Thursday, June 19, 2003

June 19, 2003
Last week I typed up some info on “creating covers that sell.” I got the tidbits out of CM (Circ. Mangmnt) magazine and put it in every staffer’s box. Among the nuggets:

• Buzzwords sell: “Collector’s Edition” is a proven winner on the newsstand (Boy Howdy!).

• The Sweet Spots: The most valuable space on the cover is “the inverted L” just below the top trim and the space that runs along the bind side. “This is the only part of a magazine cover that shows, when the magazine is stacked in a tightly merchandised newsstand rack. You should plan the design of this space carefully, and perhaps use graphic elements such as sunbursts and banners on the upper left hand corner of your covers to attract a browser’s eye.”

• Clutter Sells: “While many editors and art directors loathe clutter, the truth is that in the retail environment, the more selling messages you have on your cover the more likely it will sell.”

• Numbers Win: “Focus group studies show, that the use of numbers works well with the retail customer. Designing a cover that shouts ‘10 Great Ways to...’ attracts interest and sales.” Our 50 Guns (big headline) issue doubled our newsstand sales.I repeat, it doubled our sales.

On Tuesday I got a heads up from Dan Buck that the Washington Post has done a hilarious take on magazine’s sudden infatuation with numbers on the cover. Here’s the opening:

“Lists have long been a staple of the magazine biz, but lately things have gotten out of hand. In April, Spin, the rock mag, ran an all-list issue. In its June issue, Bassmaster, the fishing glossy, celebrated its 35th anniversary with five lists, each with 35 items, such as "America's 35 Most Important Bass Waters.'' Book, a magazine that covers literature, now runs lists called "the 100 Best Characters in Fiction" and "50 Best Adventure Books." Even Time, which was once above this sort of thing, recently ran "Nine Smashing Car Chases," a list from cinematic history.

To view the entire article, go to 2003Jun16.html?referrer=emailarticle
Yesterday, I got a call from Robert Ray at the printer in Kansas City and I asked him how it was going and he said, “Good. It’s a great plant. Banta does an excellent job. The press checks have been right on the money.” I asked him how the cover looked. Long pause. “Wellllll, I don’t know,” Robert mused. I asked if it looked bad. “They blew it up to three feet and it was waiting for me in the hallway.” “And?” I asked, suddenly worried about our Stop The Presses baby. “And,” Robert proceeded, “it’s real scary.” And I said, “The cover, or the design?” And Robert said, “Both.” Yikes! That blew my confidence right out the window.

This morning I got into the office and opened a letter from a reader and this is what it said:

“Dear Sir: You are the biggest jackass in the history field. I recommend you get out at once.” Among other advice (“please send one of your minions over to New Mexico”), the reader weighs in on my cover choice (Digging Up Billy): “The better cover for True West would not have been that grotesque drawing of Billy the Kid arising from his grave but rather a drawing of his head in a jar of formaldehyde with his blue eyes glistening. Now that would be sensational and historically correct.”

I’m not sure which advice I’ll take: the cover suggestion, or the jackass suggestion, but I guess the bigger question is, will my Billy Day of the Dead cover be my personal Bay of Pigs? We’ll soon see.

“Success has a hundred fathers and failure is an orphan.”
—attributed to JFK after the Bay of Pigs

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