Understanding the Basics of Metadata for Authors and Publishers

By Justine Eby on Jan 27, 2022
eContent Pro International
data on screen If you go on any website article that explains metadata, you will see countless introductions explaining metadata as simply “data about data.” Well, they’re right.
If you know the basics of metadata, I’m sure you can agree with this to a reasonable extent. Authors and publishers need metadata to do a plethora of things without which their work's visibility would dwindle before it even began.
Metadata is widely used and crucial to any company’s presence on a digital platform. In order to understand the use of metadata for authors and publishers, we should consistently monitor the trends and purpose-built platforms so that metadata can be used in the most effective manner (Bloomberg Content Service, n.d.).
Today, there are essentially three main types of metadata used. In order to understand each, we can divide them by their function, purpose, and what exactly those look like for authors and publishers.
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Descriptive Metadata

shelves of books

Descriptive metadata is, quite simply, descriptive information about a resource. This data includes any and all types of information that describes the asset. Because of this, its function is essential for discovering and identifying assets. For a book, this would include information such as the title, author’s name, keywords, publication date, genre, and so on. It can also venture into physical attributes such as colors or file dimensions. It can be considered the most extensive form of metadata as there are a multitude of ways to describe an asset.

In best practice, descriptive metadata is used in a specific and standardized approach. This will ensure that the book or collection is located easily and by the intended clientele.

If you are an author or publisher, there are a handful of things you can include in your descriptive metadata to boost your discoverability.

The following tips come from the Ingram Spark article “Facts About Book Metadata and Why It’s Critical to Your Publishing Success” (Ingram Spark Staff, 2018).

  • Include important people and brands. This can be relevant, well-known people, brands, or collectives. This information is great to boost your discoverability, as long as they are related to the content in the book,
    of course.
  • Use keywords and phrases that describe your protagonist. Ideally, these are also phrases that relate to your target market. These can be phrases such as “drama queen” or “stay-at-home dad” (MerlinOne, n.d.).
  • Include locations and time periods. If your book is set in a specific era or heavily references a specific area, you can include important information from that time, such as events or historical figures. This is where you can get creative and research what type of niche information would be best to draw upon.
  • Include special features and selling points. These different types of selling points and features do not have stringent parameters. They can include illustrations by a well-known artist or the exclusive style or making of the hardcopy book. Basically, you are taking the information you would put into an advertisement for your book and incorporating it into your metadata.
  • Include additional contributors. This builds upon the special features and selling points by adding more specific information about those involved. Those involved are authors, illustrators, manufacturers, and other contributors. This may at first seem a little excessive to dive into, but its purpose is to place your book's discoverability into a variety of search categories. all of which are still relevant and reaching your
    intended clientele.
  • Include information about your target clientele. This will include target market information such as age range, behaviors, lifestyles, habits, demographics, and so on. Simultaneously, by not including certain information that is outside of these attributes, you are focusing on your audience, for example, including the target age range and excluding ages outside of this range.

The more you dive into descriptive metadata, the more you realize that there is a level of creative freedom to target your clientele from different angles. In this sense, you will receive your most impactful results, as an author or publisher, if you dive into both specific and abstract descriptive metadata (MerlinOne, n.d.).

Structural Metadata

world map made of foliage

Structural metadata is essentially how the resource is organized. In a book, this can be how the pages are ordered to form the chapters or how a collection of books is put in order. Its work is to take these pieces of information and facilitate effective navigation and presentation of the digital materials to your audience. These pieces encompass page numbers, sections, paragraph formatting, chapters, indices, tables of content, volumes, or basically anything that has to do with the organization of the materials.

Structural metadata can effectively separate a book into different chunks and provide these specific parts to your audience based on what they are searching. This can be chapters, tables, paragraphs, pictures, etc. In the past, this was the extent of what was understood about structural metadata. Today, however, it is able to not only break a large work into separate portions but also reassemble them in various ways. Picture a puzzle that you can take apart and put together again with the pieces in different places each time and still they always fit perfectly together. The structural data’s work is to create strong, intentional connections (Andrews, 2017).

