Self-publishing: Metadata

The interesting thing about self-publishing is that you learn lots of things you never knew you needed to learn in the first place. Do you know that there are at least 6 different types of metadata according to Wikipedia? Such a pompous word, for a simple concept. Metadata means the complex of your book data, such as title, author name, author bio, book description and so on. Easy enough, right?

Well, I agree it is all very basic until you get to the book description. Defining your book can become a laborious task, as there is no space for crossover, mixed genre, hybrid work in the realm of publishing platforms. It is the usual nonsense, where the ideal world clashes mightily with reality. As a writer, you, your hypothetical audience and critics welcome pindaric flights where the power of your imagination creates a one-in-a-kind masterpiece, for which no precise single word can ever describe its singularity. The reality is though that you must pick a genre, one, even if your story does not fit in any, simply because this is the way your platform will list your book.

I found this challenging enough, and I still swing between defining my novel as historical or thriller. I confess that sometimes I ignore the rules and I use both terms when describing my book, Returning East. Does it matter, you’ll ask? Well, as I read across genres, it does not matter to me. But the definition and the listing in one category or the other might impact your sales likelihood. It will also affect your cover, as each genre requires covers with distinctive features. A white cover for a murder story may stand out, yes, but it might also discourage readers who love to stick to that genre.

What is though even more challenging is writing a summary. I already wrote several versions: one sentence, three sentences, one paragraph, two, with keywords, for the cover, for the agent query, for the elevator pitch… None is satisfactory, especially because the length of the summary changes according to what it is for. For marketing, you might need about 200-250 words, but for the cover you need a shorter one. Distilling the entire story in a few sentences, adding or removing a layer, requires patience and for sure experience.

So, now what? How to best prepare the metadata of your book?

In retrospect I think the most effective would be to work on it progressively as you write. There will always be days where you have less inspiration or motivation to actively move your story forward, and for those moments, you can use your writing time to prepare a worksheet with the metadata.

What I also found very useful was a table my editor sent me, with a summary of the scenes. I thus created a table to record the most important thing. I know, there are software that will do the work in a much more sophisticated way, but if you are just starting, with no budget or wish just a simple method, I will make my version of the table available on my website soon.

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