Metadata and Data – What, Why, and Where

Have you ever wondered, what exactly is Metadata?  And why do you keep hearing this term?

“Metadata is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data” – Google dictionary

” ‘Metadata is data that provides information about other data.’ In other words, it is ‘data about data.’” – Wikipedia

I know I’m not a techy. If I were maybe this would make sense to me. But I’m sorry, these definitions seem too much like the kind of definitions my 7th grade English students used to turn in.  You know, “a chicken is a bird.”   Way too simplistic. Though like this chicken definition, it does get you started.

I kept reading in author advice articles that metadata about my books is important. But this “data about data” definition left me confused.  I still needed to understand why its important, how to use it, where to get it, where to put it, and exactly (with examples) what it is.

My first question was, “What is the purpose of metadata?” According to Wikipedia, metadata helps users find relevant information and discover resources.  .  .  .  For example, a digital image may include metadata that describes how large the picture is, the color depth, the image resolution, when the image was created, the shutter speed, and other data. A text document’s metadata may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.”

This was much better.  Not only does it give the why, it shows examples of specific metadata.

My next question was “how do I create metadata specific to my books?” It turns out that simply put, basic metadata for a book is any data that describes or classifies your work — title, sub-title, ISBN number, publisher, author name — in short, anything a reader might use to look up your book.  But it can be more too.  .   .  things like keywords, your author bio, the book description, review excerpts, number of pages, price, publication date, and its category in the BISAC subject heading list (an industry-approved list of subject descriptors).

Here is the basic metadata for Wherever the Road Leads.

  • Subtitle – A Memoir of Love, Travel, and a Van
  • Author – K. Lang-Slattery
  • Publisher – Pacific Bookworks
  • Publication date – July 26, 2020 – e-book/November 29, 2020 – paper and hard back
  • Launch party – December 5, 2021 (tentative)*
  • Print ISBNs – paperback – 978-1-7342796-4-1, hardcover – 978-1-7342796-3-4,
  • E-book ISBNs – Kindle/MOBI – 978-1-7342796-5-8, E-pub – 978-1-7342796-6-5
  • Number of pages – 348
  • Format – 6” X 9” Hardback and Paperback
  • Number of illustrations – 14
  • Number of photos – 13
  • Number of maps – 7
  • Category: Travel Memoir
  • Retail Price: 16.95
  • Wholesale distribution:
  • Retail sales online: &

Ok.  Now where do I put all this lovely metadata so it will actually help potential readers find my book? That turns out to be a long list of places that keep records of published books. These are the ones I use:

  • Bowker – the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information, connecting publishers, authors, and booksellers with readers and the ONLY official source of ISBNs in the United States.
  • Library of Congress – Research library and de facto national library of the United States.
  • Amazon –Author pages and book sale pages both display book and author information.
  • Bookbub – a service that helps readers discover books and provides publishers and authors with marketing tools and strategies to help sell more books
  • Smashwords – a distributor of indie e-books
  • Book printers/Print on Demand – for me that’s IngramSparks and Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • Goodreads – site for readers and book recommendations.

One of the most helpful hints I found was advice to keep the metadata consistent.   To make this easier, I created a METADATA file for each of my books.  These files list all the important statistics, bios of various lengths, the cover image, keywords, and anything else that might be important or requested by one of the above platforms. With these files set up, all I have to do is copy and paste and .  .  . Voila! The wording and the data are the same everywhere.

I am now a metadata whiz. I hope this brief explanation helps you understand this techy term. And I hope my use of metadata will help new readers find my memoir, my novel, and the Caitlin books too.

*  Publication and launch dates for my memoir are tentative.  We are considering the staggered dates because of Covid19 conditions.  My thinking is to get the e-book out as soon as possible because e-books sales are  booming while people are stuck at home. The paperback & hardcover can be set up for pre-orders with a full release in January, after all the confusion and media blitz that will accompany the upcoming national election.  If you want to give Wherever the Road Leads as a holiday gift, let me know and I will see what is possible.  Perhaps an “artistic” gift certificate for an autographed copy will work. Then, with more publicity after the new year, I would do a launch in late January.  If an in-person launch party remains impossible, I will try for a virtual launch — a kind of Zoom party. Your thoughts on this plan would be appreciated.




2 responses to “Metadata and Data – What, Why, and Where”

  1. Karen Dennis

    WOW! Am I impressed with this. Did you ever suspect you would be this knowledgeable when you started your writing chapter of your life? I am so proud of all you do, Katie!

    1. Katie Slattery

      Thanks Karen for your continued support and all the nice things you say.

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