Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you know what metadata is and use it often. Every time you looked for books by an author’s name on a library’s website or searched for a title on a retailer website or looked up when that upcoming release was finally coming out, you were using metadata.
Metadata is made up of all the individual data points about the thing you’re looking for. For books, it includes many things ranging from:
- book cover
- format (hardcover/paperback)
- keywords to help with searching
- and a lot more!
It’s the publisher’s responsibility to enter their metadata into whatever distribution system they’re using and to ensure that, when it goes out to all the places it needs to be online, it goes there without any errors. (If you’ve ever seen a whole bunch of random characters in a book’s description instead of punctuation, that’s a sign that something in the metadata isn’t working.)
It goes without saying that making sure a book has correct and detailed metadata is extremely important to book publishing. How else will a future reader find your book online in the sea of thousands of texts that exist and are published all the time?
Here at Ooligan Press, our metadata is stored by CoreSource, which is run by our distribution partner, Ingram. When a book is acquired, the acquisitions and book project teams work to develop all the information that needs to be reported out into the world. Once the information is gathered, some of it goes through the Marketing and Copy Chief departments, and then it’s back to the project manager. The project manager enters the approved text and information into the CoreSource Tipsheet, also known as the Ingestion Document.
The CS Tipsheet is a living document that holds the most current information about the book. As the book project develops, information is updated in this document so it’s all in one place, and each book gets its own tipsheet. After the project manager puts the new information into the CS tipsheet, they tag the Operations Publisher’s Assistant, and they in turn enter that information into CoreSource.
At Ooligan, the Ops PA (currently, that’s me!) takes care of the press’s metadata in CoreSource. This means updating individual data points as they change, troubleshooting problems as they occur, making sure information is updated in line with publishing schedules, and entering/ingesting new books into the system. When the Ops PA ingests a book for the first time, it can take anywhere from three to four hours—that should tell you how much information is tied to a book even when the project is brand new! Even after a book has been published, the CS Tipsheet is still important to the book’s success. Author interviews, book tour stops, articles or reviews about the book, and awards the book has won go into the tipsheet and into the metadata.
Our lives are more and more online, especially after the big shutdowns and during the continuing pandemic, so it follows that making sure your book is represented well online is more important than ever. As it becomes even more clear how important metadata is, the best practices and conventions adapt to match what people need to know about a book. As more data points are added to each book’s metadata, it will be even easier to reach readers trying to find a book that’s perfect for them.