6 May 2017

#Editing 7: Metadata

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

But it is coming along. As expected, the digital file is still with its beta readers, and this respite gives me an opportunity to fine-tune its metadata so it will be ready for upload. What, exactly, is metadata?

Metadata is all the background information attached to an ebook, but not a physical part the text. An e-retailer uses it to store the ebook, and a reader uses it to find the ebook, on the e-retailer's site. But it starts before that. It starts with the digital document.

I use an old version of MSWord. Under File>Properties a dialogue box appears describing the contents of the file: when it was created and how many pages, paragraphs, etc, it contains. Under the Summary tab I complete Title, Author, Category (Fiction), and enter a few keywords (Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, Romance). In effect I am digitally stamping the file as mine. Does this matter? It depends which conversion sites are used, but I’m a great believer in a belt & braces approach to my work simply because it is my work.

Metadata is more usually associated with the upload process, most notably Product Description, Categories, and Keywords. What I have to play with depends on the e-retailer. For the purpose of this post, I’ll concentrate on the biggest, Amazon.

Product Description can be equated to the backblurb on a paperback, except that it is both more and less.

Here’s the product description for my novella The Paintings:
When Kristin Jeffries steps into the wrecked apartment of a missing artist to assess a group of paintings, she steps into a surreal environment of deceit and obsession where artworks are hidden and signatures missing. Should she trust the client who admits he's not the owner?

Concentrating on the minutiae of a single brushstroke beneath her camera’s lens, can she recognise the truth stored in its memory before it overtakes them both?

“...the whole subtle sense of something sinister is very well done...”

It’s short, and I attach one review snippet. It’s an example, not a blueprint. Yet without clicking through to its Amazon page to view its cover, what category is it entered under? Is it, for instance, Romance? Historical? Cozy Crime? Scrutinise the choice of words used and have a guess.

The description is 72 words long, yet only 46 of them – the initial paragraph – appears at first sight on the page. The rest, including the review snippet, is hidden “below the fold” – and who clicks the Read more link? Very few casual perusers. For a product description to work it must be concise, introduce the main story elements in language matching the tone of the work and the category, and leave the reader wanting to read more – a tease – hence my use of a question.

Check this against the product description of my earliest ebook Hostage of the Heart. Above the fold reads okay, but click the Read more and wince. Yes, it needs serious attention. We learn as we go.

Categories can be a minefield, especially if, like mine, the novel sits between categories, but help is at hand via Amazon’s Selecting Browse Categories. Only two are available, so don’t waste one by repeating yourself.

Keywords – up to seven are available - can prove as difficult, but the above Categories link can again prove useful.

Write your Product Description, make decisions on Categories and Keywords, and then check the pages of your favourite authors in the same genre for inspiration. Yours need to be at least as good, and if you manage that without several drafts you are doing well.


See also: 
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update 
Editing-6: Beta Readers 
Editing-7: Metadata

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