Over the last few years, keywords have been discussed at length in the publishing world, and at this point, publishers’ feelings about them range from “probably a good idea” to “critical necessity.” As more publishers start thinking about including keywords in their ONIX metadata, the question becomes not “should we?” but “how do we?” The task of creating and inputting keywords must fall somewhere, and the burden is often handed to sales and marketing teams, or worse, to a single individual. Keywords do increase sales, and they can be considered a kind of marketing metadata, but multiple departments have valuable insight into keywords and should be invested in them.
Who should be contributing keywords
Authors: It feels almost too obvious to say it, but authors have an important role to play in keyword creation. They have an intimate knowledge of their subjects, of course, but they also know their audiences, especially in scholarly and academic publishing. The author may have written with a specific audience in mind or be aware of groups with a particular interest in their topic. And the author’s goal is to get the book into readers’ hands, so they should be heavily invested in keywords as a means to that end.
Acquisitions: As specialists in their fields, acquisitions editors are the best internal resource a publisher has for insight into a book’s subject and audience. As the first point of contact with a manuscript, they can coordinate with the author to create a book’s keywords and set the tone for later additions by other departments.
Digital: The digital products department can contribute to a book’s keywords, especially in cases when an ebook with special features or additional material is being published or when an ebook is being heavily promoted.
Marketing/Publicity: Marketing and publicity teams are already thinking about how to reach their target audiences, and they should consider keywords one of their tools. It could also be helpful to include phrasing from marketing and publicity materials in a book’s keywords since consumers might search for a book based on how it was advertised to them.
Sales: Similar to the marketing and publicity teams, the sales team has the opportunity to incorporate wording from their sales pitches into the keywords. Sales has the added benefit of having a dialogue with buyers, which allows them to see what resonates and emphasize that in a book’s keywords.
The impact of keywords will grow as more major retailers implement them on their websites. Publishers who develop a workflow for keyword creation and curation now will have a competitive advantage when keywords become important in every major marketplace. By getting multiple departments invested and involved in the process, publishers can make keywords more robust, more effective, and less onerous to create.