Monday, January 19, 2015

Metadata? ISBN? Huh? The Road to Indie Publishing Part 8

You may or may not have noticed I didn’t post in December. For some reason, I enter the Twilight Zone around the holidays and before I know it, two months have slipped away. When I do get online, I shop or check delivery dates of what I’ve ordered. Apparently, blogging isn’t even on my radar. 

The advent of the new year reminded me I needed to get back to writing this saga for those of you who are ready to take the leap into indie publishing. The last blog closed with the statement that before I actually export my project into an e-book, I take two more steps to ensure I have all my ducks in a line. 

What could be left, you ask? 

How about metadata and ISBN.

Gathering the metadata. 
Yep, you’ll need to plug in lots of information during the actual export process. Believe me, it’s easier to gather this information before the process begins than to stop every other click to locate and write the requested information. With a completed metadata form, there are no hold ups in the process, either via the software used to produce the e-book or adding the e-book to the distributor’s catalog.

What is metadata? Not so long ago, metadata was one of those geeky computer nerd terms rumbling around the Internet that few writers could define. And I’m sure the word still holds a different meaning for a computer programmer than it does for a writer. For our purposes, it refers to information about an e-book, its publisher, and the author.

Naturally, I made myself a template to ensure I had all the information I needed in one place. And naturally, it’s available at my website should you wish to download it. This template is a compilation of information needed by Storyist to publish an e-book and items the various distributors need to add your e-book to their system. It is based on my experiences with distributors and intended as a guideline only. You may need to tweak it to fit your needs.

My metadata template puts all the information from EIN (discussed in Part 5) to book blurb right at your fingertips. It helps you make decisions that have to be made before you’re immersed in the publishing and distribution process. You’ll have your author’s bio, the book blurb, your EIN, and price ready. You’ll also know how to categorize your book.

Categorizing Your Book
In order for retailers to sell books, they need them to be in categories. Think fiction versus nonfiction or historical romance versus cookbook. To establish a standard way of categorizing books, the BISAC or Book Industry Standards and Communications was created. Since book retailers use it to identify subject matter, distributors who sell printed books (such as and Barnes and Noble) use it. Therefore, it behooves an indie publisher to know how to use it, too. 

The BISAC website is chock full of information on how to categorize your opus. Fitting your e-book into these categories depends on what you write, the categories listed with BISAC, and how many choices the distributor supplies. As you’ll notice when you check out the template, I have allocated three slots. This was an arbitrary number choice.

Sometimes less than three categories are available. For example, I found two categories for my how to write dialogue e-book, She Sat, He Stood, What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? Reference >Writing Skills as well as Reference>Handbooks and Manuals. Sometimes there are more than three. With my essay collection, A Dash of Ginger, I had more choices: Humor>General, or Humor>Form>Essays, or Humor>Topic>Relationships, and Humor>Topic>Marriage and Family. 

Figuring out where an e-book falls in the the BIASC categories helps the book retailer identify the book and its subject matter. Once the distributor is happy, the publisher needs to ensure interested readers find the book. That's where keywords come into the picture. 

Keywords or phrases are descriptors that help readers find a book online. They need to reflect what a person searching for that type of book would put into the search field. Sometimes you can springboard off a BISAC category into a descriptor. It was easy to turn Humor>Form>Essay into Humorous Essays, but keep in mind BISAC categories are for retailers while keywords are for readers.

For my novella, Susannah’s Promise, I used clean romance, contemporary romance, small town romance, Tassanoxie, and novella as keywords. For She Sat, He Stood, I used dialogue, writing skills, writing technique, fiction writing, body language, setting, and props. With luck, when the reader searches one of the keywords you've chosen for your e-book, it will pop into view. Now the reader has found your book, how do you entice him or her to read it? 

Book Blurbs
The book blurb is an important marketing tool for capturing the interest of a potential reader. Before distribution, take the time to create the best blurb you can for that particular story. Be prepared for any strictures a distributor places on length with a short blurb (around 50 words) as well as a longer blurb (150 words). It’s much easier to complete the distribution process if you have this valuable information handy. 

For my novella Susannah’s Promise, the short blurb goes like this:

Susannah Warden is trapped in a life she doesn’t want, but she made a deathbed promise to her mother. When archeologist, Dr. Perry Elliston, arrives in Tassanoxie, he reminds Susannah of the future she once wanted.

Will Susannah free herself from the bonds of her promise and get a chance at love?

As you can see, I distilled the novella into its bare bones. Once you have a grasp of the essential story, it’s easy to add more color for a longer 150 word blurb. 

Susannah Warden is trapped in a life she doesn’t want. She quit college, put her life on hold to care for her terminally ill mother, made a deathbed promise to look after her father, took over her mother’s dress shop, and got herself practically engaged to an eligible bachelor. None of these actions reflect what she wants to do with her life. Guilt drives her as she tries to fit the mold her mother created for her. 

When archeologist, Dr. Perry Elliston, arrives in Tassanoxie to survey a possible historical Indian site, he reminds Susannah of the future she wanted before her mother died. Perry recognizes Susannah as the mysterious student who haunted his archeology classes and his dreams several years ago. Now she’s back in his life, but almost engaged to marry another man.

Will Susannah free herself from the bonds of her deathbed promise for the chance at love?

Notice how I expanded the paragraphs to give a little more detail on the characters’ backstory. 

More Decisions
In Part Five I mentioned the contracts you have to sign for each distributor. Contracts I’m hoping you read. If you did, then you’ll know how to complete the blocks titled DRM Free, Currency, Price, Rights, etc. The distributors explain most items quite well or provide resources for more information.

To ISBN or Not
As I mentioned in Part 4, I purchased a block of ISBNs when I set up Saderra Publishing. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13 digit number that identifies the title, edition, author, and publisher of a book. The publisher buys the ISBN. 

Each country has one agency that sells ISBNs and in the USA, it’s the Bowker U.S. ISBN Agency. Although the ISBN is purchased in your home country, it works all over the world. For example, once I assigned an ISBN to my humorous essay collection, A Dash of Ginger, and registered it with Bowker, I didn’t need to buy another ISBN to distribute that e-book in India.

Today there are many companies jumping on the indie publishing bandwagon. They’re willing to help an author with any or all of the indie publishing process. Please keep in mind that any agreement that includes a company providing the ISBN as part of the package deal, may well make the company the legal publisher of the e-book. 

It is not mandatory for an indie publisher to buy ISBNs for e-books since many of the distributors don’t require one. Print books are another story. Brick and mortar bookstores, libraries, and other retail outlets require ISBNs because they use it to order and track books. If an author plans to hand sell the print version, an ISBN would not be needed. 

This is a business decision. I decided to use ISBNs as a way to ensure my e-books had an unique identifier. Before exporting my files from Storyist into an e-book , I register the ISBN at Bowker. The process is very easy and calls for information similar to what I’ve put into the metadata sheet. 

Author Bio
While this box is a self-explanatory, it is a good reminder to make sure you have an updated author bio.

Next month, the cleaned up manuscript will go into Storyist and come out an EPUB. 

Below, I’ve listed the websites mentioned in the blog.   (For Writers>Metadata Template)

U.S. publishers and self-publishers purchase their ISBNs online from Bowker at