Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
We previously talked about what makes good metadata: writing effective copy to sell your book and doing what you can to help customers actually find that book. While these are good practices to start with going forward, there is also a need to revisit the backlist often with these same ideas in mind.
Marketing copy can always be revised, and the most sensible element to update isn’t the book description, but the contributor bios. Authors won’t always live in one place, nor will they always have a set number of children or pets. They can have new editorials, books and media appearances, and they can create new social media presences that didn’t exist when the bio was first written.
A bio should change with its contributor, so update those when possible.
Next is the selected reviews section. While reviews only typically roll in for frontlist titles, they do occasionally get picked up by a big name a year or more down the line.
For example, Chronicle Books (where I work) originally published Letters to My Future Self in March 2014, before Oprah showcased it as one of her “Favorite Things” more than a year and a half later in November 2015. Johanna Basford’s bestselling adult coloring book Secret Garden was released in March 2013 before being showcased in Slate two years later in April 2015, after the adult coloring trend picked up.
Notable reviews should be called out regardless of how long after the book’s release they come in.
This also means that the book description should be updated regularly. Use these new quotes when you can, but you can also include new information about the book’s author and their other books, awards, notable editorials, or length of time on a bestseller list.
Use this space as a banner ad and encourage customers to look out for books by the same author, even if they’re not in the same series. If a book is forthcoming, let the customer know when they should see it on the shelves. When you think the customer would like a previous book by the same author, don’t let an algorithm determine if they see it at all—let them know right in the description what other books the author has written.
New formats like paperback, ebook or audiobook can be highlighted as well because customers may prefer one format over another. Tell the customer when the new book will be available and then change the description after its release.
Further down in a book’s life is also a good time to look at any new trends and competition in the marketplace. While you released a new book based on a fad with a broad range of ideas, there could have been one specific idea that has since taken flight. Update the description and keywords to highlight that and anything else new that may have come up.
One great reminder to look at your backlist is the annually released BISAC code list. Every year, new codes are created, several are deleted, and still others have their meanings changed. Review the new and changed BISAC codes and apply them to your backlist, especially those titles to which you had quickly given general codes.
Find your titles with deleted codes and update them to the new recommended ones. New codes typically highlight trends, which is why in recent years codes like activity books, guided journals, and the whole young adult categories were created.
Take advantage of this great resource and keep your metadata up to date. New and changed codes can also influence the wording of book descriptions and keywords, so keep them as a reference when looking at the whole of the book’s metadata.
While there are plenty of other metadata elements, these are the ones that will influence the end customer the most. Keeping an eye on all of these means doing your best to put your book in their hands.
To recap this series on effective descriptive metadata:
1) Write copy that captures attention and sells the book on the author’s qualifications and the book’s merits.
2) Make sure subjects and categories are accurate, and make sure keywords reflect how customers think.
3) Don’t pump up your book with misleading metadata.
4) Keep your data fresh and up to date.
Keep Calm and Metadata On.
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