Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Archive for September, 2010


Posted by Scott On September - 22 - 2010

The Oct/Nov 2010 issue of Canada’s History (formally The Beaver) hits newsstands on September 27th. This will be the fourth issue since the venerable magazine re-branded.

This cover subscribes to the notion that when in doubt, commit to the main cover subject in a radically clear way.  No need to add hooks that will distract the newsstand browser from the main selling propostion.  The sky bart too, which often offers three addtional reasons to buy, has been honed down to push just one story.

Rules in play on this issue:

Rule #12:  Use Bold Type

Rule #21: Use Numbers

Rule #24: Always ask:  What are we selling?

This cover demonstrates that we are selling a major milestone in Military History in Canada…so why be shy about it?

Look for special POP displays at Chapters/Indigo, HDS and Presse Commerce locations.

Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant business knows how fiercely competitive it is, and how fickle foodies can be with their affections and loyalties.  One day you are the flavour of the month, and the next you are out of business.  Just ask Gourmet.  So it goes with food covers.  Get it right, and the customers hungrily devour you.  Wallets emerge, open and disgorge themselves willingly and with joy.  Fail to impress, and you’ve got a stinking, rotting mess.
(Note:  Edible Manhattan is not ABC Audited)

Reality Check on Bon Appetit Cover:

According to ABC statistics, the average sale for the Jul/Dec 2009 rate base period was 113,500 copies sold.  This nominated cover sold 82,000, or 28% worse than the overall average.  With so many excellent, high selling covers to choose from, leaving this stinker on the menu is perplexing.

Reality Check on Atlanta Cover:

City magazines often do exceptionally well with food covers, even though food is not their single-minded editorial focus.  According to ABC statistics, this nominated cover sold 4,950 copies compared to the average of 4,502 for the Jan/Jun 2010 rate base period.  That’s a 10% lift.  Not bad, but not exactly a breath-taking gusher.

Reality Check on Saveur Cover:

This really is an American classic.  Everything about this cover works.  White background.  Corner slash.  Great use of the real estate.  Clean and uncluttered.  Strong supporting sell lines.  According to ABC statistics this was the best-selling cover of the Jul/Dec 2009 rate base period.  It sold 48,429 copies compared to the average of 41,420, for a 17% lift.  That’s delicious indeed.

Reality Check on Texas Monthly Cover:

Is there any doubt what is on the menu with this cover?  Burgers is as prominent as the logo for the Texas Monthly restaurant.  According to ABC statistics, this cover sold 41,591 copies, compared to the average for the Jul/Dec 2009 rate base period of 34,646.  That’s a 20% lift.  Not only was it the best-selling cover of the period, it was the best selling cover since May of 2008.  Now that is indeed mouth-watering.

Reality Check on Food & Wine Cover:

According to ABC statistics, this elegant, refined and perfectly gorgeous cover sold 70,243 copies compared to the 53,911 average sold for the Jan/Jun 2010 period.  That’s a 30% lift in sales.  It was also the best-selling issue of Food & Wine since July of 2008.  The “beautiful science” is irrefutable.  This cover’s scrumptious recipe for success is totally, impossibly, irresistible.


Posted by Scott On September - 18 - 2010

The folks at Maclean’s are on fire.  The September 27th issue, featuring Bill Gates as the Cover Boy, hits stands in what they are calling a first-ever “landscape format.” Maclean’s partnered with General Motors of Canada as the exclusive advertising sponsor of this issue…making the editorial experience an uncluttered and seem-less experience for magazine readers.  The ads feature a QR code for mobile device activation, another Canadian first according to Maclean’s press-release.

Jason Logan put it this way:

“It really was an interactive cover in the sense that you can’t help but pick it up and turn it.
It was fun to work sideways while keeping the logo in its classic position.  We had to test to make sure it would stand up,  but I’ve noticed that some newsstands have it on its side which looks nice too. I have been playing with the apostrophe too (normally a maple leaf) in this case its an arrow symbolizing change and directing you to look at the magazine sideways.  Our own Andrew Tolson photographed Bill Gates for the cover.  Ken Whyte did the interview. Once people pick it up, I hope they check out the inside too, it actually feels really nice to read, pictures look great, somehow it just feels like a luxuriant format though its exactly the same size.  Kind of proof that this old industry still has room to play.”

Another fantastic cover from Jason Logan. This is the stuff that makes publishing sexy, fun and exciting. I can’t wait to see the newsstand sales on this fabulous cover.

Sometimes Smoking is Cool and Black and White Rules

Posted by Scott On September - 15 - 2010

The Walrus has done a classic portrait cover for their October 2010 issue, and I love it.

