Metadata and ISBNs: Everything everyone needs to know about your book
Metadata and why it’s important
Metadata is the term the industry uses to describe the body of information about a book. For trade published books it will include the ISBN, author, title, sub-title, series name, blurb and the age range for the readership. It will include physical details such as whether it is hardback, paperback or a digital edition and what size and weight the book is if it is print. It will include details of who the publisher is, where the book can be ordered from and what the price is.
This information is crucial for supply chains in the book industry but it also feeds into a book’s discoverability. The metadata of a book will tell a potential reader whether a book is sci-fi or romance; whether it is about Henry VI or Henry VIII; whether it is for children or whether it has adult content and is definitely not. The blurb and the keywords that you connect to your book will be crucial. It affects whether or not readers find your book whilst browsing online and decide to take a chance on it. The better your Metadata is the better chance your book has of being discovered by the right reader.
Most POD and digital platforms give you a lot of flexibility with your blurb and book description. You can enter your account and update and change it whenever you want. But it’s worth spending time getting it as perfect as possible before you publish. This is why I always suggest to clients that they start workshopping this as early as possible in the process. Sometimes those perfect words and ideas take a while to come out.
Do you need an ISBN?
Quite a few platforms (Kindle, Kobo) do not require an ISBN for either your paperback or eBook edition. You can assign an official ISBN at a later date to a new edition if you wish.
If you publish a paperback or an eBook with IngramSpark you will require an ISBN and it must be an official one purchased from Nielsen (UK only. There is a separate ISBN agency for each market) A single ISBN costs £89 or 10 ISBNs for £164. Every edition of a book requires its own ISBN so you will require one for your paperback edition and one for your digital edition.
If you do purchase an ISBN it is your responsibilit,y as publisher of your book, to keep your data up to date. The metadata for every book published is entered into a system called Bookscan which feeds through to all the bookstores in the UK and acts as a recorder of sales and also an ordering system. Nielsen will provide you with a log-in to their data systems where you can register your ISBN and enter all the relevant details for your book. This information is what feeds through to the database used by bookstores. If you fail to do this, your book simply won’t exist on the systems of most booksellers. They won’t be able to order a copy even if you go in and hand them your ISBN. You can add this data gradually if you want – saving your progress and coming back with amendments or new information. The goal is to give as much accurate information about your book as possible.
If, for whatever reason, you decide to withdraw your book from sale then you must notify Nielsen via Bookscan that your title is Out Of Print.