Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Back in August, CoversSell.com featured the September 2010 issue of Zoomer as Cover of the Week, and predicted great sales.  We called the cover very Vanity Fair-esque.

Happiness is something we all aspire to achieve.  Some pray for it.  But great single copy sales can make us happy, and put a smile on our faces too, eh?
With newsstand sales in 2010 “challenged,” increasing sales by a wide margin is a praise-worthy accomplishment.

The verdict is in from consumers:
1. The issue has the best-ever sell-through efficiency since Zoomer first started publishing, back in October 2008.
2. The issue has by far the best sales result of 2010 to date, with sales up 53% compared to the previous five issues.
3. It beat last year’s September issue by 71% in copies sold, and efficiency was up 20pts.

A fabulous cover and outstanding results!  Congratulations to the team at Zoomer and Coast to Coast.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Every January Azure publishes its annual Houses issue.  And for good reason.  This cover theme is invariably one of their best-selling issues year after year.

Rule #2:  Subject Matter Matters

This year’s cover is particularly striking…kudos to Karen Simpson, art director.  Modern.  Sophisticated.  Warm and vibrant.
The cover takes full advantage of the upper left quadrant to push the main sell line. I predict strong sales on this issue.
Take a moment and try your luck at the Azure Cover Quiz. It’s fun and instructive.


Thursday, December 16, 2010
This cover from Cycle Canada  is not your typical Anniversary issue approach. Not at all serious or pretentious.  No big type treatments.  No special borders.  No benefit-oriented cover lines.  Just a groovy, retro, feel good cover and “try-me” discount pricing.

This risk-taking cover is praiseworthy, and I have a feeling it just might work, despite breaking all the traditional rules.  Sometimes what’s old is new again.  It’s a bold gamble.

Thanks to Peter Van De Geyn, at Coast to Coast, for bringing it to my attention.


Friday, December 10, 2010
Perfectly timed for the Christmas rush, RollingStone magazine’s Playlist Issue is electric and rocking off the shelf.

The intense red screams passion.

The double border signals it’s special.

The silver drop shadow on the  logo and main sell line dazzle and glitter like a Christmas ornament and tinsel.

Plus, the celebrity names lend energy and sex appeal to the entire package of goodies. The draping ear buds are the perfect touch, creating the 3d impact that sets this issue on fire the way only rock and roll can.  Scorching hot cover.


Friday, December 10, 2010
Hello! Canada has scored another “Exclusive”….this time with Celine Dion and her new twin boys.

This will no doubt cause competitors in the Celebrity category to turn green with envy, as Hello! Canada continues to astound the newsstand world with record-breaking sales.

The issue has a 20-page pictoral spread, featuring shots of Celine Dion and family taken at their “tropical-themed home on Jupiter Island, Florida”, according to Hello! Canada’s spokesperson Louise Leger.

This cover is radically clear and compelling.  Beautiful in its simplicity, this cover is sure to sell briskly. On sale December 7th, 2010.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010
While newsstand sales of Playboy have been in steady decline for decades, this cover from December 1953 jump-started a cultural revolution of sexual liberation.

The iconic Marilyn Monroe helped launch one of America’s most iconic brands. 

The magazine is arguably one of the most influential ever, and still creates controversy.

Copies of the launch issue are being sold by Christie’s auction house for $1,500.  Not bad for a fifty cent cover price.

Do you think this belongs in the Hall of Fame? Vote by clicking here.


Monday, December 06, 2010
This amazing cover from Vogue has the star power to wow.  Angelina Jolie is always a big seller for Esquire and Vanity Fair, so why not for Vogue?

We love the fetching “look back” for the ultimate smoking-hot eye contact.  We love the electric pink logo and fabulous corner cover slash.  Great use of cover real estate, type treatments and colour to draw the eye to all the benefit-oriented sell lines. This cover is sure to sell well above average.


Thursday, December 02, 2010
Q. Jason, when I discovered that your job was to focus exclusively on creating covers for Maclean’s and Canadian Business, I got very excited.  As far as I know, you are the only art director in Canada with such a focus.  It seems to me to speak volumes about the importance Ken Whyte places on creating covers that sell.  Do you have the best job in Canada?

A. YES I DO.  But it’s actually a  surprisingly complicated job if you read on..

Q. Working as you do on a weekly (Maclean’s) and a bi-monthly (Canadian Business) you need to crank out roughly 80 covers a year, plus SIP’s.  How many variations do you mock up, on average, for each issue before getting down to putting the polish on the final product?

A. On average 35 distinct versions. On top of this the “polish” involves a lot of variations. It’s not uncommon to have a wall full of printouts of the cover even after the main image and headline have been decided upon.
Q. Congratulations on winning the Gold Award for best SIP for your amazing Micheal Jackson cover at the Canadian Newsstand Awards.  It was great to see you mingling with all the circulation and newsstand folks that night.  How do you think we can get more art directors to party with us circulation nerds?