The photo of Mordecai was taken by Andrew Stawicki.  John Macfarlane says,  “Sometimes the obvious approach is the best approach. An iconic black-and-white photograph of the author of Barney’s Version, Mordecai Richler, to sell the story, written by his son, Noah, about the making of the film.  Simple, powerful, and—we hope—a winner at the newsstand.”

Asked what is the best thing about the cover feature, Macfarlane said, “The best thing about the story is the way it weaves Noah’s memories of his father into the narrative about the making of the film—and his observations about the interplay between Dustin Hoffman and the crew on the set.”

While Rule #11 has been broken…Rule #1 is what matters with this cover.

Rule #1:  There are always exceptions to the rules

Rule #11:  Colour over Black & White

My prediction?  This is a Cover that Sells.


I’ve always considered circulation management to be the “beautiful science.”

While the numbers never lie, the science is never pure.  The multi-layered variables of newsstand sales render it mysterious and therefore thrilling.  Like nature itself, covers have the power to generate breath-taking peaks (on a spread sheet) or gaping chasms.

Beautiful covers can do both.

So let’s examine the empirical data on the ASME nominations in the Science, Technology & Nature category.  Mount Everest or Death Valley?

Reality Check on New York Cover:

Kiss a pig?  I’d rather not, thanks.  According to ABC statistics, this porker sold 13,319 copies, compared to an average sale for the Jul/Dec rate base period of 17,175…that’s 22% worse.  Of the 43 issues published in 2009, only 5 sold fewer copies, ranking it 38th of 43 that newsstand buyers “voted on” with their wallets.  Sick.

Reality Check on New Yorker Cover:

According to ABC statistics, this cover sold 33,500 copies, compared to an average for the Jul/Dec 2009 period of 37,136…that’s 10% worse.  The best-selling cover in the rate base period for the New Yorker sold 55,000 copies…or 64% more.  The beautiful science is ruthlessly simple.  This cover represented a major sacrifice on the alter of art.

Reality Check on Outside Cover:

This disturbing image may not be beautiful, but Outside’s audience sure loved it.  According to ABC statistics, it sold 68,066 copies compared to the average of 59,248 for the Jul/Dec 2009 period…that’s a 15% spike.  It’s also a 32% improvement from the same time slot in 2008.  Risk was rewarded.

Reality Check on National Geographic Cover:

Not a majestic mountain. Not a verdant valley. This cover depends entirely on subject matter selection, a heavy commitment to bold typography, and a clean, less-is-more approach.  Radically clear.  Boldly executed.   According to ABC statistics this issue sold 204,984 compared to the average of 154,389…that’s a 33% improvement.  It was by far the best-seller of the Jan/Jun 2010 rate base period.   The beautiful science is crystal clear…this cover is a winner.

(Note:  The other two covers are not ABC audited)

Magazine Makeover Contest: Reveal

Posted by Scott On September - 13 - 2010

East Coast Living magazine, the winner of the first Magazine Makeover Contest, sponsored in part by CoversSell.Com, has now officially been revealed.

K9 Design took the lead role in the process.   The before-and-after cover look is posted below for viewing. 

East Coast Living also received a complete makeover inside the magazine’s cover too, as part of the free consultation.

The Official Press Release Follows:


