I’ve written a lot of marketing tips for self-published writers on this blog before, but I still haven’t addressed an important element that many writers are unfamiliar with: metadata.
What is metadata? Simply put, it’s the information you input about your book that will allow readers to find it. The title, description, and keywords you use are all metadata that can be used effectively. For example, let’s say you’ve written a paranormal romance about vampires that’s for sale on Amazon. A consumer who loves paranormal romance goes to Amazon and searches for “vampire romance.” Does your book show up in the search results? If you’ve included “vampire romance” in your title, description, or keyword box, then it probably will. But if you haven’t, then the potential reader will have no way of finding it.
So, how exactly do you utilize metadata correctly? No one can say for sure how particular data algorithms for each retailer site work; they don’t share that information. But there are a few things you can do to optimize your chances of being found by those algorithms.
Here are my metadata tips:
- Choose the best keywords
In my paranormal romance example above, I’m sure you can see how keywords are a crucial factor in making sure that readers can find your book. After all, if you’ve written a book about vampires but haven’t included the word “vampire” anywhere, then how will the search algorithm—or your readers, for that matter—know what it’s about?
This is why it’s important to think about what kinds of search terms people actually use to find books. I used the vampire example because that’s clearly an element someone would search for, but it can be much more complicated than that. Often the language that you use to describe your book isn’t the same as what potential readers will use.
For another example, let’s say I’ve written a nonfiction book of writing craft advice that’s geared toward indie authors. It would be better to use general phrases like “writing advice” and “publishing” than to use phrases like “writing craft” and “indie authors,” because those are terms that potential readers might not be familiar with yet. But note that I don’t want the terms to be too general. I don’t just want to say “advice,” because then the book will be lumped in with dozens of self-help books about other topics and no one will be able to find it.
To identify the best keywords for your own book, try brainstorming words and phrases related to it. This might include elements like settings, themes, the most relevant subjects, and genre terms like “thriller” or “romance.” Think about how you, as a consumer of books, search for them. How would potential readers try to find your book?
Once you’ve put together a list, check the usage of those keywords on search engines. Google has a Keyword Search Tool that will show you which terms are searched most frequently. And while Amazon doesn’t have a specific check for keywords, you can see the popularity of certain words or phrases just by typing them into the search bar. Amazon’s auto-populate tool will automatically suggest phrases in the drop-down as you type, which can give you some indication of whether or not a specific word or phrase is frequently searched.
- Choose the right category and genre
I’ve written before about the difference between category and genre and determining your book’s genre. This is important to understand, because being able to correctly identify your book will help your readers find it. Additionally, you should know that different genres and categories have different expectations and conventions, and readers may be disappointed if you misidentify your book. Trying to market your vampire romance as a horror novel just isn’t going to work (and vice versa). Keep in mind that most retailers only allow you to choose a few categories, so make them count. And if you’re still struggling with this, try to identify authors who are writing books similar to yours, and use the same categories that they do.
- Focus on the right readers
You might think that you want everyone to find your book, but the truth is, not everyone is going to like it. Not everyone has the same reading tastes, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you realize who your primary audience is and think about how best to reach them, specifically. (I’ve written more about identifying the proper audience for your book here.) By focusing on the right readers for your book instead of just any readers, you’ll ensure that your book is read by an audience who’s really going to love it.
What do you think? Have any tips for using metadata? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!
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