“Metadata” is a term that sounds technical, which may be why it confuses a lot of authors. Back in 2020, Jane Friedman asked her Twitter followers, “When people talk about “metadata” in book publishing, do you know what they’re referring to?“. Half of the respondents definitely knew, or were reasonably sure that they knew. Half of them did not know what the word meant.
You may have heard the definition that metadata is information about data, which is still too technical to be useful. So here is a simpler definition, focused on books: the metadata of a book is everything about the book that is not the content of the book itself.
The following are examples of a book’s metadata:
Number in series
Note that the book’s content is not in the list. Some items (genre and description, for instance) give some indication of the content, but the content itself is not metadata.
Metadata describes your book. It is the information a potential reader needs in order to decide whether to buy the book. If you want to sell books, it’s very important. The good news is, it’s not a complex topic, and if you have published a book, you’ve dealt with metadata, even if you didn’t realise it.
When you are uploading a new book, or updating an existing one, there will be fields for the items listed above, and more. Make sure that you fill in as much information as possible, and do so accurately.
Why metadata matters
When a user searches Amazon for “Romance books”, Amazon’s search algorithm uses the metadata of all the books in its database to work out which ones are romance books, and should therefore be shown in the search results. The title or subtitle may include words that indicate the book is a romance. Or there may be words and phrases like “happy ever after” in the keyword fields.
Accurate metadata is important, because the user searching for “Romance books” doesn’t want a book that isn’t a romance. If a military history book has a title, subtitle, and keywords that suggest it’s a romance book, it will show up in that user’s search. But the user will either ignore it, or buy it and leave a scathing review. Worse still, readers that would enjoy the book will never find it because it won’t show up in their searches.
It’s not only important for computer algorithms. If your book is stocked by a library or book shop, they’ll use the metadata to decide which shelf to put it on. You don’t want your contemporary romance book on the thriller shelf, because the romance readers won’t look there, and so they won’t find it. Any thriller readers that find it and read it will be disappointed. They might tell their friends that it’s rubbish, or leave a bad review on Goodreads.
Put simply, good metadata gets your book in front of people that will enjoy it. Bad metadata gets your book in front of people that will hate it.
This is a guest post written by Henry Hyde, who designs many of our clients’ covers.
Why use a professional cover designer – it’s expensive, right?
It’s an investment that can make the difference between the book you worked so hard to write either being a best-seller, or sinking without a trace.
Just go take a look at a popular online bookshop which is where, let’s face it, the vast majority of both physical books and ebooks are sold nowadays.
Search for something in any major category. Romance novels, perhaps, or fantasy, or self-help, or cookery, or… You get the idea.
You’ll learn a couple of things from this exercise.
Firstly, that your book jacket needs to grab the viewer’s attention when it’s the size of a postage stamp. Intricate, fiddly designs with hard-to-read titles and subtitles just don’t work.
Secondly, how long did it take you to either click on one of those little covers to find out more, or decide that none of them took your fancy? Ten seconds? Five? One? Less than that?
Actually, the answer is likely to be around 0.5 to 2 seconds. Book jacket design is a brutal business, and if the potential reader doesn’t like the cover in the first instant they see it, it doesn’t matter if you’re the greatest literary genius on the planet, your book will never get a second chance.
Thirdly, did you notice something about all those best-sellers that came up on the first couple of pages of results?
That’s right: they all looked somehow familiar, in fact similar in style to one another. That is not a mistake – it’s deliberate. People choose books that they think will be similar to the ones they have already read and liked and the front cover design is the biggest clue they’ll get to reassure them that they will like this book because it resembles that book by their favourite author.
Most new authors are convinced that their cover design needs to be utterly unique.
It needs to look like the best-sellers in their category. Not an outright, copyright-infringing facsimile, of course, but close enough in style to resonate with the viewer.
And finally, when you look at all those book jackets on Amazon, say, it’s easy to tell which ones are professionally designed, as opposed to having been put together by an amateur. The quality of the overall image or illustration, and particularly the choice and placement of typefaces (unless deliberate irony is intended, which can easily backfire) are tell-tale signs. For example, you may have a few dozen or, let’s be generous, a couple of hundred fonts on your PC.
