{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen B. Jones September 29, 2013 at 3:23 am

Excellent article, Joel and I found it “in the nick of time” as I am creating the metadata for my new book now. You most certainly are the “go-to” person for any new independent author trying to understand the vagaries of the ever-changing landscape of publishing. I am going to include a reference to this and the additional articles offered by Christina in the comments in the next posting on my blog on my website. Very much appreciated!


Thom Reece September 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Very helpful, Joel. Thank you for posting this. Metadata is a subject of much confusion for new authors and this article simplifies things. I am re-posting this on my Facebook site and in my Book Marketing Journal online newspaper.


Rinelle Grey March 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Thanks Joel, another great post!

I’m good with the author/title/subtitle bit, but the categories get more confusing. Especially since the ones you can select when you upload your book are different to the ones you can search on Amazon. I’m in a bit of a niche, writing sci-fi romance, so getting it into the right category is important!


Christina May 25, 2012 at 12:23 am

Joel, thanks for combining the how-to information with a clear explanation of why metadata matters. It’s definitely the key to discovering content in an increasingly digitized world.

I’ll admit that metadata can be a somewhat dry topic, and it’s certainly not critical to understand the underlying mechanisms of the metadata beast. However, I think it’s in the interest of independent publishers to stay informed on this topic. We are positioned to respond much more nimbly than traditional houses to these sorts of changes than traditional houses, and I think it’s an advantage worth exploiting.

I can recommend two pieces on the state of metadata:
“Pivoting on Metadata”: O’Leary describes a book metadata project out of Canada that’s mapping metadata along the book supply chain. He includes a good quote about metadata’s possibilities beyond discovery (readers finding your book). It can also be powerful for relationships (readers finding other readers based on having read your book) and organization (booksellers knowing where to “place” your book on a webpage or in a bookstore).

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Metadata”: Dawson’s chapter in Book: A Futurist Manifesto is a fascinating history of how publishers and libraries handled metadata in the print age and how they are (and aren’t) adjusting to a new era.


Thom Reece September 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Thank you, Christina. The additional links to Joel’s fine article are very helpful and illuminating.


Denise May 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

Thank you, Pam, that does look handy.
The only way I’ve thought of for deciding on categories is to manually search through every set of sub-categories in the Kindle store (I’m planning to publish the ebook edition first), but that sure is a lot of bother. I was hoping someone might have already done that and posted the hierarchy online somewhere so I could just print it off.


Denise May 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

Is there a list online of book categories? Or a list of the categories that Amazon recognizes, or something like that? There are so many ways that I could categorize my book — and so many possible variations of each word or phrase — but if I just invent what seems to me like logical category names, and those don’t happen to be the same as what the bookseller recognizes, then those wouldn’t really help readers find my book, would they?


Pam Stucky May 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

Denise – I once came across this site and bookmarked it because it’s gold, as far as tags: http://www.amazon.com/gp/tagging/cloud/ref=tag_dpp_pt_icld

I haven’t found the equivalent for categories, but I’m looking! :)


Michael May 2, 2012 at 10:27 am

I’ll just go with the firm handshake – thanks for this.

Metadata master file is one of those “of course-that makes sense” things that I don’t have (yet). Oops.

Your stress of ongoing research/updating your metadata as you learn more is key. I think too many self-published authors think “everyone” would love to read their book – if they only knew about it. And they see focusing and targeting as excluding: “What if a person who fell out of my target range was the “Connector” (to use Malcolm Gladwell’s term in “The Tipping Point”) who was going to get me a million word-of-mouth sales??”

That seems to me to be a “win the lottery” approach to building success.


Joel Friedlander May 2, 2012 at 11:03 am


I’ve run across the same attitude over and over again with new self-publishers. You cannot market to “everyone” and it would bankrupt you to try. But if you identify a target audience and market good content effectively, it will spread much farther, eliminating the “exluding” problem.

BTW I’ve really enjoyed your covers, thanks for submitting them to our ebook awards, they are quite good.


Michael May 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Thanks. I have been passing along the kudos to the artist. The cover contest is a great feature. Yet another way to see what’s out there and all the work people are doing.


@SylviaHubbard1 May 2, 2012 at 6:35 am

I wanna kiss you for this on! awesome article! and simplified!


Joel Friedlander May 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

(blushing) Thanks!


Christopher Wills May 2, 2012 at 5:32 am

Great stuff Joel; a good explanation of metadata.
Metadata is how books in Amazon can be found in so many different ways when one is searching for a book (one can search by author, title, part of title, genre, published date, bestseller lists, and many other ways). I think it is one of the reasons Amazon became so powerful so quickly.
You didn’t mention ‘tags’ which are used on Amazon book pages and also used by bloggers at the end of posts; these are both examples of metadata.
Book tagging became slightly disreputable and I think Amazon removed tags for a while but they seem to have returned. I’d be interested if you knew any more about tagging for books and for blog posts.


Joel Friedlander May 2, 2012 at 10:12 am


I find it difficult to keep up with how often Amazon changes things since tagging was hot, then it was not, now it’s coming back . . . maybe.

Tags in WordPress are quite different but still a form of metadata. Since I tend to think of things in terms of the way books are organized, I consider the categories on the blog to be like chapters, while the tags would perform the function of a book’s index.

I’m not sure how much they influence SEO but they have big advantages for organizing content internally and I sometimes use the tags myself when trying to find something in the archives.


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