Posts Tagged ‘Folio’

What makes a cover tick? Its artistic merit? Stop-you-in-your-tracks cover blurbs? Incredible colors? Clever photography?

None of the above. What makes a cover tick is its readers’ desire to pick up the issue, open the magazine and plunk down cold, hard cash.

Sucks, huh? We editors and designers think we have it all figured out. We don’t. It reminds me of something Zach Frechette of Good Magazine said when he spoke to a group of us about magazine covers at the 2008 Folio Conference: “Don’t be fooled by the big guys. No one else knows what they’re doing either.”

I was inspired by this post by Folio today. It’s a great article in which the writer asked several editors what their least selling cover was and asked them to analyze the reason for the low sell-through. All of them said some version of the same thing: The readers didn’t connect with the cover. The image here of the Inc. cover is an example. No matter how cute the little girl with the guitar is, readers of this business magazine don’t really connect with her.

We did an experiment at work one time where we had four covers we liked. Our editor thought it would be a great idea to put the four covers on our website and let our readers vote for the winning cover. They did, and, boy, were we way off! The cover we all liked the least won. The colors were awful, the angle of the photo was weird, and it paled in comparison stylistically to the covers that all of us in the office preferred.

The difference was that the winning cover had a big ol’ bass on it. That’s right! That’s what our fisherman readers love most. The thrill of the pursuit, the mastery of the biggest fish in the water, the conquering of bass bigger than what your friends have caught. We know that’s what they like, but we didn’t know they valued that more highly than all the other factors, combined, that make up a cover .

So what makes a good cover? Frechette told us what his art and editorial teams at Good decided on as their rules for each issue:

1. Don’t sell out subscribers. Don’t go for the newsstand look so much that it alienates those readers who have committed to you.

2. Create art. Be proud of what you create. Make it wall-hangable.

3. There’s no secret success formula. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there is. Everyone’s just guessing.

Frechette added that these are the elements the magazine minds look for when creating covers:

  • clever, provocative, fun
  • simple
  • edgy content
  • compelling cover lines
  • bold visuals

What do you look for on a magazine cover? Have you ever bought a magazine because you specifically liked the cover — or not bought one because you didn’t?

Want more related reading? Try out these articles:

Seven Design Principles of Magazine Covers

20 Magnificent Magazine Covers

The Most Controversial Magazine Covers of All Time

Great Magazine Cover Design

Advertisements

Like many Americans my age, I want to move up but am trapped in a restrictive box with walls built from the current economy and taped together by my experience — too much to be considered an up-and-coming newbie, but too little to be considered management material. While I was feeling crushed, I released pressure in different ways — taking on responsibility for a nonprofit modern dance company, volunteering for a homeless counseling center, finding committees and clubs to be active in, and of course, starting this blog.

I am only now, after several years, beginning to see some of the fruits of my labor. Small acknowledgements, like being selected to serve as a judge for Folio’s national magazine awards and being asked to co-chair a committee for the Florida Magazine Association, give me the fuel I need to push forward, to find significance in a career that’s moving slowly but steadily.

Today, I got another such acknowledgement. I opened the newest issue of Redbook to find a snippet of my review of the magazine’s redesign right on page 22! (See photo below — squint to see me at the bottom center of the page!) It wasn’t a total surprise: Editor Jill Herzig had been kind enough to respond to my review by e-mail and ask permission.

I don’t pretend that this small mention (which is being delivered to 2 million homes as I write this!) is going to send my career skyrocketing or make me so famous that my opinion will be highly sought after. What I will take away from this moment, instead, is that some people do listen. Some people notice. I have had amazing responses from some really cool people, including Herzig, Florida Trend’s Mark Howard, and editors at Baltimore Magazine, Time Out Chicago and The Week.

One thing my snug-fitting box has taught me is that, for many people, careers don’t grow by gallops, but by lots and lots of small steps. It is a small but significant step to me to be noticed by some of the most powerful people in publishing. Thank you for sticking with me as I put one foot in front of the other.

–Tyler W. Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review