I have more than 100,000, collected over 30 years of designing, and I have accounts with font foundries to access even more if I need them. In fact, understanding the subtleties of typography, and the meanings that different fonts convey to the viewer’s subconscious, is a major skill that every pro designer calls upon on a daily basis.
Now, a real-life example of an idea that a client sent to me, and the cover they actually ended up with following consultation with me.
Which of these do you think will stand a chance on Amazon?
The idea supplied by the client was all about him – it even featured his own hands and the corporate colour of the company he worked for. Sure, he and a tiny number of his colleagues might have understood the visual pun – but his potential audience in the wider world? I think not! What I was able to create for him was a striking cover that sits well in the self-help genre and that instantly conveys the type of content the reader should expect, dealing with the complexity of the human mind.
Fortunately, the client readily agreed!
To sum up, your cover designer is your friend and ally, helping your book to stand a chance of getting noticed amongst a blizzard of competing books. They use their professional experience to make you look like a professional too. Ego should play no part in creating an effective cover design: it’s all about what’s best for the book, and giving it the best possible chance as it begins its journey from your hands out into the wider world.
Henry Hyde has been a professional graphic designer since 1991. He specialises in book and magazine design, corporate identity and branding. He also has a keen interest in typography and photography. Having self-published his own books for more than a decade, he is able to offer sound advice on self-publishing and online marketing.
If you have a virtual assistant (VA) or someone else helping you with your books, they will need to access your account to upload new files, change prices, etc. One way to do that is to give them your password, but that’s far from ideal. Draft2Digital‘s account sharing feature allows you to give them limited access to your account.
Our clients use this feature to allow us to upload new books for them or to make other changes. It’s easier and more secure than sharing passwords, and the client can revoke our access easily at any time.
How to set up account sharing
Account sharing is switched off by default. To enable it, log in to your Draft2Digital account, then go to Account -> Advanced User Options. Tick the Enable Account Sharing tick box under Site Settings, then click the Save button at the bottom of the page.
Once it is enabled, you will find an Account Sharing option is available on your Account page. To share your account, go to Account -> Account Sharing. The person you wish to share your account with will need a Draft2Digital account.
On the account sharing page, enter the email address of the person you wish to share your account with. A message will show whether the email belongs to a Draft2Digital user. If it doesn’t, check with the other person that you are using the correct email.
Once you have the correct email entered, choose which permissions to grant. If you share access to your reports, they will be able to see how many books you have sold, where they have sold, etc. If you share book management, they will be able to change your existing books’ files, metadata, pricing, etc, and add new books. Currently, it is not possible to grant access to payment information, but that may become available in the future.
Only grant the permissions that the other person will need. For example, if they are updating your covers, they’ll need the book management permission, but there’s no need to give them access to your reports. You can change this at a later date if need be.
Finally, tick the box to acknowledge that you accept the responsibility for sharing your account, and click the Share My Account button. Draft2Digital will email them to let them know that you have given them access to your account.
When they log on to Draft2Digital, they will have a drop-down at the top right of the page that allows them to switch between their own books and yours.
Changing and removing access
Once your account has been shared, the people that have access will be listed on the Account Sharing page. This also shows what permissions you have granted. Simply click the relevant icon to grant or revoke a permission.
If the person you granted access to does not need it any more, click the Revoke Permissions icon to remove their access to your account entirely.
DriveThruFiction is a small site, and most indie authors don’t bother with it. But it has some very useful features, and if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you have the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond. For Robin, DriveThruFiction and their sister sites are bigger than Kobo, Apple, Nook, or Google Play.
DriveThruFiction is just one of several sites under the OneBookShelf banner. Robin has been publishing and selling on OneBookShelf since 2011, primarily on Wargame Vault. When uploading, it’s just a few tick boxes to publish to any others that are relevant, so most of Robin’s books are also on DriveThruRPG and DriveThruFiction.
DriveThruFiction grew out of DriveThruRPG, which started before ebooks and ereaders were popular, and they originally focused on PDFs. Nowadays, they support mobi and ePub as well as PDF and a variety of other formats, including MP3, so you can even sell audio books there.
To get started, set up a publisher account. Once set up, you can add your books. Drive ThruFiction offer print on demand (hardback and paperback) as well as electronic formats. The print on demand option uses Lightning Source, Ingram Spark’s sister company, to handle the actual printing, but unlike Ingram Spark, there’s no setup fee.
