Self-publishing is just like anything else. There’s a bunch of jargon that goes along with it, and metadata is a big part of that jargon for self-publishers.
It must be so intimidating as an author to hear that word for the first time.
If you don’t have a background in search engine optimization, you’ve probably never heard the term before. Those SEOs with their metas and their datas. 🙄
So, when someone like me jumps on a video and informs all the new self-publishers out there that they MUST have their metadata squared away, it’s a pivotal moment.
“The heck he just say?”
“What does metadata have to do with being an author?”
A lot, actually.
Let me demystify metadata for you and make it a lot less intimidating. Ready? Let’s go!
Table of Contents
What is Metadata?
It’s just a fancy word for all the information about your book. Amazon KDP considers metadata to include the following:
- Book title
- Subtitle (if applicable)
- Series (if applicable)
- Contributors (if applicable)
- Primary audience
- Primary marketplace
- Cover image
Whew, we just covered a lot of ground and that’s why metadata is a big deal. This is all information that you input during the publishing process. Parts of it need to be consistent with each other. For example, your title, subtitle, and author name need to be exact matches of one another in KDP and on your book cover. Any inconsistency will cause your book to fail the review process.
Another important thing to know is that metadata is what the Amazon search engine uses to index your book page. This is the data that tells them where and when to show your book to customers who will hopefully become readers!
This is why I put so much emphasis on metadata. I’m going to cover every last bullet point.
Your book title holds a lot of weight. It’s the most common search attribute.
It can consist of one word, or many words. Great book titles are crafted, not written. There’s a delicate balance of memorable, intriguing, and summarizing that can make a good title great.
A great book title can make it synonymous with a word like Twilight, Beloved, or Thinner.
As an author, study your genre. Spend time perusing your competition, especially the bestsellers. Pay attention to what you notice and what gets noticed. Apply what you learn to crafting your own book title.
Amazon KDP doesn’t allow many things in a book title. They don’t want any weird characters or other errors. Other things that aren’t allowed in your book title include, but are not limited to:
- Unauthorized mention of other titles or authors
- Unauthorized mention of a trademark
- Any reference to sales like “bestselling”
- Any reference to promotions like “free”
- Book titles that consist of punctuation alone
Your book title also isn’t the place to reference your series or your keywords. Amazon has other areas specified for this information, and you should use those areas and not your book title.
Not every book has a subtitle.
While a powerful title grabs attention, a subtitle provides additional context. Use it to elaborate on your book’s theme, convey its unique selling point, or offer a glimpse into the content.
Subtitles can also include keywords to improve discoverability, but don’t get carried away. If you can’t include your keyword naturally in your subtitle, it’s best to not include it.
Ensure your subtitle complements your title and adds clarity without being too lengthy.
If your book is not part of a series, then you can skip this field altogether. It doesn’t apply to you.
The guidelines for your series title are the same as your book title above. Similar effort should go into crafting your series title.
Books in the same series can be included on a Series Collection page. Here’s all the information you’ll need on that.
Amazon allows 4,000 characters to describe your book. That’s around 600 words approximately. That’s more than enough.
Amazon offers great advice on crafting a description of your book:
Entice readers with a summary of the story and characters. Don’t give away anything that adds to the suspense or surprise. Let readers know what makes your book interesting, and give them a sense of what kind of book it is. If you’re stuck for ideas, research the back cover or inner dust jacket flap of books in your genre. Ask your friends or other authors to describe your book. Think of your book description as a 30-second elevator pitch to persuade a casual browser to buy your book.
Don’t even try to include any of the following:
- Adult or offensive content
- Phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, URLs, etc. (You can put these in your book though!)
- Reviews, quotes, or testimonials
- Requests for reviews (Again, you can put this inside your book. The description is the wrong place for it!)
- Advertisements, images, watermarks, etc.
- Time sensitive information
- Alternative ordering information – no, you can say it’s available at Barnes & Noble!
