4 thoughts on “8 Ways For Self-Published Authors to Rise Above Their Fear of Metadata

  1. Michael W. Perry

    Thanks for a great explanation of metadata that puts it outside the realm of monsters in the dark.

    I think the chief problem for writers, however, is the terribly fragmented book and especially ebook distribution system.

    You don’t enter metadata once. You enter it over and over again for each retailer and using very different user interfaces. For Kindles it’s a webpage. For the iBookstore, it’s the iTunes Producer app. Each is different and each is constantly changing.

    Like the old Eastern proverb that one cannot step twice in the same stream, I sometimes feel that I never publish books twice. By the time I finish my next one, things have changed enough that I’m entering a different distribution system. Each time I learn new gotchas. Last time is was that iTunes Producer 3.0 was buggy beyond belief and I had to go back to version 2.9.1. That cost me hours. For my next ebook, there’s iTunes Producer 3.1, which hopefully isn’t buggy.

    That’s not quite a monster, but it is a frustration. Back when publishing meant send two files to LightningSource (say in 2005), I could publish a book from InDesign document to be ready for the world in two hours. Now I’m lucky if all the glitches of LightingSource plus CreateSpace plus a host of ebook retailers doesn’t take over two days.

    And Adobe, bless their hearts, have made my life even more complex. Almost effortless at the generation end, I can create a fixed-layout epub version for iPads that’ll look virtually identical to the print version (great for textbooks and kids books). But Apple can’t handle both in one upload. I have to publish one and then then other. Double the workload. And Smashwords won’t pass along that fixed-layout version to B&N, even though it’ll apparently display fine on Nooks.

    And when I queried Amazon, they said their software, which does convert reflowable epub to a Kindle format, won’t do the same for fixed layout. If I want to create a fixed layout book for the Kindle Fire, they tell me, I need to pay some third party buckets of money to do the conversion. Looks like Amazon won’t be getting fixed format.

    Metadata is only one aspect of a publishing market that, while far more open than ever, is also far more messy and unnecessarily complex. That’s the real monster for self-publishing authors. They not only have to be writers. They must become detail-obsessed geeks.

    The one bright spot in this otherwise bleak landscape it the wonder of the latest InDesign, which will generate marvelous PDF, reflowable ePub and fixed-layout ePub from one and the same document. That’s why I tell serious writers to:

    1. Create your book of whatever sort in Scrivener.

    2. Once the content is almost done, move it into InDesign and make it look pretty there.

    Alas, there’s no third point. There’s no easy way to distribute a book to that dreadfully fragmented market.

    –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride (YA adventure story set in 1870s NC)

  2. Stephen Black

    Beth, thank you for a great post.
    Michael, thanks for writing so eloquently about a frustration shared by many writers. The \ease\ of digital publishing is extremely misleading. Book submission procedures that are shifting mazes, the technical surprises that no one tells you about and sometimes just bizarreness…
    On Amazon, the ISBN Number of one of my books was somehow the same ASIN for a white cotton Tshirt.(The problem was \fixed\ three or four times, each \repair\ the result of filling out forms and email exchanges–yes there are people at Amazon who answer emails!)
    Many well-meaning programmers and start ups make some aspects of publishing easier, but how many of them realize the challenges of distribution, marketing and sales management. And how many of them have actually done these things repeatedly?
    I have not yet read APE(Author Publisher Entrepreneur) by Guy Kawasaki, but I do remember an interview in which he talked about how surprised he was at the complexities of getting a book made and distributed. Kawasaki worked at a top level of Apple, so… if he had a hard time with ebook distribution, imagine what it’s like for most people…
    OK, enough grumbling…here’s a tip for metadata. There’s a website called Ubersuggest. There you can submit a topic or idea related to your book and it will show you related phrases that people have actually used. Ubersuggest is simple to use and it will give you insights and phrases that will help improve your metadata/SEO.
    Stephen Black

  3. P.D. Workman

    You do tend to enter these things over and over again. I have levered one of the features of the Mac system to help me out with that. Keyboard text replacements. For every book, I have a series of abbreviations that my Mac will automatically replace with the appropriate metadata. They are standardized so that I can remember them from one book to the next. In each example below, xxx is a one-word or three-letter abbreviation for the title of the book in question (and I use the same abbreviation in each one…) I use them over and over again, and the Mac keyboard text replacement function saves me so much time over the copy-paste method! Just tab from one field to the next, typing out my abbreviations, until it is all set to go.

    asinxxx – asin number

    embedtrailerxxx – embed code for youtube trailers

    excerptxxx – a chapter-length excerpt

    goodreadsxxx – goodreads book page

    isbnxxx – the 13 digit isbn code for the paperback edition

    kindlexxx – link for the book’s kindle store page

    linkxxx – link to the book on my website/webstore

    loglinexxx – logline for the book

    smashwordsxxx – link to the book on smashwords

    summaryxxx – book summary

    tagsxxx – keyword tags, comma separated – some sites accept more, some less; I put them in order of importance and delete any that are excess for that particular site

    trailerxxx – link to the book’s trailer

    I also have a series of abbreviations that are not book-specific, such as my bio, tagline, social media links, amazon central profile, rss feed for my blog, youtube channel, etc.

    I also use Scrivener to generate whatever format of book I need for the various channels.



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