A. Thanks. If you just want to party with Art Director types you could come over to the Communist Daughter on a non-weekend night. If you want to get a dialogue going I think your site is a great starting point. Art directors too often look at circulation, newsstand and publishers as being all about the numbers without realizing that their own work is underpinned by numbers. I think you can go too far trying to second-guess audience but “numbers” can be an amazing one way mirror for more artistic types.

Q. SIPs are all the rage these days, which I love, because they prove that vertical content has value, and that if packaged beautifully, they will pay a premium to get more, and to get a high quality magazine.  Talk to us about the value proposition of magazines relative to a greeting card?

A. I have a feeling that people are going to the internet for pure information and going to paper products when they want something to put on their coffee table, give as gifts, remember, hold on too etc.  S.I.P.s have spines, metallic ink, a thought-out design, attention to typography, singular iconic images.  They have a look that lasts and I imagine the good ones will just keep growing in the market. Various digital media are putting pressure on Art Directors and Editors to make magazines that you really want to get in your hands physically. I think that pressure is a good thing.  I hand-make all my cards so I can’t speak to the greeting card market, but I really wish Gary Larson would come out of retirement.

Q. What are your 3 favourite covers you’ve done for Maclean’s, and why?

A. March 09, 2009 “Is democracy dying” It’s somehow dignified and shocking at the same time.  March 15, 2010 Olympic SIP, looks utterly simple and obvious but it really captured something.  Sept 13, 2010, “The Donut War” Iconic and funny…it’s got a punchy simplicity that worked. Right now, I ‘m most excited by Maclean’s first ever large-format year in pictures. We’re going Hello! sized format, kind of classic like those 1950s/60s Life magazine focusing on the images that shaped 2010, from Olympics to volcanoes to Obama to Haiti some really big events with extraordinary photography this year writ large.


Q. What are your 3 favourite covers you’ve done for Canadian Business, and why?

A. February 15 2010, “Is Apple Really a Threat to Blackberry “my own drawing, design and idea, and it sold well , August 16, 2010, “Retire Happy” A simple clean solution to provide an alternative to  happy couple on a sunset beach.  September 27, 2010, “Sex isn’t selling” a good clean (yet sexy) solution to a cover story that’s not easy to sell.


Q. Who are some of the great magazine art directors whose work you’ve admired, and why?

A. Leanne Shapton (gave me my start and shared her unparalleled intuition and purpose) , Antonio De Luca (How to really drive), Christine Dewairy (The voice of elegance), Una Janicijevic (undersung brilliance through details), Ken Whyte (a decisive eye in a grey world—and yes he is sort of an art director)

Q. Many of the top-selling covers (See my Hall of Fame section) of all time have been covers that have been controversial in some way…how important is that, not only to sales, but to keeping magazines vibrant, newsworthy, and essential?

A. I think that controversy is the by-product of vibrancy, newsworthiness and relevance. Humour is another by-product. Real discussion and debate is another. I don’t think that controversy in and of itself is much of a lasting goal for an Art Director or Editor.

Q. I’ve just completed a study of the past 11 years of Vanity Fair covers.  When they get it right, they have sold over 700,000 copies, when they have gotten it wrong, as few as 260,000.  At a $5.95 cover price, the stakes are very high, as millions of dollars can be made or lost simply based on the cover choice.  Can you share with us a little bit about who gets invited to participate in the process at your shop?

A. Developing a cover always starts with the stories themselves. I then start looking at images, sketching out ideas to represent the stories with some help from our photo department. Then I print out a bunch of ideas, sometimes 50 or 60 possibilities. There are ten or twelve people in our cover meetings, mostly editors, occasionally writers and interns looking at cover possibilities and images on a wall as you would on the newsstands. I sort of take in all the voices and if I’m lucky, distill it down to just a few options. We also use some testing and polling to get a sense of our larger audience. At Maclean’s especially it’s important to get a sense of what stories from the news are most interesting to people all over the country. I also look to our amazing art department for advice on making things work design-wise. Later in the process I spend a lot of time with Richard Reddit, our godfather of Photoshop.  When our cover is looking pretty close we have a consumer marketing group that looks closely at all the covers from a newsstand perspective. I also work with incredible photographers, type designers, illustrators, and other experts depending of what the cover calls for.  Ken Whyte is generally the final eye on all the work that I do at Rogers. And a keen one at that.

Q. Describe the three most important ingredients that need to be present to create a monster newsstand sale.

A. CLARITY and TIMING. But Clarity is a complicated ingredient which may contain mixtures of voice, humour, beauty, surprise, personal connection, tension, colour theory, sense of movement, narrative, etc.

About Me
Scott Bullock

Scott Bullock is the the creator of Coverssell.com. Bullock has worked as circulation director for both consumer and B2B magazines including Toronto Life and FASHION.

Note to readers: some of Bullock's posts may refer to his clients.
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