How to Set Up Your Book on Bowkerlink for Books in Print

by | Feb 22, 2011

In the beginning was the word, and the words are what make the book. But soon thereafter, came the metadata—that is, data about the data.

When you publish a new book, you have a chance to assign metadata to your book that will travel with descriptions of the book to libraries, catalogs, listings, sales pages and any place books are displayed. For instance in search results in response to a search query.

It is an age of search. The only ways we have to make use of the riches of the internet are built on search. If you want to be sought, you first have to make sure you can be discovered. Metadata is the way we do that on the most basic level.

Setting Up A New Book on Bowkerlink

Here is the information you’ll need before you sit down to enter your new title into Bowkerlink. The items in bold are required, the others optional. You should try to fill as many of these fields as possible, as completely as possible.

The Bowkerlink facility provides the data for your book’s listing in the Books in Print database, the key source for information on books in the United States.

  1. ISBN
  2. Title
  3. Subtitle
  4. Translated title
  5. Number of pages
  6. Number of illustrations
  7. Binding type
  8. Language
  9. Subject (1 or 2)
  10. Contributors names and functions
  11. Length, Width and Height
  12. Weight
  13. Year of copyright
  14. Year of original publication
  15. Library of Congress Card Number
  16. Annotation (description)
  17. Country of Sale
  18. Imprint
  19. Title status
  20. Publication date
  21. Price
  22. Price type
  23. Currency
  24. Target market
  25. Age range

These pieces of metadata match closely metadata elements that make up the Simple Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (DCMES) that’s widely used as a basic—or core—set of descriptive data for all sorts of tracking, sorting and analysis functions.

Dublin Core metadata provides a small and fundamental group of text elements through which most resources can be described and catalogued. Using only 15 base text fields, a Dublin Core metadata record can describe physical resources such as books, digital materials such as video, sound, image, or text files, and composite media like web pages. Metadata records based on Dublin Core are intended to be used for cross-domain information resource description and have become standard in the fields of library science and computer science.—Wikipedia

The first chance a self-publisher gets to attach metadata to a new book is through this Bowkerlink service, and it’s incredibly important to make use of it. I had occasion to enter a record there for my upcoming publication of A Self-Publisher’s Companion.

There are two screens that contain all the fields to fill. Log into your account and select “Add Title.” Here’s the first screen. You can see I’ve filled most of the fields.

Bowkerlink Title Setup page 1

Click to enlarge

Once you’ve finished this page you’ll be prompted to enter additional title information. Of course, you want to do this since more metadata is good, and this page has the all-important Annotation field. Here it is:

Bowkerling Title Setup page 2

Click to enlarge

All the research you’ve done for your book, and all the preparation pay off now because here you have a chance to write up to 250 words about the benefits your book will deliver. This is an opportunity to use all the keywords that represent questions your book answers. The metadata you create here will form the foundation of your book’s discoverability.

Here’s what I came up with. I’ve put the keywords in bold:

No matter what kind of book you want to publish, the advice, inspiration and down-to-earth tips in this book will help you get to your goal. Joel Friedlander, one of the leading advocates for self-publishing on the internet, draws on a lifetime of experience helping self-publishers launch their books. He demystifies book publishing and, in the process, answers your questions about how to use social media, the importance of sound book construction, and the critical tasks that confront the modern self-publisher. As independent publishing becomes more popular with authors and readers, A Self-Publisher’s Companion will show you the new way to publish and promote your book. From ebooks to iBooks, the author also shows how the move to ebooks is affecting independent publishers, and how best to approach the opportunity presented by Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad and all the other ebook readers. Drawn from his popular blog,, this book will help ensure self-publishers don’t get left behind.

Have you maximized your metadata lately?

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. hannah

    Thank you! I was sweating it out over at Bowker and found an answer here.

  2. Sujith

    Hi, as a self-publisher can I register with if I do not have an American ISBN? The registration page is asking for publisher name where I cannot do a search.

    Thank you

  3. AlanK

    Thank you Joel,

    If I may ask one more question (forgive me I am new to your excellent blog so this question has probably been asked before).

    You touched on this in your blog article, but I want to confirm this. I assigned my title at Is there any benefit or need to set up accounts with and


    • Joel Friedlander

      AlanK, no they all feed to the same databases.

    • Olan Cain

      I am a self publisher and want to put my book on “Books in Print”. How does this work?

  4. AlanK

    Hello Joel,

    Thank you for your most helpful articles. I have a question. I bought 10 ISBN numbers recently, and my first book will be published in about a month. However, I do not have an exact page number at this time. Do I need to have an exact page number in order to register one of my ISBNs? Or can I give an approximate page number in the field when I register the ISBN and then change it later?

    Thank you,


    • Joel Friedlander

      Alan, you don’t need an exact number, you can go back and edit the entry if you like. In fact, I would suggest waiting until your book is ready to publish, then go in and fill the entire record with accurate information. Before publication, you won’t need to have it filled out.

  5. sammi

    how do we upload a table of contents? I notice most listing in books in print have one, but there’s no place to upload a TOC on bowkerlink or my identifiers. Also, do you recommend uploading a pdf of the whole book on my identifiers? thanks.



    I apologize for misspelling Bowerlink. Sign that eyes are ageing.


    • Joel Friedlander

      Alexander, the Ingram listing is really only for the companies with which Ingram does business. The BIP database can be accessed by anyone looking for info on your book, so they operate in very different universes. You should most definitely have both listings (assuming your book is with Ingram, of course).

  7. Anthony StClair

    Joel, this is an awesome post. I’ve added it to my “product launch” folder. Thanks for helping us with the nuts and bolts of getting a book published. The metadata optimization is very useful — seems like a keyword-focused version of back cover copy?

    • Joel Friedlander

      Exactly right, Anthony. On the web, discoverability is critical.

  8. doug

    Hi Joel
    Just last week, I was told about Bowkerlink and thank you for shareing the How To. Our account should be activated this week and your information helps so I do my homework. We had published Reiser’s Ramblings in June 2010, and sold 2100 so far, but I can see that Bowkerlink will help reach a much wider audience, through the Bowker system.

    Thank You

    • Joel Friedlander


      Bowker uses the entries you make on Bowkerlink (or on, you can use either site) to create the entry for your book in the Books in Print database, that’s about it. Good luck with your book, sales seem healthy so far.



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