Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Book Metadata, Keywords, Tags - What, Why, How

Adding keywords on Smashwords

Because of my librarian past the word metadata means a lot to me. Basically it is data used to describe things, in order to make it easier to find the relevant item later. A book's title and author can be stored as metadata. Emails have metadata stored which includes who it was from, and the time of sending.

As well as titles, authors, date of publication etc, which are visible forms of metadata (the back the the title page in a printed book is basically just a long list of metadata!), there are also keyword descriptions which are used to help people find relevant books in search engines (including on-site engines such as the one that searches Amazon). Suppose a book is called "Rog Bottle". The title gives very little away. But the metadata about the book (book description, genre/category, and keywords) would give a lot of information. When someone searches for the kind of book they are interested in, the search engine will look at all this metadata and find things that seem relevant. So metadata is important for making a book discoverable.

Keywords/tags can be single words, or they can be phrases. This is important, because the phrase "sugar daddy" means something totally different to the separate keywords "sugar" and "daddy". Further, putting them together as a phrase means a good search engine can use synonyms - "Oh, the customers searched for books about rich older men having affairs with younger women, maybe they'll also like books that include sugar daddies..." Usually a comma is used to separate words and phrases, which keeps it simple.

Adding keywords on Amazon

In terms of bookselling sites, most let you have as many keywords as you want, but since Amazon limits it to seven I tend to come up with a single set of seven keywords or phrases for each book, which I then use on all sites. It's like Twitter in that it forces you to focus on the key fingerprint elements, rather than spamming with every possible keyword. As every writer should know, targeted and specific is more powerful than word soup.

I decided to revisit the keywords/tags metadata for my novels. These are my ideas for the 7 best keyword phrases that describe my books. Let me know if I missed any out, or you can think of a better one!

Turner
Wales, islands, xenophobia, deranged killers, survival horror, rural thriller, mad scientists

Cold Fusion 2000
love, Manchester, nerds and geeks, family, twins, physics, supernatural

2000 Tunes
love, music, Manchester, Wales, nerds and geeks, family, gangsters

Adding keywords on Lulu

As you can see, I have selected locations/settings (e.g. Manchester, islands); themes (xenophobia, family); and genres (survival horror). You don't need to be limited to those though. In a discussion on my Facebook page some other ideas arose:
  • Finding what your readers search for. This article mentions ways of doing that (though I haven't tried the method yet).
  • Keywords related to elements like mood (mourning, happiness etc).
  • Consider whether it would help to broaden the setting keywords - e.g. the keyword "British" could be relevant when the audience is international.
  • I was reminded that you should be wary of including keywords that might be spoilers!
  • My use of "twins" for Cold Fusion 2000 was queried, quite rightly. However, you'd be surprised at when people do search for this kind of thing! I found this out yesterday when exploring Listopia on Goodreads (the main book list location now that Amazon has axed its "Listmania" tool). People do categorise and list books based on criteria like that, strangely. Best Books About Twins; Twins and Doppelgangers; and all the lists here! I've added my books to Listopia before - a handy tip for writers. Though only add them where they are truly relevant.
  • Lastly, it was suggested that another possibility is adding "indie" or "indie author". It's an interesting one. A mark of honour in some cases, like indie music, and something some people might search for. In other cases it might put people off. In my case I am most concerned with tagging the elements of the story (rather than the production system).
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