Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Word on The Street (Don’t Miss it)

Posted by Scott On September - 24 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Word On The Street is back next weekend with two days of provocative readings and conversation! Join us for a special series on Careers in Canadian Magazines. Learn from magazine editors, designers, freelancers, and fundraisers. Whether your goal is to get paid for your writing or to start your own magazine we’ve got experts to walk you through it. Featuring panel discussions on criticism, opinion writing, digital journalism and the interplay between editorial vision and design. Sunday, September 23. 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Habourfront Centre. Funded by the Government of Canada.


Atlantic Books Today

Posted by Scott On September - 21 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The winter 2018 issue of Atlantic Books Today is a great example of a cover that finds a way of making a cold weather season “warm.”

Editor Chris Benjamin says this:  “In our winter issue we want to offer our readers books as an escape, a way to get away from our northeastern climate’s coldest months. Each book is its own world, its own locale and experience. Many also help make sense of our own world. They are the healthiest, least expensive, most comfortable way to stay warm.”

Taking some inspiration from Cottage Life, who has perfected making winter covers warm and cozy, we chose an illustration to get the job done, and used a warm yellow to help raise the temperature too.  The cover exudes seasonal charm.


In a fabulous article, which I urge you to read, Judging By the Cover: How the Magazine Industry’s Identity Crisis is Playing out on the Front Page, writer Alyssa Bereznak references the historically important, the enduring, yet changing role that magazine covers have played, and will continue to play in the future.

It’s a compelling read.

In the article was this nugget, from the new editor-in-chief of National Geographic, Susan Goldberg:

“Somebody from our marketing department once said to me, it would cost us up to $3 million a month in advertising to get as much exposure to the public as having our magazines out on the newsstand,” said Susan Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of National Geographic. “Even when there were more newstands, it was never our biggest source of revenue, but it’s worth a lot to us to just have it out there and have it in the public consciousness.”

The writer then goes on to point out how the role of the cover is changing at some magazines, like National Geographic:

“They have adjusted their editorial visions, often confronting their brand’s history with more challenging, culturally inquisitive subject matter. Magazine covers are now beginning to better reflect society—not only with their changing cover subjects, but with stories that strive to better understand identity and representation in the world of pop culture and beyond.”

That’s interesting.  Then the writer goes on to say:

“And even science-centric magazines like National Geographic have begun to engage with hot-button issues like gender and race with provocative (if sometimes clumsy) cover subjects.”

Really?  That sounds risky. Tell me more.   Then the writer goes on to say:

“But this enlightened era has also created a fractured audience: younger, less committed readers who exist in the digital sphere, and older, loyal subscribers who feel alienated by change. In a fight for survival, the average mainstream magazine is undergoing an identity crisis. Stop and look, and you’ll see it playing out in the most public place possible: the cover.”

Wow, now we are getting to the “crisis part.”  The writer finally gets to the nub of the “identity crisis”.

“Magazines now face an even greater threat to their leverage: social media.”

Oh.  I see.  So to deal with the new competition from Instagram etc, the writer points out that covers must try to compete for buzz on social media by caring less about newsstand sales, and more about click bait.

Now that a magazine cover’s success is no longer measured by just newsstand sales, they look much different.”

Go on…tell me more.

But as entertainment has proliferated and evolved to serve more niche audiences, editors must now consider what their subjects represent ideologically and why it deserves to be highlighted.”

Must they? Ideologically?  Can you give me an example?  So the writer does…

“National Geographic ran a cover image featuring a 9-year-old transgender girl in January 2017 for an issue dedicated to gender.”

Yes they did.  I remember that one.  So what happened?

Goldberg (the editor-in-chief) said National Geographic’s gender issue drew “hundreds of millions of people” to the magazine’s content on various digital avenues. But it also resulted in the loss of about 10,000 print subscribers, either because they were upset by the content, or disappointed that the magazine addressed it poorly.

Ouch.  That’s rather costly.  The writer then offers this cautionary advice:

…for magazines whose main revenue source still depends on a core group of older subscribers and newsstand readers, revamped covers risk siphoning off valuable revenue sources.”

Fact Check:

The Jan 2017 National Geographic gender issue sold extremely well on Canada’s newsstands.  Sales were up 8,885 copies or 102% from the Jan 2016 issue.  Plus it was the 3rd best-seller in 2017 in Canada.  We like Woke covers apparently.


Posted by Scott On September - 14 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Oct/Nov 2018 issue of Canadian Cycling is set to hit newsstands on September 23rd.

This compelling cover feature story is sure to strike a nerve in the cycling community.

The cover features:

  • Compelling action shot
  • Good use of upper left “real estate” for main sell line
  • Warm feel for Fall
  • Skybar
  • 7 total hooks

Canadian Cycling magazine is on a roll, with 4 straight issues posting sales gains!


O’Canada SIP…Perfect Gift for Christmas!

Posted by Scott On September - 13 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Legion has just released a preview of their final SIP of the 2018 Season, O’Canada…The Best Of Everything.  Senior Designer, Jennifer McGill, has created a bright, energetic cover just in time for the Christmas gift-giving season.

Designer Jennifer McGill says:  “Playing off the success of our O Canada: 150th Special Edition, our second installment, O Canada: The Best of Everything features a bold and eye-catching red maple leaf on a white background, making it pop! A strong typographical heading along with a button highlighting our contributor and native comedian, Ron James along with a clear subhead and enticing skybar provide numerous benefits. This cover says CANADA, strong and proud.”

