Rant: The Importance of Metadata


I am lousy when it comes to adding metadata in my Calibre library, but Calibre’s new cover grid spurred me to update the metadata.  At the moment, I have over 1000 e-books in my library, which isn’t as large as the ones other readers have.  But I have books from a lot of different publishers, and different genres.  And Calibre uses the metadata that they have provided to Amazon, Goodreads, and Google.   And the metadata they had provided was bad.  A part of that is because the system used is inflexible, and  from what I understand, you cannot enter sub genres ( i.e  instead of entering Urban Fantasy, you have to enter Fiction, mystery, urban).

I am the first to admit that I  don’t know much about metadata. One thing I do know is  that the more detailed,  the more effective it is. And a lot of the tags entered wasn’t detailed. For example, the most common structured used was Fiction, Genre, and occasionally subgenre.  And yes, there were some cases when the metadata was more detailed, but that was primarily for Suspense or Mystery novels. And those authors? They were bestsellers. Yup.

At first, I was sad. But then I got angry on the behalf of all the awesome authors that have  gotten their contracts cancelled due to dwindling sales.  I mean, it is so nonchalant. Here the author and the editing team works so hard to put out a great book, and then they forget to enter the few words that increase the chance that readers discovers the book.

Let’s take that blanket Fiction, General that was used a lot on books from very different genres.  Just by entering them, the book loses a lot of sales. Why? Since  those two words  makes it almost impossible for Amazon’s systems to  do their work and tell  the readers: Hi! You read a lot of  Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, we think you would like this book. And considering how rapid the publishing business is changing, with the transition to e-books and brick and mortar stores closing,  it is vital to use all the tools available.
To be fair, the publishers are getting better at using Metadata, but there are still a lot of room for improvement.  Especially from the bigger publishers.

I know my sample was limited, but  if any tradionally published authors read this, I recommend that you contact your editors and agents for a discussion about tweaking the metadata.  And if any selfpublished authors read this? Take a good look at your tags, too, since they can also be improved.

PS. If you want to read an example of the importance of fine tuning metadata go and read this post by Kristin Nelson. And yes, I know.  Kristen Callihan already has a lot of sales.