Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Metadata is a constant topic of conversation in publishing circles. The more publishers I talk with, the more I hear about how homebrew metadata management systems are limiting their efforts at efficiency and longevity.
On that note, I participated in a panel discussion about metadata last week at the PubWest Conference, and I’d like to pass along some of the thoughts I shared there about the value of metadata management software.
Before I dig into this, I want to be up front about the fact that I work for Firebrand Technologies, a provider of the kind of metadata management software I discuss below. However, there are a lot of other companies that provide similar services, and I am not trying to advocate for any one company, even my own, in this article. Metadata management is a struggle that affects the entire industry, and my goal is to ensure that every publisher sees the value in adopting software solutions that work for their needs instead of using manual metadata management processes that waste time and money.
For many publishers, metadata is managed in multiple spreadsheets, Dropbox and other hacked-together tools. This leads to a variety of problems and inefficiencies, and can even result in lost information, low-quality metadata and lost sales.
Software metadata management solutions allow a publisher to avoid these issues and bring a variety of benefits to the table. Here are just a few:
1. Eliminate redundant data entry. Title management software helps you eliminate the problems that come with data entry into multiple systems, whether that’s different retailer portals or different retailer metadata spreadsheets. There is no more need to copy and paste or re-type your metadata in different spreadsheets for internal and external use.
2. Get everyone on the same page. A single master database and a single interface for all team members allows everyone at a publishing house to see and interact with your title information whenever they need to. Security controls in the software can also allow you to control the access and functional abilities of each user.
3. Create better-quality metadata. High-quality metadata is the cornerstone of any publishing venture. Without it, sales are reduced or even nonexistent, and readers have a harder time discovering and purchasing your books. In addition to providing a publisher with access to data fields they may not know existed, title management software often offers validation or verification tools that can help with quality control and ensure your metadata is not missing the information it should include.
4. Create vendor-specific metadata. With the increasing sophistication of the retail marketplace and the proliferation of retailers, distributors and other publishing partners, it is becoming more and more important to provide each partner with the information that it needs. This can apply to territorial limitations, pricing differences, discount codes and much more. It also applies to the quirks and limitations of each vendor, like Apple not accepting separate description, author bio, and endorsements fields.
5. Keep up-to-date on standards. There are a lot of standards that affect publishers every day, but keeping up with their constant changes can be frustrating and time-consuming. Working with title management software allows you to be less on-edge about changes in ONIX, BISAC and other standards because they are managed by the software vendor.
6. Make your workflow easier and faster. It usually takes less time to tweak and change data in a software interface than in an ONIX file itself or in multiple spreadsheets. This increase in speed and efficiency allows you to react to changes in the marketplace and push out metadata updates to your partners with very little effort.
7. Expand your reach to new trading partners easily. Working with a vendor that has already developed integrations with different trading partners makes your set-up process with those partners easier. Instead of having to figure out the quirks of new metadata files you have to create and the locations of FTP servers you have to connect to, a vendor with many relationships already has those details worked out and is ready to send your data to the new partner immediately.
8. Reporting keeps you informed and reveals opportunities. Good metadata management systems can track who changed what and when, and can show you if your metadata distributions have succeeded or have run into an error. This reporting gives you much greater visibility into your data and provides security when errors happen or the incorrect data is sent.
9. Integrate with other systems for more power. Publishers tend to use a variety of systems to manage their front-of-house and back-of-house operations. Managing your metadata in a software application can make it much easier to integrate with business intelligence systems, accounting systems, royalty tracking systems and more, further reducing your manual data entry and the associated problems with that process, and allowing for broader reporting and data gathering that helps you make profitable decisions. These integrations are not usually included in basic metadata management services, but they are an example of the kinds of additional things you can do with your data once it is being managed in a single place.
10. Expand functionality beyond just metadata management. In addition to integrating with other systems, many applications can go beyond basic metadata management tasks and provide additional tools and features that are helpful to publishers, such as preparing Tip Sheets and B&N Title Cards; managing processes and tasks in acquisitions, editorial, production, marketing and other departments; managing author contracts; producing catalogs; and more.
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits that come from using metadata management software. I highly recommend that every publisher consider these benefits carefully and find a solution that will work for them. Metadata is getting more sophisticated every day, and publishers who are still trying to do it all by hand will find it increasingly difficult to compete in the marketplace and to increase the discoverability of their titles.
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