What is Book Metadata?

Authors who’ve decided to self-publish inevitably encounter a request for “metadata” about their book. Don’t let this scare you. Book Metadata is simply information about your book. Examples of book metadata include title, subtitle, how you’d like your name to appear on the cover, and number of pages.

You will be asked to provide metadata when you upload your files to be printed, apply for your ISBN, and more. What’s important is that the information is consistent and accurate.

Here’s a list and explanation of most of the elements included in book metadata.

Book title and subtitle

Be sure to note if you use an ampersand instead of “and” or any other symbols. Capitalization, spelling, punctuation, and proper names should be consistent.

Author name

If you use your middle name or initial, or a nickname, note it so you always identify yourself the same way.

Book specs

Book specs include type of book (hardback, softcover, color) along with paperweight and color.

Number of pages: Number of pages, along with the other book specs, will determine your spine width, shipping weight, and printing cost.

CAUTION: number of pages should include the TOTAL number of pages, not just the numbered pages. You won’t have this information until the book interior is finished.

Book size: You should have the front cover dimensions early in the design process. Add the spine width once you have it. In addition, you’ll need to know the shipping weight of your book. This information will be available through the printer once the book specs are complete.

ISBN

Books are identified with a 13-digit number called an ISBN (international standard book number.) You get an ISBN through Bowker or through your printer.

You can buy an ISBN through Bowker. Some publishers, Luminare Press included, supply authors with an ISBN. Some online printers, such as KDP or IngramSpark, will provide a free one, but be sure that there are no restrictions on it.

If you get one yourself, either directly from Bowker or from an online printer, you will need to supply your book information to Bowker (they have a form online to fill out.)

Library of Congress number

A Library of Congress number is not required, but record it if you have one. You can register your book with the Library of Congress at ecips.loc.gov. There is no charge to register your book, but you will need to send a copy to the Library of Congress once the book is published.

Publication date

Record the date the book is available for sale.

Book description

Many authors use back cover text or a variation of it as a book description. Keep track of your book description. Publishing platforms, including ebook sites, will have a place to enter it. For more on this, see our previous post on book cover design.

Keywords

Create a list of keywords related to your book topic. Enter them in the keyword fields. Keep track of what you have used. Keywords are nothing more than words or short phrases a reader might enter into a search engine to find your book. For inspiration, try using a free Google keyword planner.

Target audience

Adult trade is common for novels and nonfiction, but other categories may be appropriate.

Category

Record the book categories you’ve chosen.

Copyright

Claim copyright on your work is as simple as including the copyright symbol (©) before your name on the copyright page of your book, but some authors choose to go through a more formal process of copyright by registering the book at copyright.gov.

There is a small fee to register online, and you may be required to send a book.

As you can see, a good metadata sheet equips you with a good record of all the information you will need throughout the publishing process.

Be sure to create a book metadata database in which enter all the data as you gather it. (Download a sheet, below.) Do this AT THE BEGINNING—don’t count on being able to remember the details.

You won’t have all this information when you start, but as you get new data, you can add it to the sheet as you go. Trust us, you’re going to need it.

Metadata Sheet