by Kathy Crawford
As I think back on the tasks that were required to bring Balance Of The Planet to market, I remember confusion and frustration because there were things I just didn’t know how to do. This article is meant to save some other soul a measure of that frustration.
Let’s start with the box. I not concerned with the type of box or outer packaging, only the identifying information.
On the front face is the information that identifies the product. I will leave it to the game designers and publishers to discuss titles and attributions. Behind the names is a graphic image. This graphic image can be a photograph, original art, or any combination. As a self-publisher, you get to pick the graphics that will represent the game. Before you pay for your artwork, find out who will own it. If you are licensing a photograph from Ansel Adams, for example, you will not own it and may have to pay extra to use the art (that is, your box cover) in advertising. You must negotiate the ownership of an original painting even by an unknown artist. When we contracted for the BotP painting we assumed we would own the artwork and didn’t discuss the point until later when we made a mention of where we would store it. If the painter had kept it, he could have legally used it again or sold it to someone else as long as we were guaranteed access to make a new transparency for the box art. Negotiate the ownership or license rights upfront.
Keep the size of the image in mind. If you use borders, as LucasFilm does, the artwork should be sized to the frames. Of course, you will need back, side, and border artwork too. If you use a sleeve, the artwork should be sized to full open size of the sleeve. If you use a pop-up box, the artwork should be sized to the full open size of the box with sides, back, tabs, and overlaps included. Think about the size of packaging and the configuration before you commission the artwork.
Most of the rest of the things you need to know concern the SKU label that will start at the front corner and wrap to the back of the box. First is the color of the label. Did you know that the SPA has a color standard for identifying the hardware configuration? It is voluntary and if you look along the shelves in a computer store, you’ll find that most products have labels that coordinate with artwork rather the SPA guidelines. So much for standards.
The part of the SKU label that ends up on the lower left corner of the front of the box will hold the compatibility information. You should be as specific as you can. Some companies even note the configurations that are not supported. The more specific you are, the fewer upset customers you will get. The part of the label that covers the spine of the box should contain a simple, large indicator of the SKU, like "MAC" or "IBM 3.5" to make it easy to identify even when positioned on the shelf like a book.
The part of the label that extends to the back of the box contains the bar code information. The bar code is derived from the UPC (Universal Product Code). You pay $300 to the Uniform Code Council, Inc., 8163 Old Yankee Road, Suite J, Dayton, Ohio, 45458: (513) 435-3870. After about three weeks they will provide you with a formula from which you determine your own UPC. The UPC is mandatory for retail computer inventory tracking.
The other code that may be added here is the ISBN number -- it’s the one in computer block letters (x-xxx-xxxxx-x). I believe this code is used by libraries and book stores as a reference. It costs no money but takes about six weeks. We haven’t seen it used yet. However because of the educational market, we use this coding system-just in case. The address is R. R. Bowker, 245 W. 17th ST, 9th floor, New York, NY, 10011: (212) 337-7094.
As a final note, if you have time, print the most common of your SKU labels directly onto the box and save some money. Just be sure the other SKU labels are big enough to cover the printed one.