Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You have 8,855 pixels ... what will you do with them?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (like you have a choice!) is to sell your product. Your #1 marketplace is Kindle. And that means the challenge comes down to this:

You have 8,855 pixels to make your statement, grab your potential customer's attention and get them to load your page. That number of pixels is the area of an image that is 115 high and 77 wide ... on-screen, it's about the size of a postage stamp, yet this is the area you have to work with, and your mission is to bait a visual hook with a tempting, appetizing visual worm, chuck it in the water and see if you get any nibbles.

As you can see from the cover above, the NARC books ... at last! A long, long last! ... are being rejacketed, and they're on their way to Kindle. And it's a measure of the power of Amazon Kindle, at least as far as writers like Mel Keegan are concerned, that without Kindle editions available in MK's store, the NARC books have, over the space of the last couple of years, gone from being his #1 money spinner to way under-performing on the Keegan list. Kindle is that important. (Sure, other writers do better at places like All Romance Ebooks; but Mel Keegan doesn't write pure romance, and ARE is not the place for him. Kindle, however, has been the best thing that ever happened for Mel!)

So, as I've been working on getting the text all unformatted and reformatted for the Kindle editions, I've had my thinking can on, and have been pondering how to rejacket the NARC books for Kindle; and a major part of the question has always been, "How do I make classic science fiction covers look good at the size of postage stamps?

It ain't easy. It took three pairs of eyeballs and about four hours to get the design right, and my Serif desktop looked like this, below, even after I was done in DAZ Studio and Photoshop:

The process was one of trial and error. Basically, you chose the cover elements you needed and re-re-rearranged them, and re-re-resized them, till they looked good at 300 pixels high (as needed by OmniLit, which is All Romance Ebooks's more general retail partner), and at 150 pixels, which is the biggest size that's useful on routine webpages, and finally at 115 pixels high, which is how they're going to be showing up at Kindle.

Oof. The picture elements are -- well, the characters, obviously. Jarrat and Stone. A gunship, the cityscape, the riot armor, a spacescape, the NARC logo rendered in Mad Max style chrome, and a lot of flare and glare off all that shiny metal. Plus the title of the individual book (in this case it's the first of the series, Death's Head), and by golly, did we forget something? Oh yeah ... the writer's credit. Ahem.

And this, at left is what it's all about. The net result at 115 pixels high ... because as the potential customer scans down the list of books pulled up by searches such as "gay science fiction" or "adult techno SF" or "techno thriller" or what have you, s/he is going to see a series of postage stamps. So your postage stamp had better be a doozie, because you have one shot to try to grab attention and at least make the customer load the page.

At the same time as issuing the novels via Kindle, we're also repackaging them in the epub format, and in the next week or so Dave will hopefully be reviewing three of the best ebook reader apps, which suit the new Android tablets. In fact, we just got one in order to test various formats before releasing ebooks in this and that visual style. The iPad is way too expensive, but the Android tablets are astonishingly cheap, and from what we've learned lately, they're literally flooding into public hands. These inexpensive little devices, along with the burgeoning Android app marketplace, are in the process of giving a terrific boost to the very serious business of ebooks. I'm very impressed. More about that later!

One cover down, four to go, to get the NARC series rejacketed. Then, the only books to repackage for the Mel Keegan list are the HELLGATE novels. Speaking of which, #5, Hellgate: Flashpoint, is a matter of weeks away. With any luck at all, it'll be in your hands by the end of October!

Jade, October 6
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