East Coast Living Magazine Makeover Revealed
New ECL cover to display on stands with pride among major home decor titles
TORONTO, September 15, 2010  The made-over cover for Nova Scotia-based quarterly, East Coast Living (ECL) magazine, winner of K9 Design’s Magazine Makeover contest, launched today.
The Magazine Makeover Contest, presented by K9 Design, was created to celebrate magazine design and offer one Canadian publisher a complete overhaul of their publication.
The old cover had become dated,said Norm Lourenco, Creative Director at K9 Design. The new cover is a complete metamorphosis and put the living back into East Coast Living.
East Coast Living Publisher, Sheila Blair-Reid comments, We have teamed up with some of Canada’s best to create a wonderful new, slick urban cover. The redesign process has given us an opportunity to reorganize the entire magazine to better serve our readers. It has been an exciting experience and we are still feeling very proud to have been selected as the winner of the makeover. We can’t wait for the launch of the entire issue.”
The top three transformational elements:
1. New Logo: The new ECL cover has a completely overhauled logo; It’s modern, powerful, integrated and will excite readers and advertisers. Moving the logo over to the far left maximizes newsstand visibility. De-cluttering the area around the logo, gives the logo room to breath and encourages the eye to travel more freely to the main image and main selling feature.
2. New Photo Treatment: The new ECL cover uses photography that allows the reader to be a fly on the wall. Every cover moving forward will follow this new standard that places an emphasis on the home but also incorporates signs of life.
3. New Cover Line Esthetic: The new ECL cover lines were revamped from font to placement. Cover lines were reduced and the font size was bumped up and moved to a prime position to radically commit to the main selling feature. We added supporting bullet points to underscore reader benefits and value proposition. The copy is more direct and less cutesy while interesting interrupter devices (both starburst and ribbon) call out important buying messages to consumers. The result is a clean and easy-to-follow esthetic with a defined hierarchy of information.
The prize package also included strategic direction and redesign on interior layouts from K9 Design (to be unveiled in November), circulation consultation from, digital publishing from Dawson Communications NXT Book Media, printing services from Ironstone Media, core promotional printed product from Annex Printing, and stock photography from iStockphoto.
Entries spanned British Columbia to Nova Scotia with industry vets who made up the judging panel. All agreed that out of the four finalist publications, East Coast Living was the best example of a book that could catapult to the next level if given the opportunity to make over its brand. Judges included: Scott Bullock, principle at, Circulation Solutions; Brian Stendel, President of Keystone Media; Doug Bennet Publisher, Masthead and Design Edge; Kathy Ullyott Editor-in-Chief Homemakers; Norm Lourenco Creative Director, K9 Design Co.; and Brittany Eccles, Deputy Art Director, Flare.
For more information on the contest visit
About K9 Design
K9 Design is an independently owned and operated design and communications studio  the only Canadian firm dedicated to magazines and publishers since 1998.   Proud to be a Toronto based boutique studio, K9 has worked with various publishing challenges including: corporate, periodical and SIP publishing for both large and small, consumer and trade clients such as: Rogers, TELUS, Bell, Coty, American Express, Ski  Magazine, Seneca College Alumni Magazine, The Toronto Zoo, Baby Stages Magazine, Contracting Canada Magazine, The Historica-Dominion Institute. For more information visit
About East Coast Living
East Coast Living magazine is all about inspiring home life in Atlantic Canada. As Atlantic Canada’s exclusive homes magazine, it covers building and renovating, interior decorating and design, gardening, dining and entertaining all from a unique East Coast point of view. No other magazine is so tightly focused on home-improvement topics that interest Atlantic Canadian homeowners, or enjoys such wide distribution in this region.
– 30 –
For media inquiries:
Jennifer Neal, Principle
K9 Design Co.
Sample of before cover can we viewed here:


Canadian Business Cover Claims: Sex Isn’t Selling!

Posted by Scott On September - 9 - 2010

This fabulous cover (another gem produced by Jason Logan) is a great example of how to art direct a sensitive subject–tackle it head on.

Canadian Business has taken on controversial subject matter, and given it a clean, uncluttered, and compelling twist. They’ve taken some risks (love that sub head) and done it in a way that is both sexy and sophisticated.

Senior writer James Cowan was given the compelling writing assignment.

Logan’s less-is-more approach deftly juggles at least 5 of my 30 major rules for newsstand success:

Rule #2:  Subject Matter Matters
Rule #6:  Be Controversial
Rule #9:  Clean over Cluttered
Rule #16:  Take Some Risks
Rule #20:   Be Sexy

Logan says,  “For a cover like this to sing it really helps to start with a fascinating article, great editor, forward-looking publisher, and art team that can make it happen fast.”

Obviously, Logan also understands that Teamwork Matters too.

My prediction?  This Cover Sells.

Azure Trends Issue

Posted by Scott On September - 8 - 2010

Check out the new Azure cover, for their October 2010 issue. Talk about cutting edge.

Set to hit newsstands on September 20th in Canada and October 4th in the United States, Azure recently re-designed their cover template. The new trim size is a still luxurious oversized format of 9 X 11 ½.

The new tag line is: Design, Architecture, Interiors, Curiosity

The new format lends weight to the notion of “radical clarity” when it comes to the main selling feature, which in this case is Azure’s popular Trends Issue.

The navigation bar technique helps the reader find other stories of interest.

The cover price is $7.95

Have you ever considered putting a Celebrity on your cover?  If you have, it’s probably because you hope it will help sell more magazines on newsstands.

Choosing the A-List celebrity who will help you achieve that goal is an important job.  It must be an extremely competitive, costly, and time-consuming task to get an A-List celebrity to agree to appear on the cover.  Get it right, and your readers will reward you.  Get it wrong, and you look like you just don’t get it.

One must therefore assume that in the Entertainment & Celebrity category ratings matter, just like they do for box office attendance at the movies.   What better way to gauge reader excitement and engagement then how a cover cuts through the clutter on a crowded newsstand?   Magazine lovers vote with their wallets, just like movie lovers do.

