We have a great guest post this week from a former BookNetter that will show us how refreshing and decluttering our data can lead to a positive 2016. Jen Gauthier is the Sales & Marketing Director at Greystone Books in Vancouver, BC. Her prior publishing roles include Sales Manager at D&M Publishers and Account Manager at BookNet Canada, and she currently serves on the board of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC).
It’s that time of year: new year, new you. Time to get in shape, cleanse your system, and discover the life-changing magic of tidying up your data.
There are many webinars, blog posts, and other sources advising on how to enhance your book metadata for better discoverability, and enhancing metadata should be an ongoing effort for every publisher. However, the new year is a great time for a quick review of the basics, to make sure your core data is accurate, complete, and consistent in a few, sometimes overlooked metadata fields like Publisher Name and Author Name. While these fields may not seem like the top fields affecting discoverability, not using them properly or consistently can affect whether your books are found or filtered out.
Last fall, the Association of BC Book Publishers launched an innovative project called BC Books Online: a comprehensive database of books and ebooks published by their members. The website is built on the 49th Shelf platform and enables librarians, booksellers, educators, and the public to easily find books published by BC publishers.
As chair of the BC Books Online committee, I told publishers that all they had to do was provide ISBNs and, voilà!, their books would be available to be discovered. The onus on publishers should have been negligible, since we automatically pulled all the data for the more than 8,500 individual ISBNs listed directly from the BNC BiblioShare database. However, in our first presentation of the site to members, I was embarrassed to discover an error in my own book data. The site includes a "browse by publisher" section and my books were listed under two publisher names: Greystone Books Ltd. and GREYSTONE BOOKS, in all caps. Some of Greystone’s titles fell under one publisher and the rest under the other.
Since we supply our data directly to BiblioShare directly, the fact that our books appeared to be published by two different publishers is because that is what we told BiblioShare in our data. Sometimes we entered one name in our internal database, and sometimes the other.
While not all public-facing sites provide a publisher listing like BC Books Online, if a publisher’s name is inconsistent in their data, it could cause hiccups in discoverability elsewhere online, including in databases for ordering books like BookManager and Ingram’s iPage. So check your database to ensure consistent spelling, capitalization, and use of symbols (“&” vs “and”) in your Publisher Name field, and correct entries to ensure consistency throughout. If you have separate databases for print and digital books, use the same Publisher Name in both. If you have a distributor also sending out your data, request that they use the same Publisher Name you're using.
Another popular field for book sales and discoverability websites is Author Name. This allows readers to find all the books by their favourite author or by a new author they have just discovered… as long as the Author Name has been entered consistently in the publisher's data. If David Suzuki, Margaret Atwood, or Robert Munsch had a middle initial added to their name in the data for a new book, any books by that alter ego would not be included in filtered lists of the author’s previous works. Even varying credentials like Dr. Sam Smith rather than Sam Smith, M.D. can cause books to be lost when a filter or search by Author Name is used on some websites. You want to make sure an author's fans find all their works when they click their hyperlinked Author Name on Amazon for the author’s publishing history.
One challenge with an Author Name is that any given author may have more than one publisher, so ensuring consistency requires cooperation across publishers. In most cases, the author will want to use one consistent name unless they also write under a pseudonym, so check with your author or check out their other book listings online to ensure you are consistent in your own data.
Other basic metadata you can review and tidy up for the new year include titles and subtitles—if either has changed since your data was first uploaded, it now requires updating. The same goes for your cover image. Often a cover will change slightly between the initial concept and the one that goes to the printer. Perhaps a foreword writer or a blurb was added. Price, category, and sales rights can also change and should be reviewed for accuracy.
I’m not suggesting you ignore those calls for enhanced metadata. Descriptions, reviews, author bios, and excerpts definitely make your books more discoverable and you should be adding and enhancing all these data points, but don’t forget to also tidy up the basics.