What is just as imperative as the book’s own organization is how that organization affects the way in which the materials interact with other external resources. Structural data allows you to understand those relationships. One example could look like linking certain related content together, which can be two articles or two chapters but can also become very complex and intricate depending on the specific content and details of the materials.

In best practice, structural data takes a book and creates a stream of different hierarchical combinations, both internally and externally. These can also include non-hierarchical relationships. Picture these relationships between digital materials assembling like a network or web (Zhang & Gourley, 2009).

Administrative Metadata

Administrative metadata takes information from the work to tell you how each piece of content is stored, protected, and managed. It can be considered the manager or curator of the content. In a book, the type of data that it draws from is information like file type, resource type, permissions, access and controls, the usage rights of the work, and when and how the work was created. This information allows the administrative metadata to then essentially dictate or monitor when, where, how, and how long the written work can be displayed
(MerlinOne, n.d.).

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The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) explains administrative metadata as a combination of the three following sub-categories:

  • Technical Metadata
    • Information necessary for decoding and rendering files.
    • Technical Metadata for a book is what describes how a resource was made.
    • This can include information such as the model and version of the computer the work was made and saved on.
  • Preservation Metadata
    • Information necessary for the long-term management and archiving of digital assets.
    • Preservation Metadata takes all this information to manage the correct curation and usage of the written work to guarantee its consistent quality and safety.
  • Rights Metadata
    • Information pertaining to intellectual property and usage rights.
    • Rights metadata for a book is taking this information to determine who, where, and when certain content can be shared, re-posted, or distributed. (MerlinOne, n.d.)

This work may seem somewhat general and straightforward in comparison to descriptive and structural metadata processing, but it is absolutely crucial to understand if you are to publish any type of work as an author or publisher (SharePoint in Microsoft 365, 2021).

It is important to recognize that each of these types of metadata is distinct but also essential to any author, publisher, or company, in general.

Preparing Your Book for Metadata Processing

So where do you start or rather how do you prepare your written work for these processes? A book or any piece of written work must be able to have these identifying factors. This could involve modifying sections of your book to include certain characterizing keywords or organizing your chapters in a way that they can be consumed individually or with another external source that complements your work.

two students studying in a hallway

The following are some tricks of the trade to consider when preparing your book to be published:

  • Avoid using quotes around keywords.
  • Make your subtitle not just a description of your book but a sales line that works across different platforms. Ideally, it is something that draws attention and differentiates your book from
    the competition.
  • Use intriguing formatting in your book description for the metadata to draw from and to bring the attention of your audience to specific information.
  • Keep your name consistent. If you use your middle initial once, use your middle initial in every instance your name is present in the book and online.
  • Make sure the formatting of your work can be easily transferable onto a mobile device and across as many platforms as possible.
  • In order to include certain phrases, people, brands, references in your descriptive metadata, you must have that information readily available in your book to draw from. For example, if your book is in a setting that is relevant to the written work, you can strategically address this setting or its features throughout the book so that the descriptive metadata can detect this information more easily and more frequently. (Max, n.d.)

The list goes on…

If you are interested in improving your book’s metadata and setting yourself up for success, we recommend having the work professionally copy edited. Professional editing services—like English Language Copy Editing offered by eContent Pro International—can help authors increase the quality and integrity of their work. Editorial services will make sure a book’s metadata, such as the author bio and book description, meet the required standard while simultaneously addressing issues with spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, jargon, semantics, syntax, consistency, flow, and more.

About eContent Pro International: eContent Pro International is a U.S.-based professional editorial and publishing services provider for authors, publishing houses, libraries, organizations, university presses, and societies. Offering professional copy editing, translation, scientific and scholarly editing, journal recommendation, typesetting, figure, chart, table, and equation conversions, as well as other production services, we have provided the highest quality editorial services and content advisement to scholarly outlets and individuals around the world. To learn more about eContent Pro International, visit the website here or email customerservice@econtentpro.com.

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