your book is likely to never show up in the reader’s search. What you need is a better-than-zero chance that your book pops up when a reader types a keyword into search. Those keywords are also part of your ebook’s metadata.
When readers search Google or use the search function in an online retailer, the search engine looks not only at the title and author but also at what’s under the hood.
An article from digitalpublishing101.com provides a great overview of how search engines work: “SEO for books: Search and the keys to discoverability.” The article states that the same principles that apply to search engine optimization (SEO) can be used to sell more ebooks.
The secret of your ebook’s discoverability is metadata. Including enough metadata tags to capture all of your reader’s possible queries increases your likelihood of being found.
Reach New Audiences
“Selling Back-List Titles? Think Audience and Metadata,” an online article published by digitalbookworld.com talks about using metadata to reach new audiences. The article uses the example of the popular Baby-Sitters Club series that Scholastic repackaged as a digital book. They were able to reach a new audience via nostalgic mothers who bought and shared the series with their daughters. Instead of including only young adult, the metadata could include adult fiction.
For ebooks, repackaging includes adding metadata that appeals to all possible readers.
Improve Discoverability with Metadata Keywords
If you dive deep, you’ll find techno-thrillers on Amazon, but not on iBooks. And with only limited keyword options, you may not have room to list all of the possible search words that apply to your ebook.
It’s time to pull out your secret weapon. Beneath the surface of the ebook are your metadata tags. All you need to do is learn how to use them to improve discoverability.
An ebook is basically a special type of zipped file. Within the ebook package are various files that tell an e-reader or app how to process your ebook for reading. One of those files, the .opf, also contains metadata.
But it’s likely, with the software or converter you are using to create your ebook, that the metadata is limited to the basics: title, author, publisher, ISBN, and publish date.
You can add more metadata tags, including keywords and a description that could increase your discoverability through search. And you’re not limited to five keywords or a short description. You can include all of the keywords your readers are using to search for the content that’s included in your book. Note in the image above I added four keywords using the <subject> tag. But I could have added 10!
How to Add Metadata to Your ePub File
Unzip your EPUB file. Open the .opf file in a text editor. Edit the metadata, then zip the EPUB file. Here’s an article that explains how to unzip and Zip and EPUB on a Mac, which is a bit more complicated than zipping an EPUB on Windows.
So open up your ebook package and add some metadata tags.
Download the FREE Add Metadata Checklist below to get a list of tags you can use to add metadata.