Editor, Eric Harris says: “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before! O Canada—The Best of Everything is packed with stories and pictures of Canadian people, places, wildlife, cities, culture, feats and innovations. With a hilarious intro by iconic Canadian comedian Ron James, this collector’s edition brings you great inventions, gorgeous landscapes, outstanding animals, cool views and amazing characters—just like Canada itself. From coast to coast to coast—and hundreds of points in between—find out what really makes our country tick.”

It goes on sale November 5th, 2018.  It’s 100 pages thick.  Perfect Bound. Over-sized Trim. And retails for $14.95

You may recall that back in November of 2016, the Legion published their first O’Canada SIP, celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday, which sold 8,814 copies, at a 47% sell-through, with a $14.95 cover price!  Look for this one to sell well too.




Ski Canada Buyers Guide 2019

Posted by Scott On September - 12 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The new Ski Canada Buyers Guide 2019 is the Cover of the Week.

Designed by Truth + Dare (Formally K9 Design), this cover really gets the job done.

I love the bold type treatment in particular.  Nice use of other key elements such as:

  • Cover Slash
  • Good use of Upper Right Corner
  • Good use of numbers to quantify value proposition

Look for this one to sell!

Lumber Jack Shirt a Winner

Posted by Scott On August - 15 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

Congratulations to all concerned at Cottage Life.

Back on June 12th, 2017, I blogged about Cottage Life’s fabulous Going North Cover, which went on sale May 29th, at a $7.99 cover price. (You can see original post by searching the archives for June 2017).  It was Cottage Life’s unique take on Canada’s 150th birthday.

I fell in love with this cover…one of the best, most creative, and clever covers ever by this venerable brand, in my opinion.

So, how did it sell?  Sales were up 13% from the same issue last year!

Plus it was the 2nd best seller of the 2017 year, in a year when Cottage Life posted gains on 4 of their 6 issues…an excellent accomplishment.




In Style Cover Quiz

Posted by Scott On August - 10 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

To illustrate just how tough it is on Canada’s newsstands these days, even for a top brand name American magazines like In Style, take a guess how many of their 12 issues in 2017 sold more than the prior year in the same time slot?

Question #1  Is it:

A.  6 of 12

B.  4 of 12

C.  2 of 12

D. 1 of 12


Now, by what percentage did In Style’s sales in Canada contract in 2017?

Question #2 Is it:

A.  12%

B.  18%

C:  22%

D:  24%


Now, of the first 6 issues of 2018 are concerned, only 1 has sold more copies than the prior year.

Question #3  See if you can guess which one.  Is it:


Jan 2018                                      Feb 2018                                   Mar 2018

Apr 2018                                    May 2018                                   Jun 2018


Answers Below.  No cheating.  No peaking.






Question #1:  If you guessed D, you got it right.

Question #2:  If you guessed C, you got it right

Question #3:  If you guessed Jun 2018, you got it right…it’s up 5,203 copies, selling 25,768 in Canada

  • The Jan issue is down 33%
  • The Feb issue is down 29%
  • The Mar issue is down 18%
  • The Apr issue is down 21%
  • The May issue is down 12%
  • The Jun issue is up 25%


50+ Holiday Cards

Posted by Scott On August - 7 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

In 2015, this Canadian gem was not available in the USA.  But with the help of our distributor, Disticor, we began the process of testing the market.

In 2016 we sold 4,016 copies at a 52% sell-thru.  In 2017 we sold 6,586 copies at a 42% sell-thru.  And the first issue of 2018 is up another 20% on top of that.

The Fall 2018 issue of Creative Scrapbooker goes on sale August 27th, and retails for $12.95.


Emily is Back

Posted by Scott On July - 31 - 2018ADD COMMENTS

The Aug/Sep 2018 issue of Canadian Cycling went on sale July 23rd, 2018.

This cover has a “poster-like” quality about it.

  • Rule #11 says:  White backgrounds work better than black
  • Rule #30 says:  If it works, keep doing it
  • Rule #34 says:  Know when to break the rules

This is one of those times when breaking Rule #11 makes sense.

Way back in 2010, Canadian Cycling featured Emily on the cover (see below), and it was the best-selling issue that year.  So why not try it again!

Canadian Cycling is on a roll.  Their last 3 issues have posted gains from prior year.

Canadian Cycling is a classic Canadian success story.  The magazine debuted on newsstands in 2010.  Today, it outsells its well-healed American competitor by 247%, based on the average sale in 2017; plus in 2018 Canadian Cycling is widening that margin.


About Me

Scott Bullock is a veteran circulation expert with over 38 years experience in both Canada and the United States. He has worked on trade titles such as Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal and Small Press in the USA. In consumer magazines, Scott was the Circulation Director for D Magazine (the city magazine of Dallas, Texas), and in Canada he was the Circulation Director for Toronto Life, Fashion, and Canadian Art. From 2000 to 2004, Scott was a partner at Coast to Coast Newsstand Services. Scott has also held the post of VP Sales & Marketing, for CDS Global, Canada. Currently, CoversSell.Com is Scott’s circulation consultancy. Active clients include: Fly Fusion, Canadian Geographic, Canadian House & Home, Canada’s History, Canadian Real Estate Wealth, Canadian Woodworking, Canadian Cycling, Canadian Running, Canadian Scrapbooker, Legion, Harrowsmith, SkyNews, and SuperTrax.



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