Has there ever been a more exhilarating title than this one? How could you not click?
Amazon has been rolling out a spicy new way to dress up book (and possibly other items?) sales pages. Billed as a feature-rich opportunity to entice passing visitors in much the same way as an arm-waving flailing inflatable tube man might coerce a curious driver into a dealership lot, the A+ Content feature offers authors those tube men and says go.
Now, an aside: for years, the core part of a sales page, not just on Amazon but anywhere, has consisted of a product image coupled with a product description. You'd have a few paragraphs, some rudimentary formatting tools (better know basic HTML if you wanna bold that text!), and that was about it. For all its utilitarian limitations, it at least made putting up a product relatively easy.
I wandered into these new waters the other day, curious to see what I might find. In short, I have to give Amazon credit for the options on offer here. First, there are modules aplenty, offering easy ways to arrange new content without needing any coding knowledge. Layering text on an image can be done right there within the A+ content maker, a cool effect that, before this, would require a fancier image editing tool.
Amazon also lets you layer on modules too, stacking images and tables and text to create the static media (no gifs or videos, folks) of your dreams. Best, at the end, they simply allow you to pick the ASINs you want to display all this juice on. Apply, get your content approved, and bam. It's all there.
I'm going to look at the negative bits and pieces in a second, but I have to say, as an author, this is a really neat toy to play with. I own my own website, so with some time and effort I could set this up here, but guess what? Most people looking for my stories don't come here to shop. They're at Barnes and Noble, they're at Amazon. In short, investing the time to turn a page on this website fancy isn't a good payoff.
Turning an Amazon sales page that gets tons of clicks every day into a better, more fun space? That makes more sense.
Now, all's not perfect in A+ land, though I'll again say that for a relatively new tool, the offerings here are impressive.
First and foremost, every image module on offer in A+ seems to demand different image sizes. That means clipping and snapping your chosen images into odd boxes, which in turn means you'd better be handy with that crop tool. I've been using the excellent Adobe Spark, which is a rapid, efficient way to make minor image adjustments at whatever size you need. Loading all these up in Photoshop for the full suite would take forever.
For the initial Sever Squad A+ content, I had to resize at least 10 images. Many more as I played around with ideas. Not hard work, but tedious. If Amazon offered a dynamic cropping solution within the A+ editor, it'd save so much time.
Second, there's not much guidance on image file sizes or the number of modules we can stick on our pages. Can we throw five or six different ones on there, or is the expectation more like three? This might not seem like a big deal until all the big authors/publishers in your genre leverage their artists to create reams of beautiful images. That's time I'd rather spend writing, and that someone without image editing experience is going to have to spend money to match.
Last, Amazon has the weird distinction of separate marketplaces by country. For example, going to amazon.co.uk is going to take you somewhere different than amazon.com. What crosses over between these marketplaces is a mystery, but A+ content isn't, by default, one of them. On the one hand, this allows those with the time and resources to do so to create language/marketplace-specific content. On the other, now I've gotta manually add this in everywhere.
I'd love it if Amazon gave us a simple option to add this in across the globe, in every marketplace.
All that being said, I'll take some inefficiencies for a chance to spice up my sales pages. The new images, blurb space are a chance to indulge a little creative fun within worlds outside of the page. And if you have a favorite author out there, take a peek on their Amazon page soon and see if they're doing anything fun.