Print & ebook bundling
If a book is available in print and ebook, you can set an add-on cost which is the amount charged for the ebook when bought with the print book. This can be zero, so that a customer that buys the print book gets the ebook for free. Or it can be a discounted price for the ebook.
DriveThruFiction offers an affiliate scheme, with links that are simple to set up. If someone buys within fifteen days of following your affiliate link you get up to 5% of the purchase price. Our Local Links WordPress plugin can automatically add your affiliate code to DriveThruFiction links on your website.
You can split the royalties of individual titles, so that a fixed percentage goes to someone else. This was originally intended to allow automatic compensation of illustrators, but Robin has used it to split the royalties on a co-authored book.
Pay what you want
DriveThruFiction offers a “pay what you want” pricing option. This allows customers to get the title for free (or at cost for print on demand titles), or to pay whatever they wish. This can be a useful alternative to permafree.
Tracking where sales come from
DriveThruFiction uses “source codes” to track where sales come from. By adding a parameter to the end of a link, eg “?src=website” you can monitor how many sales came from that link. Our Local Links WordPress plugin can automatically add a source code to DriveThruFiction links on your website.
Let’s be honest, many authors dislike the idea of marketing, but without marketing, books don’t sell. Fortunately, DriveThruFiction have a range of tools that will help. Most of them require expenditure of “Publisher Promotion Points” (PPP). It is possible to buy PPP, but they’re deliberately expensive to discourage buying. Every publisher is given ten PPP every month, plus an extra one for every $10 of sales they made the previous month.
The cost of promotions are variable, depending on how many publishers are already using the option. The more publishers that are using a given feature, the higher the cost in PPP to use it. If you can’t afford a particular promotion, it’s worth checking again the next day as the cost might have gone down.
There is built-in support for bundling several titles. Just create a bundle and add titles. Set a bundle price for each title, and the bundle price will be the total of them. Alternatively, you can set a price for the bundle, and each book’s bundle price will be set accordingly.
It’s equally simple to set up a multi-author bundle. Just set a password for the bundle, then give that password to the other authors. They will then be able to add their books to the bundle. When the bundle sells, each book’s author gets their royalty based on the book’s bundle price.
Email your readers
You can’t get the email addresses of your readers, but you can email them via the website. These emails may not contain links to outside sites, but they can contain links to your other books on DriveThruFiction. Readers can opt out of receiving these emails, and you can see a report showing how many emails will be sent before sending it.
DriveThruFiction has a simple interface to create discount links. The discount can be any amount, including 100%. You can limit the discounts to a certain number of downloads, or give them an expiration date.
DriveThruFiction runs site-wide promotions periodically. You may opt in to all of these sales, or only those that offer a discount of 40% or less. In addition, you can optionally specify that only titles over a certain age are included, so that new releases aren’t discounted this way.
DriveThruFiction offers two types of advertising. Banner ads are the type of short, wide advert that were a common sight on websites some years ago. Featured messages are a small thumbnail of the book’s cover, with text to the left.
Both types can be displayed on the home page or the book’s category page. Not surprisingly, the PPP cost of home page placement is usually much higher.
Deal of the day
Every day, one title is the deal of the day, and you can submit your titles for inclusion. Titles are chosen at random, but those that aren’t chosen are kept in the list, so you’ll get chosen sooner or later.
Robin has found this to be the most effective use of their PPP, especially when combined with discount links and emailing readers. When they get a Deal of the Day, they use the “Email your readers” functionality to email everyone that has bought their other books but not this one. They include a link to the book’s page and tell them the discounted price.
A week or two after the deal, Robin emails everyone that has bought the deal book, with links to related books, sometimes including a discount link.
I own a copy of a rather unusual book, Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words. It includes volumes one and two in a single flip book. Volume one starts at the front, but to read volume two, you flip the book over and start from the back. The two meet in the middle.
I started wondering recently if I could create a flip book and get it printed and on sale. This article will explain how I made such a book and put it on sale via Ingram Spark. KDP Print doesn’t support this type of book.
For my book, I used the Project Gutenberg text of Little Wars and Floor Games, both by H.G. Wells. I chose these because they are in the public domain, they fit together, and they’re books that I’m happy to have on my shelves but didn’t already own.
