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Better meta - Putting metadata to good use

When putting together an ebook you’ll hear the word metadata bandied around but without any real clues as to what it is and what you should do with it. Essentially, it’s the bibliographic information, technical data about your book, but it could be so much more. Read on to find out what metadata is and what it can do for you.

Metadata is the information behind your book, it’s the information needed to sort your book and separate it from others, the digital equivalent of your book cover. However, it can also be used to market your book if you take advantage, as it’s used by librarians, booksellers, as well as consumers. It’s an easy win that a lot of self-pubbers miss.

What exactly is it?

Metadata comes in two parts:

Core metadata

This is the essential information for your ebook. Things like title, author, price, classification, ISBN, year of publication. Things that help with cataloguing and sorting the book, and putting it in its rightful place.

Enhanced metadata

This is extra information that will help your book get sold that isn’t essential. Things like descriptions, keywords, author biographies, review quotes, even sample chapters.

More metadata is always good, information is key, but it has to be good metadata, information in the right place, in the right order, in the right format.

Here's how you should go about it


An obvious one. Simply put the book’s title. However, don’t be tempted to embellish to try and take advantage, list it exactly as it appears on your book cover.


Same rules apply for the subtitle.


Your ISBN. Make sure it’s specific for your eBook and not one from your print edition. Have a read of our article on ISBNs and whether you actually need one.


The language the book is written in. Use ISO 639 standards, for instance, en-US for US English.

Series title

If your book is part of a series, list that here. Make sure it’s consistent across all the books so that they link properly. If done properly this will do things like create an automatic landing page for all your books on Amazon.


This is essentially the blurb of your book so normal blurb rules apply. Don’t give away any spoilers, or any of the suspense, simply let your readers what makes your book interesting. Write about what makes it worthwhile to read, give them a sense of what the book is about. Make the description keyword rich, whilst remembering to keep it readable by human beings.


Put the normal price in here. Don’t include any discounts, save that for retailers.


List all the people that played a big part in the creation of your book, much like the credits at the end of a movie. You will need at least one, the author, which should be as it appears on the book even if its a pen name. The rest could be things like your cover designer, your editor, any multiple authors, etc. If a book does have more than one author, be aware that they will appear in the order that you list them. Bear in mind that you should also list your author name as it should be filed, which is normally last name/first name.


These can be a word or a phrase. It’s better to be as specific as possible so try and use two to three words per phrase. Do not try and cheat the system. Only use terms that are applicable, don’t try and use terms that you think would encourage people searching for other works, such as similar authors. People who get your book when they were searching for something else will not be happy and you will suffer their wrath. Try and think about what terms you would search for to find your own book.


Same rules apply as to keywords. Be specific, instead of simply ‘Sci-fi’ try something like ‘post-apocalypse, alien invasion’ things that are subsets of your main genre.


This is self-explanatory. If you have a publishing company, their name goes here, or if you’re self-publishing you can put your own name. Nothing else can go here, no domain names, no references to other publishing companies or retailers.

BISAC code

This is the industry standard for classifying books. You should go as deeply as possible, don’t just use the top level category. See our article on how to choose Amazon categories for more tips on how to take advantage.


Nice and simple, either Epub or Mobi

Author Biography

You may be able to include a short biography for contributors, use it wisely. Make it interesting and include keywords whist keeping it legible. Use the same rules as you would for a description.


Your copyright notice or CC license. This is not an alternative to a proper copyright page within your actual book.


Audience Codes are used to identify the intended reader of your book. There are two standards, X.12 832 and ONIX code list 28. The ONIX list is more widely used, so unless you’ve been told otherwise it’s the one to use.

This list is not exhaustive but gives you examples for the main bulk of the metadata entries you should be including when putting your book together. To get your book maximum visibility you need to go beyond that basics and take advantage of the resources available to you.

Let us know what you think about metadata below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including eBook formatting and metdata management.

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