Last week an article in the New York Times caught my eye. It highlights the company Next Big Sound, which was founded in 2009 and analyzes music data. The company has launched a new division called Next Big Book, which will work with Macmillan to “draw sales, publicity, events, social media, web traffic, and web trends data together on a daily basis.”
The idea is not new. In 2012, at the Books in Browsers conference, Peter Collingridge spoke about his failed startup that collected book data from twitter, clicks on bit.ly, mentions on Facebook, Nielsen data, and more, to gain insights on how to increase book sales. But if Next Big Book can pull off their data analysis, the results could be interesting. According to the article, after doing some tests the company found a correlation “between traffic to an author’s Wikipedia site to book sales,” as well as “between spiking interest on Goodreads, the social media site owned by Amazon and focused on books, and sales at Barnes & Noble stores.”
One reason Wikipedia may be so important is because of its metadata, another trend in publishing that I hope (and so far seems to be) gaining traction. According to Hanging Together, Wikipedia uses specific metadata templates. For many books (specifically 29,673 instances), the template is called InfoBox Book, and it includes ISBNs. For an in-depth guide on ISBNs and why they are important, I suggest checking out No Wasted Ink’s “ISBN: Every Novel Needs One.” LJNDawson also explains how Google places importance on unique identifiers, such as ISBNs, as well as microdata such as reviews.
Knowing where to find interested readers in different places online, whether its social media, forums, or sites like Wikipedia, can be very beneficial to authors and publishers. Having this information could also be a great step in helping indie authors stay independent, if the service ever opens up to the public (or something similar springs up). As Mark Coker recently outlined in his Smashwords blog, what indie authors do today can greatly affect their independence in the future, and it will not always pay to rely so heavily on any one retailer or platform.
With all this in mind, I’d like to draw some attention to a few awesome sites that take advantage of good metadata. Well thought out metadata makes it easy to search for and find new information, whether it be in the form of books, articles, music, and even poetry.
WorldCat Cookbook Finder: “Cookbook Finder is an experimental, works-based application that provides access to thousands of cookbooks and other works about food and nutrition described in WorldCat records. You can search by Dewey, person, place, topic (e.g., course, ingredient, method and more) and browse related works by author and topic.”
Gnod: “Gnod is an experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. Its a self-learning system, living on this server and “talking” to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about who likes what and be able to suggest new things you will like. You might call it a search-engine to find things you don’t know about.”
Poetry Genius: “Our library includes poems, stories, novels, essays, even scripts, all annotated by community members and verified authors. Everything from chapter-by-chapter analysis of classic novels to author annotations of contemporary works has a home. Studying Shakespeare? Read our breakdowns—and contribute yourself!”
CrossRef: “CrossRef is an association of scholarly publishers that develops shared infrastructure to support more effective scholarly communications. Our citation-linking network today covers over 67 million journal articles and other content items (books chapters, data, theses, technical reports) from thousands of scholarly and professional publishers around the globe.”
The BookSampo Dataset: “The BookSampo dataset provides information as linked data on fiction literature published in Finland going back to the 15th century, along with rich descriptions of both their content and context. The dataset contains data on nearly 400,000 subjects, including literary works, authors, book covers, reviews, awards, images, and movies, over 3 million triples in total. The data has been applied as the basis of the BookSampo portal in public use in Finland, and is aligned with the cross-domain cultural heritage contents and ontologies of CultureSampo, another in-use semantic portal. The data has been used to answer complex questions, such as what topics should one write about, if one wants to get a literary award (based on statistics). The metadata was transformed into RDF from legacy library databases, then enriched manually by dozens of librarians in aWeb 2.0 fashion in Finnish public libraries, and is constantly updated at a rate of some new 90,000 triples monthly.”
If you’re an indie author and you’re looking for ways to enhance the metadata in your ebooks, there are many helpful tools and resources (in addition to the articles I’ve shared on this blog). PBS’s Mediashift provides an overview of metadata and how to choose keywords. Bill Kasdorf also created a helpful presentation on metadate in EPUB3 books. And Safari Books Online explains authorship in metadata terms.
OpubWriter explains the Open Packaging Format of ebooks and shows some examples of the types of metadata that can be included in a book. And The eBook Test has a list of examples of mark-up language that can be used to tag sentences and turn books into smart objects. Though the post dates back to 2009, the idea is very much applicable today.
In addition to the examples above, using things like Schema.org can make it easier to find books online, especially using search engines like Google. Other organizations are working on making data for books universal. In 2013, Editeur, which created ONIX, an XML format that publishers and companies like NetRead use to increase book sales, released a Thema Subject Category Scheme. According to the press release, it’s a book classification scheme: “Using a single, globally-relevant scheme reduces costs and duplication of effort, increases metadata quality, streamlines the international exchange of metadata, and eliminates the need for complex and difficult to manage scheme-to-scheme mapping.”
There are a few ways to use metadata to your advantage.
It’s not just for websites. According to SearchEngine Journal, writing ebooks is a great way to create valuable content based on topics you already know.
With ebooks come many opportunities for SEO. Two of the most important ones are the title and subtitle. Book Marketing Maven offers some advice on creating strong subtitles, which includes identifying the target audience and clarifying genres.
Book categories and keywords also matter a lot. Book categories can be included in internal metadata, but they are often part of a book’s sales page. On Amazon especially, according to Anne R. Allen, categories and keywords can lead a book to a best seller list. GalleyCat and Lindsey Buroker outline ways to effectively use keywords to your advantage. However, be careful to use keywords that actually relate to the book, or else risk Amazon removing the book, like what happened with Author Marketing Experts.
In addition to Google’s Keyword Planner, there are a few places to do keyword research.
Backlinko: A site that outlines niche markets, long-tail research, and more ideas on using keywords in market research.
LSI Keywords: “LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing is a complicated term with a simple explanation. The main concept behind Latent Semantic Indexing is to discover words and phrases that are related in the context of any document or group of documents. Search engines, Internet Marketing Professionals, and Website Designers often use LSI in their day-to-day activities.”
Calibre allows readers and authors to download metadata for ebooks. There is also a free metadata editor tool on Google Code.
Lastly, you could also try out my Udemy course on making ebooks. I include a lecture on adding metadata and a free ebook with a whole chapter on how metadata is used and why it’s important.