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Metadata Upskilling Tips

By Amelia Bashford, Misha Manani and Rowan Groat

Metadata in publishing – fiction, non-fiction and academic – is simply data that describes a book. This can include the title, subtitle, price, keywords and other relevant information that readers can use to find your book online. Every department can be involved in the process of creating metadata for front and back-list titles, so it’s useful to know what it means and how to develop your metadata skills.

Online Courses

  • Learning Metadata for Book Publishing: This helps with understanding the different classifications, ebook metadata and how to increase a book’s discoverability via search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing. If at university, you may have a free subscription to LinkedIn Learning; otherwise, you can get a month of free trial on premium.

  • Metadata for Books: A great introductory course that highlights the importance of metadata and how to optimise its use to increase book sales. Even though this is primarily for those looking to self-publish, it can improve your ability to leverage metadata to increase a book’s digital presence

  • Metadata Primer: This will be led by the Book Industry Communications (BIC) on the 14 September 2021, which covers the key aspects of metadata and the supply chain process. Although the course is paid, it is great for any department because working with metadata is a transferable skill in publishing.

In Conversation with Eleanor Marie Rose

Eleanor Marie Rose works at Bloomsbury as a Production Assistant. She has been in the industry for a couple of years, and she loves it! Eleanor also has a YouTube channel where she creates publishing-focused content.

Which departments work with metadata and how?

Every department works with metadata. If you don’t, you’re either doing something wrong or using it without realising! When I was first taught about metadata, I thought, “oh no, codes and stuff,” but it’s not all about that. Metadata is data about data.

The production department uses metadata to send files to typesetters and printers. We also use it for costings – the metadata that tells you the transaction processing system (TPS) and extent of a book will allow you to prepare accurate profit and loss (P&L) reports. Sales will use SEO and keywords to optimise their book on search engines. Marketing and publicity will use it to post on social media and create press releases. The list goes on! Most departments will need to know the ISBN, TPS, binding, etc.

Which metadata database do publishers use?

A common content management system in publishing is Biblio. It stores everything you need to know about a book – the date it’s published, the printer used, who the editor is, what contracts there are…

How is metadata different for academic and trade publishing?

I work in academic publishing and the key difference that I have noticed is the actual metadata content itself. For example, metadata for the price of a book – in academic publishing, books are priced a lot higher, whereas trade books tend to be cheaper. The metadata about authors in academic publishing often have multiple authors, editors or contributors and trade books typically have one author.

What are the dos and don’ts for optimising the use of metadata?


  • The more information you can input about a book, the merrier! However irrelevant you think it is, DO IT! It will help everyone.

  • Tell someone if you have made changes.

  • Check regularly to make sure it is accurate.


  • Notice a mistake and just ignore it. Change it on the system or get someone else to. Keep it up to date!

  • Worry if you’re confused. It will be fine once you understand the basics!

  • Forget to save your work.

What tips would you offer those who want to develop their metadata skills?

Watch this video about BISAC codes and keep up to date with any digital content here. And don’t forget, you can always email me with questions at

Other Resources

  • BIC Bites Metadata: This document establishes the essentials of metadata, the methods of communicating with book retailers and traders, and how to choose the keywords to improve the chances of a book being found online.

  • An Introduction to ONIX for Books: Another resource by BIC that demonstrates the significance of this metadata software and how to use it. There are also links to more web pages to understand the abbreviations and enhance your knowledge.

  • Metadata Checklist and Brainstorming Sheet: This details the fundamental elements of a book’s metadata you should consider because customers can only order a book if they can find it online. The diagram sheets also display the types of keywords you should include for fiction and non-fiction books.

Thanks for reading Metadata Upskilling Tips. Join us again for Issue Thirty-One, where we will be upskilling for communications roles!


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