There is no shortage of authors writing books and thanks to the multitude of platforms to create an ebook or a print-on-demand physical book, there is also no shortage of ways an author can go about getting his work into the hands of the reading public, even while bypassing the traditional publishing industry altogether.
One thing that authors cannot easily do, however, is make their book stand out in a sea of millions of ebooks. While certain factors like timeliness of the subject matter and excellence in the writing and formatting will go a long way towards making the book readable and therefore can result in word-of-mouth reviews, that alone isn’t enough to make a book into a bestselling title.
Beat Barblan, Director of Identifier Services for Bowker, spoke with GoodEReader about what authors and publishers can do to ensure that their intended audience even has an opportunity to discover the book.
“You can pick up a physical book in a bookstore and open it to get a sense of what the book is about. It’s harder to do that with an ebook. That information has to be developed by the people who do the metadata,” explains Barblan. “What do I have to do so the potential reader gets enough of a sense of the book to want to see more? That’s a little bit more complicated, it requires thinking about the metadata.”
But what is metadata? It’s simply the highly-descriptive information compiled about any content, including things like how it was formatted, who compiled it, and more. While metadata is not a new concept–basically, a library card catalog is metadata–the usefulness of it may never have been more poignant than in a digital market with millions of ebook files to search through.
Barblan explains that there are many key pieces of information that authors don’t think to include in the information on their books, whether it’s information included with the ISBN or even the tags on the book’s online sales page. Information such as a comprehensive author biography or a complete annotation of the work are essential in driving search traffic to discover a book. Bowker works with large and small scale publishers to find the right key words that will let readers know about a particular title, but also works with individual authors, as many as 20,000 annually, who use Bowker’s services for ISBN assistance and metadata creation.
“It’s become a lot easier to enter the publishing world but it has not become easier to connect content with readers. That still requires a fair amount of work and understanding of how to publish. Put yourself in the position of someone who knows nothing about your book in order to get an idea of what’s inside.
“Step one is to write a good book. Then you have to make the book stand out. The minimum is title, subtitle, pub date, and ISBN number. Or, you can provide a really good description and use the tools that are provided. You’re helping people get a sense of what the book is about. You’ve done the lion’s share of the work in writing the book, but you’re not done. Now you have to get it out there.”