Rosemary on the Triumphs and Frustrations of Metadata

The following is a guest post by Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rosemary Carlough on the importance of metadata in the modern book publishing process.

It seems to be invading my life.

In my book group, when we are trying to decide what book to read next–always a very difficult decision–we look up titles on Amazon. In fact, I often use my Amazon Blackberry App to do this during meetings. In addition to finding out what the book is about and whether it has gotten any good reviews, we want to know some critical information:

  1. How big is it? (i.e. how many pages long)
  2. How expensive is it?
  3. How much does it weigh? (Commuters consider this very important. Luckily more folks in the book group now have e-readers so this detail is declining in importance.)

All these bits of information are part of the “metadata” that the publisher supplies to what I call “the digital food chain.”

The basic metadata for a book would include: title, author, ISBN, price, format, and description. But that’s really the bare bones and not likely to help a possible customer decide to buy a book online. Think about what you want to know when you buy a book.

  • Do you want to know more about the author?
    Metadata should include the Author Bio.
  • Do you want more detail about what is included?
    Metadata should include the Table of Contents.
  • Do you want to read part of the book?
    Metadata should include an excerpt from the book.
  • Do you want to know how others liked the book?
    Metadata could include reviews about the book.

So as you can see detailed, accurate metadata can be important in driving sales. In fact, one post I read recently say that some “metadata fixes are absolutely necessary to avoid sales leakage.” But how does metadata get from the publisher to sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many others? Data feeds. Computers talking to computers.

When people talk to people, and one person is not clear, then questions can be posed to sort out the confusion. But with metadata, if the feeds are not programmed correctly then Computer A isn’t really talking to Computer B. And consequently, listings about titles aren’t accurate. It can be amazingly difficult to track down from where the inaccurate information came. Chains of emails come and go on this topic.

So there are days when it seems like all I do is think about metadata. How to feed it into our systems so that it gets sent out correctly, so that the AMACOM website has the correct information, so that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the big book distributors Baker & Taylor and Ingram have correct information?

And now there is also metadata to create for all our digital books… So can you see why I am losing my mind over metadata?

Rosemary Carlough is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at AMACOM. She started at AMA doing direct marketing when AMACOM had a monthly print newsletter, which was like a mini-catalog. Now she manages all of the marketing department, which includes creative, PR, trade sales, and our rights department. Check the AMACOM website for Sales and Marketing Inquiries.


3 responses to “Rosemary on the Triumphs and Frustrations of Metadata

  1. Pingback: Rosemary on Selling Content by Chapter | AMACOM Books Blog

  2. Pingback: Rosemary on eBook Sales | AMACOM Books Blog

  3. Pingback: Rosemary on eBooks and Book Clubs | AMACOM Books Blog

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