Create the Interior PDFs
First, I created the interior files. I used Vellum to create two interior PDFs, one per book. In my book, Little Wars starts at the front, and Floor Games starts at the back. I had to rotate the Floor Games PDF, so it was upside down, and the pages had to be reversed.
To do that, I used a program named pdftk. I used the command-line version, although I believe a version with a graphical interface is also available. The command I used was:
The resulting PDF looked normal for the first half, but the second half was upside down and the page numbers went down instead of up.
Since this was an experiment, I created a simple cover on Canva. Again, the back cover had to be upside down. Because the book is very short, it didn’t have a distinct spine for me to worry about. I allowed Ingram Spark to add the barcode, and they added it to the default location. Normally, this would be on the bottom right of the design, but when the book is turned over to read the second book, the barcode appears in the top left, and upside down. A professional cover designer could have moved the barcode to a better location, although the barcode would still be upside down in relation to the back cover design.
I uploaded the cover and interior files in the normal way. Ingram Spark approved it for printing, but KDP Print would not. I have approved it for distribution, so if you would like to see the finished product, you can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or others (ISBN 978-1-912680-29-0). I have set the price deliberately low, since it’s on sale mostly so that people can see the results for themselves.
This was an unusual project that I undertook mostly as an experiment, but I’m pleased with the results. If you have a project that would suit the flip book treatment, we’d be happy to help. Email us for more information and to get started.
It’s that time of year when many of us are figuring out our New Year’s Resolution. How best can we improve ourselves, get healthier, or earn more? For many amateur writers it can be an opportunity to dust off that old manuscript. This could be the year that you get published.
There are more routes to getting your book published than ever before. In some ways, that’s fantastic because there will be an option to suit everyone. In other ways, it can make for a bewildering labyrinth of unknown avenues. So how do you go about figuring out which path is right for you? Well, perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is what is your purpose in publishing?
What is your purpose in publishing?
If it’s about money, then I’m sorry to say there isn’t a single route guaranteed to lead to prosperity. For every big name millionaire author, there are thousands of talented writers who just didn’t make it. But there are also quite a few making a reasonable living. Regardless of their publishing route, these authors consistently put in hours of work marketing their books and making sales.
If you want to see your book on the shelves of your local bookshop, then again I have bad news. Traditionally published books usually only live there for a few weeks before they disappear into obscurity. Self-published books often don’t get there at all. However, with so much business moving online, a lot of bookshops now have websites. They list many more books than they can possibly fit on their physical shelves. Print-on-demand services like Ingram Spark are available to both traditional publishers and self-published authors. The benefit is that instead of keeping copies in stock, shops can just order in when a customer asks.
Sometimes people just want to see their name on the front of a book to share with friends and family. There is certainly something quite special about holding a properly printed and bound edition in your hands. Beware what are known as vanity presses. Some companies prey on the author’s dream of being picked up by a traditional publisher. They charge through the nose for poor service and take a slice of any royalties. Self publishing means you definitely get to see your book in print, and it can be done very cheaply.
If you have a clear vision of the finished book you want to produce, self publishing is the only viable route. It means that all rights are yours entirely and you get the final say on everything. Traditional publishers often make decisions according to their perceptions of what the book needs. This may not match an author’s vision. Some authors find letting someone else think about it comforting, but others find it creatively smothering. And of course, self publishing means you also keep hold of all future royalties, as well as your rights.
If you want to get into the ever-growing ebook market, platforms like Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital make it possible. Anyone can upload their work and start to sell. You do need it in a good format to upload, but there are software tools and experts for hire to help you with that.
If you decide to go for a traditional publishing contract, the first hurdle is getting noticed. Often it depends on the whims of the publishers. Many great authors are passed over multiple times before being offered a contract. Next, you need to negotiate a contract, which can be fraught with problematic clauses. You can get an agent to help with this for a cut of the royalties. Be aware that ultimately they need the publisher more than they need you, which may affect the service they provide. Once you’re signed up, the publisher takes over the process.
If you decide to self publish, you can learn how to do formatting, cover design, etc. But you don’t have to. There are lots of companies, like ours, who can do the leg work of self publishing for you. Often the charges are much lower than a vanity press and you keep all your royalties. Many are small companies run by people passionate about what they do. It’s worth taking a look at the Self Publishing Advice Centre’s list of services and ratings. The information will help you decide who you want to work with (we’re rated Excellent!).