- Keywords or tags
You can jazz up your description with HTML. Dave Chesson has a great tool for that >>> https://dalelinks.com/HTML
Now that we’ve covered all of that, I do have a free offering for you regarding book descriptions.
Brian Meeks came in for Book Rescue and developed a book description template for the candidates. He also made this available to you, and you can grab it in exchange for your email over here – https://bookrescueshow.com/category/book-descriptions/ I’m linking you to the category page so you have access to the videos as well. Check out those 2 posts and how we worked with Book Rescue candidates to develop effective book descriptions.
This is self-explanatory. This is simply your author name, whether that be your real name or a pen name.
Contributors are the people who helped you create your book. If you’ve written a children’s book, you may have an illustrator. This would be the place to mention them.
The Contributor field in your KDP dashboard allows you to add contributors of the following types:
This is not the place for keywords or any other information. I know I sound like a broken record, but there have been many bad actors over the years who used the various aspects of metadata to game the system.
You have to remember, metadata is a search engine thing. This is the data that the Amazon search engines uses to decide when and where to show your book to its customers.
Publisher (eBook Only, Optional)
As a self-publisher, you are the publisher of your book, at least the digital version. You can use this space to include your author brand name, or you can leave it blank.
This field should only include the name of the author or the name of the publisher.
Don’t use this space to reference a publisher that didn’t publish your book, Amazon, Kindle, a website, or anything else. Author or publisher, that’s it.
If you’re in doubt, leave it blank.
Yes, your keywords are optional, but they are also a huge player in the discoverability of your book. I can’t imagine a use case where you would leave these 7 fields blank.
Keywords are words or phrases that describe your book. For optimal results, Amazon KDP recommends that you use keywords that are 2-3 words long.
Deciding on your keywords is a process. You need to think like a reader, and you need to do research to ensure the words you choose are going to result in sales.
Fortunately, I have an exhaustive tutorial on keywords.
This is where you specify whether your book is for adults or children. You can also specify a specific age range. This is specifically handy for children’s book intended for certain ages.
While you must specify if your book is for adults or not, you are not required to select a reading age.
However, if you have written a children’s book, this not something you want to skip over. In fact, if you don’t include a reading age for your children’s book, it will not appear in the Amazon search results.
Select the Amazon Store where you expect the majority of your book sales to take place. For me, that is Amazon.com since I’m in the U.S., but if you’re in Japan, it would be Amazon.co.jp. Choose yours from the drop-down menu.
Unlike keywords, categories are not optional. This section of the publishing process just got a much-needed overhaul.
Categories are areas of the Amazon store where your book appears. You are able to choose up to 3 categories based on your primary audience and primary marketplace.
This is one area where Amazon KDP is very strict. Don’t even try to select categories that are not relevant to your book. This can lead to account suspension and/or termination.
This is kind of the oddball of your metadata, but no less important.
What you type in your KDP dashboard during the publishing process must match what appears on your book cover exactly. No exceptions.
I highly recommend looking at other covers in your genre to get an idea of how you want you cover to look, but I must also caution you. Don’t create a direct knock-off of a book cover just because it’s well-known or a bestseller. This is an avenue for trouble.
Take elements of what you think make a great cover and hire someone to create a cover for you. I have created tons of content on book covers. Here’s a sampling:
Need an affordable option to hire a freelancer? Try this >>> https://dalelinks.com/bookcovers That’s my vetted list of designers on Fiverr.
This applies to your print books only.
If you buy your own ISBN and put it in your book, it MUST match what you input during the publishing process. End of story. Seriously, there’s nothing else to say about it.
There are some additional guidelines to adhere to, so make sure you check the following link for what may apply to your and your book – https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201097560
This is especially true if you’re working in the public domain or with low content books.
Have I Succeeded?
I know this is a lot.
Metadata gets a lot of emphasis because it encompasses a large part of the information regarding your book. It can make or break your book’s success, so it’s important to understand what it is, what it’s not, and what it’s all about.
So, when some guru or I say, “Get your metadata squared away”, you know exactly what we mean.
Is anything unclear or do you have questions about any of this? Let me know in the comments!