Earlier this year, we wrote about the implications of these two facts:

  • More than four in 10 (42%) book recommendations received by readers are now transmitted by online channels.
  • Close to half of book buyers’ book purchases are now made online.

And we noted the key role that solid metadata plays in the ability of booklovers to discover and buy books online.

But there’s something about the word “sales” that really drives home the point of how publishers must have good metadata powering their websites, and their marketing in general.

The more metadata, the more sales

A recent Nielsen Book US Study, The Importance of Metadata for Discoverability and Sales, presents research illustrating the effect of metadata on book sales.

Specifically, the study shows what each additional layer of metadata – from the most basic elements (e.g., a book jacket being attached to a title listing) to more descriptive elements (e.g., description, reviews, etc.) and keywords – does to increase sales of books in three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and juvenile fiction. The study focuses on the top 100,000 best-selling titles in the US from July 2015 to June 2016.

The basics

The study found that books with the following data elements achieved an average of 75% higher sales than those that didn’t (and for fiction titles specifically, the sales boost is even greater: 150%).

  • ISBN
  • Title
  • Format/Binding
  • Publication Date
  • BISAC Subject Code
  • Retail Price
  • Sales Rights
  • Cover image
  • Contributor

For publishers, assuming the 75% increase, that’s the difference between selling 20 books and 35 books. And for fiction, a 150% increase moves sales from 20 books to 50 books.


These are massive changes, and most of the effect can be traced to the presence of a cover image.

The following graph from the study shows the sales performance of books with and without cover images:


Descriptive elements

The study analysts conducted a neat exercise measuring the effects of three elements of descriptive metadata: (1) title description, (2) author biography, and (3) reviews – in isolation and then combined.

For both fiction and non-fiction titles, a progressive uptick in sales occurred in tandem with each additional descriptive element in place. The impact of robust descriptive book data on fiction sales is particularly impressive, with sales nearly tripling when all three descriptive elements were present versus no descriptive elements attached to a book.

The exception to the progressive bettering of sales data linked to fuller metadata was juvenile fiction, where including just one descriptive element was more advantageous than including all three. The study authors note that, “Looking at the children’s titles that hold just one descriptive data element, we find the bestselling among them are board books, coloring books and classics – where descriptive data is less relevant, as the titles are already known to the consumer.”



In an online marketplace awash with books and dominated by bestsellers with big marketing budgets, keywords are essential marketing tools. As the study authors explain, keywords can include:

  • Character names, locations or associated organizations
  • Broader descriptive terms where the title may straddle more than one classification
  • Additional information on themes covered in the book
  • Related titles or authors

As you can see from the next graphic, keywords matter, and it would be bonkers not to include them in data records.


Why ReaderBound makes sense for publishers

In brief:

  • ReaderBound was developed by experts in bibliographic metadata – including Doug Plant and Craig Riggs – who have long experience in book publishing and publishing technology.
  • It was designed specifically for book publishers, and there is no other website platform that is built expressly to leverage book publishers’ metadata so they can compete better in the online marketplace.
  • ReaderBound comes with a dedicated team of experts on hand for publishers’ questions about how to use data to better reach and sell to audiences.

We could go on, but instead we’ll invite you to drop us a line for a proper chat. For now, here’s some information about ReaderBound that you might like to look at.

Happy Holidays!