Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Consumers are overwhelmed by the choices they have in front of them, as the abundance of content makes it difficult for them to find the right product. As a publisher, it can be equally difficult to reach relevant consumers amidst this sea of content. You can avoid getting lost in all the noise, however, with a discovery strategy.
Moreover, with the right discovery strategy, you can increase your products’ visibility, as well as your revenue.
Last year, an estimated 500,000-plus English-language books were published. In order to survive the crowded space, some publishers are enhancing their efforts to help with their books’ discovery. Quality content has always been the top priority of successful publishers. However, with growing sales through online retailers, a book’s discoverability has become nearly as important.
The Current Use of Metadata
At a publishing house, back office and marketing managers are often responsible for writing the relevant metadata for each published book. This includes the cover description, which, for today’s online retailers, is located next to the book’s cover image. In addition, the publisher usually supplies the ISBN, title, authors and any other descriptions.
However, information that online retailers need in order to better identify and recommend the book is often left out. This information doesn’t get included simply because the publisher does not see a need to supply it, or their distribution system does not allow it.
Most books are sold through aggregators or distributors that receive the books with their metadata, and in turn supply the online retailers with this information. If the retailers’ systems do not allow for added metadata fields, the information will never reach the reader, and the books’ visibility will be diminished.
Personally, I have seen publishers add an excessive amount of genres to their books’ metadata in an attempt to show up in as many categories as possible on online retailers. They do this with the belief that the more people who see their book, the more copies it will sell. This strategy isn’t successful, though, as it simply adds to the noise, flooding consumers with suggestions that don’t fit their needs.
The old adage “quality over quantity” still holds true: the key is to increase the quality of the recommendation, identifying and reaching readers who will be interested in that particular book.
What would happen if this added metadata was supplied to the resellers? If online retailers were to get their hands on rich metadata descriptions of each book, we would most likely see an explosion of new solutions for the discovery of books.
This could include the exploration of natural language processing, or what I call a “semantic engine.” This is a process in which the book is added to a computer program that creates multiple tags of information based on its content and pre-defined scales of parameters. A semantic engine allows researchers to identify similarities between how books are written, ranging from readability rating to profiling sentiment.
Online retailers aren’t the only ones that can benefit from a semantic engine, though. Publishers might one day be able to screen new manuscripts quickly using this system, providing a faster and more effective screening process. They could also use this as a means of identifying what makes their catalogue of books unique relative to other publishers.
By providing resellers with this rich metadata, you will be helping online retailers create recommendation systems that help them to sell more books, benefiting both of you. The incentive structure between you as a publisher and the online retailer is perfectly aligned. The time spent becomes worth it.
If you are wondering what metadata information could be included when describing your book, here is an example of the information you should be supplying:
Author, title, ISBN, publisher, genre, language, original title, translator, media review, date published, subject, keywords, book length, number of words, chapter length, time period, readability rating, pace, key attributes, content rating, dialogue, word types, distinct word prevalence, mood, sentiment, entities, specific references, places, people, action, character ages, expected same readers as specific books.
The retailer can potentially match the book’s metadata with the purchasing pattern of the store’s customers and the demography of the readers—age, location, etc.—or even specific store information, like the time of purchase, time of consumption, pace of consumption, reader’s rating, reader’s rating relative to similar books, reader’s previous purchases, reader’s next purchase, and if the book is trending (views, purchases, sample reads, etc.).
It is well known that friends and family are the most reliable sources for getting recommendations for books. Therefore, adding a social element to the suggestion algorithm will be a key component of the future of discovery. This social element is most likely the real reason for Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads.
The first thing you as a publisher should do is get an overview of the current metadata you are supplying. After that, get in touch with your retailers and talk about how you can best deliver this information to them.
The ultimate goal for you as a publisher is to unify and streamline the delivery of this metadata. This action must require very little manual work to distribute to all your sales channels.
Providing this information will increase your books’ chances of being recommended to the right customers, and as a result, increase your sales. I hope the primary takeaway you find from this article is that, simply put, you need to supply more and better metadata. To put it another way, metadata is the new king in town.
To get all the ebook and digital publishing news you need every day in your inbox at 8:00 AM, sign up for the DBW Daily today!