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Make Your Books More Discoverable with a Good Description & Author Bio

By Jake Handy, @jakehandy

When publishers think metadata, they generally think small: discrete BISAC subject codes, Thema subject codes, keywords, audience codes, and others. Improving these more compact bits of data is the first line of defense for your book’s overall metadata health.

But there's more to metadata than just the small stuff. Have you considered a second look at your description? What about your author biography?

These narratives are just as important to enhance as categories and other short-form attributes. That being said, whereas improving a BISAC subject code often means selecting a more effective code from a list, there is much more nuance in developing a rich and relevant description or biography.

Book Descriptions

The description for your book is key to helping the reader understand, in short-form, what your book is about as well as an opportunity to convince readers to buy your book. This is a lot to convey in a few short paragraphs; the Amazon book description limit is 1,900 characters. Although other description guidelines range between 200 - 4,000 characters, it helps to build your description around the Amazon constraint to ensure maximum compatibility with retailers, libraries and other book partners. 

Optimizing your description for Amazon will also optimize your book discoverability for Google and other search engines, as Google will utilize the headline of your description in searches. The headline is the part of your description that is “above the fold,” or is visible above the “Read more” link in the description. These opening sentences are the very first marketing content that prospective buyers will see after the title, authors and other basic metadata. You can see an example of this on the Amazon book page below.

Tips to Optimize Your Book Description Headline:

The headline’s job is to serve as an “elevator pitch” for your book across the internet and hook potential readers. Everything beyond the headline must also be constructed to keep them engaged.

Tips to Optimize Your Book Description Body

Into the narrative portion of your description, keep the following things in mind:

  • Utilize HTML formatting. This should include paragraph breaks to add structure and emphasis.
  • Include consumer keywords and phrases. Try to work these in where they makes sense.
  • Write with a natural reading flow. These several paragraphs should be enjoyable to read and should reflect the quality of the writing within the book.
  • Avoid information that is available in the book’s other metadata. This includes metadata such as publishing date or subject codes.
  • Include any awards or honors. Be concise in mentioning your book’s honors. Mentioning that the book is available in a celebrity’s reading list is important but shouldn’t be described beyond a simple bullet in a list or a sentence.
  • Be aware of what Amazon restrictsfrom descriptions. This includes this such as offensive content, price of the book, reviews, quotes, and any time-sensitive information. (View a full list here.)

Author Biography

As online discovery grows, so does the importance of a well-crafted author biography. While this information may be included within the book itself (on the front or back inside flap of the book cover), author biographies are also stored within various retail databases and search engine results.

Because of this, it’s important for biographies to be as helpful and accurate as a good book description. Additionally, there are restrictions for specific retailers such as Amazon that need to be closely considered.

Tips to Optimize Your Book’s Author Biography

  • Don’t use HTML. Unlike descriptions, you will want to avoid HTML completely for author biographies; some retailers will reject biographies with any HTML included.
  • Balance your character count. Most retailers will have a character limit; either a minimum, maximum or both. Amazon requires a minimum of 100 characters and will remove any biography under that count.
  • Concise is better. Keep your author bio concise; ideally around 4-5 full-length sentences.
  • Relate to the consumer. Include interesting information about the author — location of birth, location of death (if applicable), and fun aspects of their day-to-day life will help potential consumers relate to the author.
  • Don’t include links. A link to an author’s website or Goodreads page is only going to take a reader out of the buying process and back into the browsing process. Keep prospective buyers on task!
  • Celebrate the author. Feel free to include things like awards received or prior popular published titles when you write an author bio.
  • Have fun with it! Consumers enjoy reading a biography that paints the author in a unique light and allows them to get a glimpse at their personality.

Both book descriptions and author biographies should be written with as much care as the content of your book itself. Spending the extra time to improve this metadata or taking advantage of a white-glove metadata enhancement service will give your book a discoverability edge over other titles that have poor descriptions and author bios or are lacking them entirely. Adhere to the tips listed here and you will be off to a great start to position your book ahead of the pack.


Improve Discoverability & Maximize Sales with Ingram’s Smart Metadata

Smart Metadata, from Ingram, is a book metadata improvement service that helps you improve your books' discoverability through data-driven analysis and industry expertise. 

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