Where can I find a book about ‘Discovery’?
By Rob Nichols, Digital Publishing Consultant
Discovery and its shy cousin, Visibility, are a problem for publishers. How we connect authors and their books to readers is becoming harder. As Stephen Page’s blog piece argues, we publishers are being challenged to re-invent our businesses in myriad ways to navigate the rapidly changing market. Reaching readers in the digital and online world needs to become an area of expertise for publishers in the same way that we became so adept at engaging with and selling to booksellers during their rapid expansion. How do we ensure that our books are visible to the widest possible audience? One of the ways to answer that is by borrowing from the High Street’s 80s and 90s successes and start thinking like the booksellers from that golden age and embed that in our Metadata.
That thinking was fairly simple and very powerful: find out what your customer wants and put the book, or books, that best meet that desire onto a front of store display, face out on a shelf or, even better, in their hands. Search engines are the online equivalent of that knowledgeable bookseller but the only way a Search engine, be it Google’s or Amazon’s, can direct readers to relevant titles is if the information, the exact search term, is in the Metadata they hold.
For publishers it means first ensuring that all of the content on the cover and in the front matter is included in the Metadata:
- Include every contributor, editor, foreword by, illustrator etc.
- All reviews and their source
- Is your title a NYT Bestseller? Say so
- Does your Title have a Sub-Title that really explains the book’s contents? Include it (add one if it doesn’t – self-published authors are masters at this – but do ensure that the new Sub-Title is included on the Title Page of the ebook as some retailers might reject titles where there is a mis-match)
- Keyword optimised Copy/Description
But we must go further than simply replicating this information; we need to ask, ‘what questions does this book answer, what needs does this book fulfil?’ We then need to consider what questions a reader would ask in order to find that book. We can then add the possible answers to these questions to our Metadata where relevant.
- ‘I’ve just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Can you recommend something similar?’ If you publish a contemporary US literature title by a female author and believe fans of The Goldfinch will like your title say so in your ‘Keywords’ (‘The Goldfinch’, ‘Donna Tartt’ etc.), also use BISAC codes in addition to your BIC codes to ensure your title appears in ‘FICTION / Contemporary Women’ and ‘FICTION / Literary’ listings
- ‘I’d like a book with vegetarian meze recipes’ If relevant to your Middle Eastern Cookery title add ‘100 healthy, vegetarian meze recipes’ as a Sub-Title (see above); the specific and relevant BIC and BISAC codes
- ‘Have you got the Radio 4 Book of the Week, I can’t remember the title?’ You may have a beautiful sticker on your print edition, but to find it via a search engine you’ll need to add ‘Radio 4 Book of the Week’ as a ‘Keyword’ or even as a Sub-Title whilst the broadcast is on (yes, you can use Metadata tactically)
- ‘What is the first book in the Adam Dalgliesh series?’ Use the ‘Series’ field and accurately populate it
Of course, well researched and implemented Metadata doesn’t answer the Discovery question fully, but when approx. 70% of Discovery journeys online start with the Search box, and the dominant online retailer has such a large share of combined print and eBook sales, publishers can’t not afford to take as much care and attention over their Metadata as they do for their covers, copy and traditional publishing activities.