An actor’s reputation and income rises and falls based on the box office count.  An author’s next advance depends on where they rank on the NY Times Best Seller List.  Certainly the ASME editors didn’t disrespect their fans by nominating covers that were bombs, did they?  Can you imagine the producers of the movie Gigli nominating it for a People’s Choice Award?

Reality Check on New York Cover:

That bewildered look sums it up.   What were they thinking?  According to ABC statistics, this award nominee sold 16,481 copies compared to the average for the Jul/Dec 2009 statement of 17,175, or 4% less than average. Six other covers sold significantly more copies in that rate base period, including the August 31st issue, which sold 24,517 copies, for example–49% more than the editor’s pick to be honored with an award.

Reality Check on the Harpers Bazaar Cover:

Is that really Demi Moore on the spiral staircase?  Get me the Hubble Telescope so I can zoom in and find out.  According to ABC statistics, this award nominee sold 127,212 copies compared to the average of 160,062 for the Jan/Jun 2010 period.  That’s 20% worse than the overall average.  This issue ranked dead last in sales performance.  Nominating this cover for an award is not only disrespectful to their audience, it’s downright “bazaar”.

Reality Check on the RollingStone Cover:

Arguably a risky cover, to their credit the editors rolled the dice and won with Glee.   According to ABC statistics this issue sold 83,121 copies, 4% better than the overall average for the Jan/Jun 2010 statement.  Still, this cover ranked just 7th out of 12 covers published during that rate base period.  For example, the Feb 18th issue featuring Lil Wayne sold 115,204 copies, or 39% more than the cover nominated for an award.  Gee, what up with that?  Lil Wayne has been dissed.

Reality Check on the Esquire Cover:

Fantastic cover, fantastic results at the newsstand.  The Leonard DiCaprio cover sold 125,800 copies according to ABC statistics.  That’s 19% better than the average for the Jan/Jun 2010 period.  It’s also 56% better than last year’s March issue.  Talk about box office appeal.

Reality Check on GQ Cover:

Clint = Eyeballs

This cover sold 246,641 copies according to ABC statistics, and was the best-selling issue for the Jul/Dec 2009 statement, blowing away the average sale for the period by 28%.

Make my day, punks:  I think we have a winner.


You’d think that in the Sports & Fitness category, the ASME nominations might have something to do with winning or losing readers.  After all, the ABC numbers still matter to advertisers in the game of publishing.  And newsstand sales are a great scorecard of success, when readers actually vote with their wallets.

Let’s blow the whistle and break down these nominations, shall we?

Reality Check on ESPN Cover:

Some of the greatest covers ever produced (see Hall of Fame section of have been illustrated covers.  In my experience, they typically don’t work at the newsstand, but when they do, they sometimes score big wins.  Not so much with this nomination.  ABC statistics report average single copy sales for the Jan/Jun 2010 period were 17,034 copies, yet this candidate for an award sold 15,516 copies, or 9% worse than the average.  Newsflash:  the whistle has blown and this cover was a loser.

Reality Check on Field & Stream Cover:

According to ABC statistics, the average sale for Field & Stream during the Jan/Jun 2009 period was 35,987 copies. The June 2009 nominated cover sold only 33,625 copies.  That’s 6% below their average sale.  Compare and contrast that to their block buster February 2009 issue which sold 47,046 copies…40% better than the cover nominated for an award.  Strange, don’t you think, when winning paid readers is more important than ever?

Reality Check on RollingStone Cover:

Love Shaun White.  He owned the Winter Olympics.  But, while he is a great american sports hero,  I suspect Mr. White is not known for his singing ability while playing air guitar.  According to ABC statistics, RollingStone averaged 79,940 single copies per issue, during the Jan/Jun 2010 period.  The nominated cover sold only 71,558 copies.  That’s over 10% below the average, and placed ninth out of twelve covers in the rate base management event.  Certainly not worthy of a gold medal celebration.

Reality Check on Sports Illustrated Cover:

This cover certainly is worthy of an award.  According to ABC statistics, the Pictures of the Year cover sold 90,000 copies.  The average for the Jul/Dec 2009 period was 60,345.  Therefore, the nominated cover sold 49% better than the average issue in the rate base period.  However, two other covers during that stretch sold even more.  Why were they not nominated instead?

Reality Check on Garden & Gun Cover:

Until now, I must confess, I had not yet stumbled upon this interesting offering on newsstands.  If awards have a place to help elevate awareness of new magazines that are creative, that are experimental, and that are keeping our category fresh, then this is my winner.  The nominated cover from Dec 2009/Jan 2010 sold 13,270 copies, according to ABC statistics…their best ever performance since ABC began auditing the title.

(Note:  New York Times Magazine is not ABC audited)



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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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