Wednesday, March 10, 2004

March 10, 2004
Another gorgeous day out. Went for a walk with Kathy and the dogs. Birds chirping, the desert quite green and the best news, no bugs—yet.

Samantha passed on a good article on designing covers that sell (CM magazine, March 2004)). Among the findings: the decision to pick up a magazine on the newsstand is typically made at a distance of 6 feet. The average buyer spends 5 to 10 seconds surveying their area of interest on the rack. Once a magazine is picked up, it’s 50% sold. So cover lines must catch the eye of the buyer very quickly and be readable at six feet.

Our editor RG Robertson really got excited about the article, made copies for me and others and highlighted the “Five Most Important Rules of Cover Design.” They are:

1. The major cover line is of paramount importance.

2. The major cover line should convey a benefit. It should provide a reason to buy the magazine right now.

3. The major cover line should be direct. Buyers don’t have time to figure out puns and word play (this relates directly to our May issue which went out the door Monday, see cover).

4. The major cover line is more important than the cover photo (this is a revelation and goes against many of our cover ideas and choices).

5. The cover photo or illustration should augment the major cover line (Duh).

RG took several of our issues and applied the above “rules” to them. They work most of the time and may help explain why certain issues did not sell well (the Vera issue being a good example), but we disagree on several. For example, the February issue of Doc Holliday and the cover lines: “The most famous photo of Doc Holliday. Too bad it’s not him. More fakes inside.”

RG believes the Doc cover lines, according to the rules, do not work. The type’s too small, and the big idea is not clear. I disagree. It’s out on the newsstands right now and we’ll soon have a verdict.

The magazine article also says that a good cover can sell 10% more magazines, and a bad cover can reduce sales by 10%, so a whopping 20% is in the balance.

Which brings us back to the current issue (May). We chose to go with “Iron Horses & Sacred Dogs” as the big idea and then “The Transcontinental Railroad Opens The West” as the secondary head. Based on the CM article, RG believes the secondary head should have been first, or the biggest. I don’t agree. I think the term “Transcontinental Railroad” is tired, overused and would put people to sleep. Interesting dilemma. What do you think? You can click right here to put in your two cents.

”Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

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