Rules are there to be broken. At least, that appears to be the thinking of many in the UK publishing industry.

BIC – Book Industry Communication – describes itself as,

an independent organisation set up and sponsored by the Publishers Association, Booksellers Association, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library to promote supply chain efficiency in all sectors of the book world through e-commerce and the application of standard processes and procedures.

Unfortunately it seems many publishers only pay lip-service to BIC guidelines, as for example the BIC Statement on Best Practice for Subtitle Field in Metadata Feeds, issued March 9 2018.

Said the BIC in its sternest voice:

Some publishers and other metadata providers are using the subtitle, and sometimes the title fields, in metadata feeds to carry marketing and promotional text. By this we mean using phrases such as ‘Sunday Times Best Seller’, ‘Gripping read from…’, ‘The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017’, ‘” The best thriller writer alive” Another Author’, ‘Man Booker prize winner’ and so on. It is important for discoverability, good customer experience and an efficient data supply chain that these data fields reflect only the true title and subtitle text that appears on the title page.

The statement goes on,

There has been a significant escalation of this practice over the last twelve months, despite consistent feedback from BIC members across the book trade that this is causing substantial time-consuming work to correct at various points throughout the supply chain. BIC has seen numerous examples that are confusing and misleading for consumers trying to make a buying decision. Feedback received to date also reveals this poor practice is having an adverse effect on supply chain efficiency both in terms of the timing of product to market and costs incurred by retailers and aggregators having to remove the unwanted text.

The statement further notes that,

Amazon’s ONIX Submission Guidelines emphasise the importance of Title and Subtitle as they “drive many of the processes to build clear and customer-friendly detail pages. […] As a general rule, do not append anything else in [these elements] besides what actually appears on the [book].” Its KDP metadata guidance also states that title and subtitle in the metadata must match the book itself.

For additional clarity, Amazon spells out the guidelines for its KDP publishers:

Book title

Titles are the most frequently used search attribute. The title field should contain only the actual title of your book as it appears on your book cover. Missing or erroneous title information may bury valid results among extraneous hits. Customers pay special attention to errors in titles and won’t recognize the authenticity of your book if it has corrupted special characters, superfluous words, bad formatting, extra descriptive content, etc. Examples of items that are prohibited in the title field include but aren’t limited to:

  • Unauthorized reference to other titles or authors
  • Unauthorized reference to a trademarked term
  • Reference to sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”)
  • Reference to advertisements or promotions (e.g., “free”)

After the March 2018 BIC statement UK publishers took not a blind bit of notice.

In April 2018 TNPS ran a story noting how over half the Kindle Top 100 titles were ignoring the guidelines.

Over half the top 100 titles on Kindle UK are breaking the metadata rules. A third of the Kindle US top 100 today are Amazon imprint titles.

Fast forward August 2019 and its clear some publishers have no compunction about ignoring the BIC and Amazon’s own rules about metadata usage. The view seems to be, if no-one is enforcing the rules, why play by them?

As of noon today, August 21, the following twelve of the Top 20 “Most Sold” titles on Amazon UK clearly ignore both BIC and Amazon metadata rules:

#1 One Minute Later: the emotionally gripping Richard and Judy summer pick from the bestselling author

#2 The Man Who Didn’t Call: The OMG Love Story of the Year – with a Fantastic Twist 

#3 And So It Begins: A brilliant psychological thriller that twists and turns

#4 The Holiday: The bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club summer thriller

#7 Sleep: The most suspenseful, twisty, unputdownable thriller of 2019! 

#8 The Sting: The most explosive crime thriller of 2019 from the No.1 bestseller 

#9 The Strawberry Thief: The new novel from the bestselling author of Chocolat

#11 The Silent Ones: An absolutely gripping psychological thriller

#12 The Lemon Tree Hotel: An enchanting story about family, love and secrets that is perfect for summer!

#14 The Family Upstairs: The Number One bestseller from the author of Then She Was Gone

#16 DARKNESS ON THE FENS a totally addictive crime thriller filled with stunning twists

#18 The Tattooist of Auschwitz: the heart-breaking and unforgettable international bestseller

Both the BIC and Amazon UK have been asked for comment, but as this post goes live none has been forthcoming.