Book Metadata Translation: The Incredible Impact of This One Step on International Book Sales

As a publisher or an author looking to build an international audience for your books, metadata plays an incredibly important role in making your publications discoverable. Imagine you have a book catering to a fairly niche genre – say non-fiction space colonization. When entered as metadata, you expect it to help your book rank uniformly, internationally. But sales refuse to pick up. As it turns out, your book is not easily discoverable by key search engines in that market – say Baidu in China – because it promotes Chinese language metadata over English metadata.  Potential readers may well have an appetite for this subject and are even selecting other titles similar to yours.  Your book’s missed out because they just can’t find it.

The good news is that there is a solution; when properly translated and put in place, metadata can help your books garner new readers and more sales, whatever language they may be in. According to the ‘Nielsen US Book Study: The Importance of Metadata for Discoverability and Sales’, titles that have all of the basic metadata elements, along with a cover image, achieve average sales that are 75 percent higher than those without this information.

Book Metadata: A Quick Overview

At its core, book metadata helps search engines connect readers to your book. By providing a means for search engines to index online information, metadata helps users find the content or product they are seeking. For book publishers, this is especially important, since metadata will lead potential readers to your book titles. When someone types a query into a search engine, that search tool rapidly reviews countless web pages to find metadata that best meets the query; depending on the metadata, your book could show up in the results. With online booksellers having their own search engines, your goal is to have your book rank high in readers’ search results. The higher up your book appears in the searches, the better chance it has to be discovered and to get sold.

The level of detail, accuracy, and relevance of your book’s metadata can directly impact its visibility. Typically, a book’s metadata information includes:

  • International Standard Book Number (ISBN), book title, and subtitle
  • Names of author and contributors
  • Description of the book, along with a synopsis and a cover image
  • Date of publication, as well as the publisher’s name and imprint
  • Subject matter and genre
  • Price of the book
  • Target audience
  • Table of contents
  • Excerpts, reviews, and quotes

Here is a visual example from a book published by Enago (English Idiot, I Hate You!):

Precise Translations Mean Stronger Metadata

If metadata is a critical part of book publishing, then correctly translated metadata is perhaps even more significant. When someone is searching for a book, inaccurate translations will make the book difficult to locate and can make all the difference between a sale and a browse-by.

This is particularly important for ESL (English as a second language) readers, since their search engines often default to native language metadata. Furthermore, the readers themselves will respond better to native information even if they are familiar with English.

The primary benefits of book metadata translation include:

  • A Clear Increase in Sales
    According to the Nielsen book study referenced earlier, when three descriptive data elements are in place, books sales increase by 72 percent, compared to books that do not have descriptive data. In addition, book titles that have keywords enjoy average sales that are 34 percent higher than titles without keywords.
  • Improved Discovery
    As discussed earlier in this piece, the first and instant advantage of translated metadata is increased visibility for the publication, as the relevant search engines begin indexing the native language data. Readers get to learn more about your book, helping them make a buying decision.
  • Building Regional Relationships
    Providing metadata well in advance of publication can also ensure that supply chain partners in that country can appropriately plan their ordering and stocks of titles. It will also enable readers searching for relevant books to find your title prior to publication, and perhaps even pre-order it. Good relations with retailers and distributors in any region is clearly an advantage; priceless, in a foreign and unfamiliar country.

With more than 1,000,000 books published globally so far this year, having your books stand out is a challenge. Couple that with trying to enter new regions, and it becomes critical for you to have precisely translated metadata for those markets if you want your books to be discovered and bought. As a publisher, this simple step will allow you to reach new customers in target markets and build significant sales overseas for your company and your authors.

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