UK’s Book Industry Communication Criticizes Misuse of Metadata Fields for Marketing

UK's Book Industry Communication Criticizes  Misuse of Metadata Fields for Marketing Publishing

Misusing a book's metadata is a well-known blackhat marketing technique. Amazon knows this, which is why for a decade now they have enforced a strict list of rules on what publishers and authors can't put in metadata.

And now the UK's Book Industry Communication is coming out against the practice. They have a released a statement to that effect:

Some publishers and other metadata providers are using the subtitle, and sometimes the title fields, in metadata feeds to carry marketing and promotional text. By this we mean using phrases such as ‘Sunday Times Best Seller’, ‘Gripping read from…’, ‘The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017’, ‘” The best thriller writer alive” Another Author’, ‘Man Booker prize winner’ and so on. It is important for discoverability, good customer experience and an efficient data supply chain that these data fields reflect only the true title and subtitle text that appears on the title page. The valuable promotional text should be included in separate and dedicated promotional text fields, and all metadata recipients, including wholesalers and retailers, should be using these fields appropriately.

There has been a significant escalation of this practice over the last twelve months, despite consistent feedback from BIC members across the book trade that this is causing substantial time-consuming work to correct at various points throughout the supply chain. BIC has seen numerous examples that are confusing and misleading for consumers trying to make a buying decision. Feedback received to date also reveals this poor practice is having an adverse effect on supply chain efficiency both in terms of the timing of product to market and costs incurred by retailers and aggregators having to remove the unwanted text.

BIC understands the need to provide promotional and marketing text and the temptation to include it in the subtitle field, but advises publishers and other metadata providers that the title and subtitle fields should only ever be populated with the true title and subtitle, as would be used on the book’s title page.

It's all well and good to condemn the practice, but a more effective approach would be to get retailers and distributors to adopt quality standards and then follow through and enforce those standard.

We know Amazon does this, and if everyone else in the industry followed suit then this would not be a story today because the cheaters would be stymied everywhere they went.

So rather than shaking its finger at the offending parties, BIC should really be asking the rest of the industry to step up and help fix the problem, don't you think?

image by kaleidoscopist

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

6 Comments

  1. Russell Phillips12 March, 2018

    Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t seem to enforce it very often. This one, for example: https://www.amazon.co.uk/MURDER-GARDEN-gripping-mystery-twists-ebook/dp/B079Z1WXTY

    Reply
    1. Russell Phillips12 March, 2018

      Actually, that one has the subtitle text on the cover, so probably doesn’t break Amazon’s rules. I’m pretty sure this one does, though:
      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Remains-gripping-breathless-Callanach-ebook/dp/B01D4WRF9O

      Reply
  2. Mike D12 March, 2018

    Amazon let you mark a book as both fiction and non-fiction. This is possible but should not be frequent.

    Reply
  3. “Misusing a book’s metadata is a well-known blackhat marketing technique. Amazon knows this, which is why for a decade now they have enforced a strict list of rules on what publishers and authors can’t put in metadata … It’s all well and good to condemn the practice, but a more effective approach would be to get retailers and distributors to adopt quality standards and then follow through and enforce those standard … We know Amazon does this, and if everyone else in the industry followed suit then this would not be a story today because the cheaters would be stymied everywhere they went.”

    Nate, too funny. Amazon pays lip-service to the principle the same as every other retailer.

    No, actually, Amazon is worse. Amazon abuses the system with its own imprints.

    Take this example from Thomas & Mercer:

    Forget Her Name: A gripping thriller with a twist you won’t see coming

    Or this from Thomas & Mercer:

    Crash: A compelling psychological thriller you won’t want to put down

    Or this from Montlake Romance:

    The Transporter: An Action-Packed Romance (Hudson Kings Book 1)

    Beyond its own titles, Amazon is equally blind to metadata abuse by other publishers. Nine of the top twenty titles on Amazon UK right now are abusing the system.

    These are from the Amazon UK top twenty at 0700 GMT today. The first four are at #1,2,3 and 5 in the chart.

    The Note: The book everyone’s talking about

    The Child: The must-read Richard and Judy Book Club pick 2018

    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Sunday Times Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017

    Close to Home: The ‘impossible to put down’ Richard & Judy Book Club thriller pick 2018 (DI Fawley)

    The Tattooist of Auschwitz: the heart-breaking and unforgettable Sunday Times bestseller

    MURDER IN THE GARDEN a gripping crime mystery full of twists

    BEWARE THE PAST a gripping crime thriller with a huge twist
    Love to Hate You: The laugh-out-loud romantic comedy of 2018

    The Girl I Used to Know: A heart-wrenching and heartwarming story of two strangers and one house

    Bring Me Back: The gripping new must read psychological thriller from bestselling author B A Paris

    Reply
  4. Chris Meadows13 March, 2018

    To paraphrase Will Rogers, I never metadata I didn’t like.

    Reply
  5. […] 2. UK’s Book Industry Communication Criticizes Misuse of Metadata Fields for Marketing […]

    Reply

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