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