Now we’re getting into the technical shit, the shit I literally know nothing about.
A few weeks ago, I thought the next part in this series would be about formatting. The issue with that is in order to properly format your book, you not only need an edited manuscript and a cover, you also need to have your metadata, front matter, and back matter in order.
Before I get started, please please please remember to do your own research. I found all this stuff by Googling it. I stuck with information from sites I know (like janefriedman.com and Janice Hardy’s blog) so I have hope that the information below is fairly accurate. I never intended for these posts to be a shortcut for doing your own research, merely a jump off point. And don’t be afraid to ask around. Authors in general are a friendly bunch and are willing to answer your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask.
What the fuck is metadata?
The definition of metadata is data about data. The simplified definition? Metadata is what you use to describe the work.
I had to fill out a publicity request sheet recently for One Night in Buenos Aires and it asked for keywords that could be used to describe the book. Things like setting, trope, character traits, that sort of thing. That pretty much describes what your metadata should look like.
Try this. Go to your local library’s website and search for a book. Click on the full record (or the equivalent, Seattle Public Library’s site has a “full record” tab for each book) and search for the subject headings or topical terms. You’ll see key words there. For MJ Scott’s Shadow Kin, the term “female assassin” is used.
You can do something similar on Amazon’s site. It’s got this nifty autocomplete thing, where if you start typing in something, it’ll give you a list of possible words or terms. So if I type in “female assassin” it gives me that, plus “female assassin romance”. Hit search, and it brings up a list of all the books that might match that term. Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin series is on there, along with Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the titles that pop up or the order they’re in, though. Maybe something to do with that infamous Amazon algorithm?
Basically, you want key words that will help a reader find your book. I have a tendency to write friends to lovers stories, so I’d probably use those keywords. (By the way, if you’re a romance writer and you’re having trouble identifying your tropes? Romy Sommer and Amalie Berlin both have great posts on known tropes.) There’s a great post on metadata and how it’s used to sell your books for you over on Jane Friedman.
Metadata is also stuff like your ISBN, author bio, publication date and title. And don’t forget the copywrite! Just because you have an ISBN (and you’ll need a different ISBN for each version of your book, so if you plan to sell at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for example, you’ll need at least two) does NOT mean your book is copywritten. Copywrited? A copywrite means your book is registered as intellectual property with the Library of Congress. Copywrite registration is about $30; ISBN 10 packs are currently running about $250. Yes, it’s stupidly expensive, but considering a single ISBN costs about $125, it’s cheaper to buy the pack. You don’t have to use all the numbers on the same book, which is nice.
Next we’ve got front matter. That’s the shit in the front of the book, obviously. More obviously, it’s things like your title page and other things you’d find in the front of the book (I can hear you saying “Duh”. Shut up, I have a point). My thinking is you don’t want too much front matter. I saw a tweet recently about a Kindle sample being taken up almost entirely by things like the title page, dedication, and table of contents. This is an automatic boo for me. I love long samples. They do a fantastic job of helping me make up my mind about whether I want to purchase a book or not. I’ve found the shorter the sample, the less likely I am to want to buy the book. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. In case you’re wondering, though, a sample is about 10% of your total book. So take a look at your front matter. If it’s taking up more than 1% of your 10%, delete some stuff or move it.
Finally, there’s back matter. I like to think of back matter as the fun stuff. Things like playlists, sneak peeks at coming attractions, your author bio and other titles for purchase. If you’re not hyperlinking your other titles to link back to the purchase site, you’re an idiot and you should fix that immediately.
Courtney Milan has a fantabulous checklist she uses at the end of her books (she cribbed it from author Debora Geary). The entire post is full of useful information, and there’s also a link to a Yahoo loop for self-published authors.
I’ll end with an example of keywords and front/back matter that I’ll include (and I hope I’m doing this right, because if I’m not, I’m so screwed). I’ll use Fracture, because I can.
Keywords I’d use for Fracture would be marriage of convenience, war, Sarajevo, and contemporary romance. The first one and the last one are the words most likely to help you find it on Amazon or Goodreads, the middle two are ones you might find in a library catalog listing.
Front matter will include an epigraph, but no dedication.
The back matter will include the playlist I created for it, plus my author bio with a link to my website and my Facebook page, and (assuming this doesn’t violate some part of my contract) links to my other published titles. There’ll be acknowledgements, and a sample chapter from my next self-published book.
I’m hazarding a guess here, but don’t put sample chapters for your next book if it’s a book from a publisher, because this is likely a contract violation. If the only thing you’ve got on your plate is your next book for such and such publisher, check with their legal department before you publish. If you have to get clearance to use excerpts, it’s pretty safe to say you’d need clearance to use a sample chapter, too. To be on the safe side, you might want to confirm it’s also okay to list your publisher-published titles in your self-published book. Getting slapped with a cease and desist order isn’t my idea of a good time, and I doubt it’s yours, too.
Next up: formatting!