We all know the success of a book depends largely on its social media presence. There isn’t a debate. That’s how it is now. As society and cultures evolve and morph, so do the marketing methods. The younger generations raised in these new marketing methods learn them like they learn language. It’s second nature to craft a tweet, edit, post aesthetically-pleasing pictures, and know when they’re posting too much or too little. But older generations haven’t had the luxury of growing up in this world. It really is as difficult as learning a completely new language—and not everyone has the ability to take the time to learn it.
Metadata is the language we use to describe products when we are unable to have these products at hand.
I remember, at age eleven, seeing a copy of Lois Duncan’s 1976 young adult horror novel Summer of Fear featuring its original cover art at the Multnomah County Library and knowing immediately that I had to read it. And it wasn’t because I enjoyed the cover design; it was because I could barely look at it.
It’s no secret that the publishing world has a fear of digital technology. Ebooks especially are still often treated as the red-headed stepchild of the publishing world—a wild, untamed format that only those with high-level, specialized skills can attempt to conquer. The fact of the matter is, however, this simply isn’t true. Anyone who sets their mind to it can master the art of creating ebooks, yet most remain afraid to try. Specifically, people seem to be afraid they don’t know enough to even make an attempt.
No matter how brilliant a piece of writing is, if it doesn’t know who the audience should be or doesn’t give enough context about its subject, the writing fails to be read, understood, and shared. It fails to communicate. The same holds true for book design.
The scene opens on a classroom. The students’ eyes are glazed over from the glow of the computer screens, half of them open to D2L, the other to some Instagrammer’s latest post. The professor asks the question, “What is metadata?” and one person, with a fox-like grin on their face, raises their hand and calls out, “It’s data about data.” Everyone breaks out in applause, confetti rains from the ceiling and cupcakes are served. This has happened to me more times than I can count, and yes, a quick hand raise asking for clarification could have solved all my problems but then I wouldn’t have had a blog post idea. So come with me as we take a journey on self-education and find out what all the fuss is about metadata and why you should actually care about it.