There’s a lot going on in the background as I move a number of manuscripts toward publication, so this series of posts will capture some of the inputs and things I learn along the way for Horizon, The Lenticular and 2 Bodies (which is definitely a working title). Horizon is up first.
For those not interested in the intricacies of self-publishing, look away.
With Horizon off to the printers – or rather the print-on-demanders (the days of unsold boxes of books in your garage is long gone, thank God) – it’s important to finalise the metadata for the book, because that’s the way bookshops, libraries and general readers will find it.
The most important element of the information attached to the book is the ISBN (or International Standard Book Number) a unique identifier for your book. In Australia, ISBNs are sold and managed by Thorpe Bowker. But the website that sells ISBNs is called – unhelpfully – myidentifiers.com.au. It’s an old site in need of a user-friendly upgrade. It feels set up for industry professionals. I’m a small press publisher so I have a bit more knowledge of the backend processes but I still have trouble navigating the book set up fields.
Purchasing and assigning and ISBN is easy enough, but then there’s assigning a distributor, BISAC codes and keywords. The distributor field is where the myidentifiers site shows it’s age. There’s no dropdown to select common distributors. I use Ingram Spark. Ingram is the biggest book distributor on Earth, but even so you have to click on a link to send an email to someone in the backend to assign that distributor to your book. Interestingly the email goes to some group in the US, despite this being an Australian site.
The next hurdle is BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Associations) Subject Codes. These help you define the categories for your book so booksellers and readers can find it by searching for the type of book. They’re fairly self-explanatory. Horizon is classified as Fiction / Science Fiction / Space Exploration and Fiction / Science Fiction / Crime & Mystery. Click the links and you’ll see it’s in pretty good company.
The clunky thing about myidentifiers is that if you select a BISAC code and want to change it later, you have to send an email to another guy who will go in and change if for you. Are you sensing a pattern yet? Anyway it’s a pain.
The final key element of metadata is keywords, and I have to say I think this one is purest snake oil. There are numerous writing advice blog posts out there that tell you how to ‘choose your keywords for success’. The idea is that you attach keywords to your book that are already highly searched by book readers. First you have to know what those keywords are. There are tools for you to labriously enter keywords you’ve thought up and see how these rank in Google searches. Clearly you could drive yourself mad doing this – and waste a lot of time. The other aspect of keywords is: if you haven’t written a book that is about the buzziest keywords you can find, you’re pretty stuffed. Say the most searched keywords are ‘soap’, ‘left-hand screwdrivers’ and ‘tartan paint’. Horizon is about none of those things, so I’m screwed. For the record, Horizon‘s keywords are: environment; climate change; artificial intelligence; and transhumanism. I did my best.
I’m now looking at advertising options. You can spend a LOT of money on advertising, pay per click or otherwise. I’ll spend a little and see how things go. I’m not actively seeking professional reviews. This is the print version of a seven year old ebook, so I don’t expect reviewers to be that interested (however I will go all out of reviewers for The Lenticular when it’s ready).
Will people find and read Horizon? I hope they will and I hope they enjoy it. But I – and every other self-published author – have very little power over whether or not that will happen. It is the proverbial crap shoot. But that’s okay. I know Horizon is a good book. I’m very happy to have written it – and luckier than most to have the ebook published by HarperCollins. If people do find and enjoy the print version, that will be an added bonus.
Picture Credit: “Metadata” by gabitogol is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .