Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Archive for November, 2010

Q & A with Jason Logan, Cover Designer

Posted by Scott On November - 30 - 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. Feb 15 2010 “Is Apple Really a Threat to Blackberry “my own drawing, design and idea, and it sold well  Aug 16 2010 “Retire Happy” A simple clean solution to provide an alternative to  happy couple on a sunset beach.  “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 newstand 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.


Posted by Scott On November - 29 - 2010

If you like your cougars “fast” well then, we have 10 facts for you.  But seriously…Top Predators almost always work for nature-oriented magazines, and this Cougar sure looks ready to pounce.

Rule #31 White covers over black covers

This cover sure is white, and it uses the real estate effectively on the left hand side.  It also has benefit-oriented sell lines that reach out to Ice Wine fans and Skiers looking for information on their addictive passions.

The sky bar features one of Canada’s most well know artists who specializes in nature…Bateman.  (Is it just me or is he a dead ringer for George W Bush?)

A strong cover from British Columbia Magazine that has all the hallmarks of a winner.


Posted by Scott On November - 24 - 2010

If you asked me to name a hit tune by Eminem I couldn’t do it.  But this cover sure got my attention at the newsstand today.

Great use of the cover real estate, with all cover lines justified left.  The simple, uncluttered approach and colour scheme is powerful and compelling. The hoodie cutting into the Rollingstone logo creates the 3d pop.

Nothing complicated here:  what are they selling?  Eminem. 

Even without eye contact the cover works.  Nice cleft chin, eh?  Everyone likes a redemption story.  This one holds great promise.  We will report back with a Check Up in a few months time and let you know how this one sold. 

Property Forecast

Posted by Scott On November - 17 - 2010

Canadian Real Estate magazine’s January 2011 issue will be hitting newsstand on December 7th 2010.  The cover price is $7.99.

The Property Forecast issue is typically the best-selling cover of the year.

After a rigorous cover consultation process, we chose to make a number of changes for the 2011 edition:

  1. Crisp white background
  2. Big type treatment
  3. De-clutter Logo area
  4. Re-Organize UPC code treatment (price, web site URL) in lower right corner
  5. Remove sky bar
  6. Simplify number of hooks
  7. Eliminate multiple starbursts
  8. Create border
  9. Add profile cut-in device
  10. Use of gold to signal “value”

Look for special point of purchase promotions at Chapters/Indigo, Shoppers Drug Mart, and HDS Airport locations.

Like A Pro

Posted by Scott On November - 16 - 2010

The Winter 2010 issue of Fly Fusion is set to hit newsstand racks on November 22nd, 2010.

The cover image features a very rugged, very macho, very predatory fly fisherman doing what he loves best, in a seasonally-appropriate setting.  Now that his hard-core addiction.

We chose to keep the cover very uncluttered, very “poster like” in its power and simplicity, to focus a radically clear message about the unique selling proposition of this issue…FLY FISH Like a Pro.  The layering of the image over the logo, and of the type under the fisherman, adds a 3-D pop.

In addition, the drop down box in the upper right corner, and the editor’s choice gear guide symbol in the lower left, work hard to offer two additional benefits to compel browsers to buy this issue.

Three additional “hooks” are easily accommodated just beneath the fishing rod.

Benefits, benefits, and more benefits.

2011 Buyers Guide

Posted by Scott On November - 16 - 2010

The new Photo Life Buyers Guide is due to hit racks November 29th, 2010. 

While the 2010 issue enjoyed solid sales, the Buyers Guide had its three best sales records (both in terms of units sold and sell-through efficiency) when the background was white, thus the 2011 issue features a bone-white cover.

This year, for the first time ever, we have also added a black “frame” around the cover.

We’ve simplified the main sell line to BEST STUFF, and tried to quiet down and organize the rest of the cover so that a clean, and less cluttered look focuses the attention on the gear.

The 2011 Buyers Guide retails for $7.95.  Look for a special promotion at Chapters/Indigo.

Check Up: Profit 100

Posted by Scott On November - 16 - 2010

On July 5th, 2010, I posted this Profit issue as the Cover of The Week.  The issue is now (more or less) final, and will sell  5,300 units at a $6.95 cover price, which is $2 more (or 40% higher) than the regular $4.95 cover price.  The average sale for the five regular issues that came before this was 2,010 copies.  Therefore, this special issue sold 164% better than average, and with the higher cover price generated a revenue lift of 270%.

Last year’s special in the same time slot sold 4,996 copies.

Design Issue

Posted by Scott On November - 13 - 2010

The Winter 2010 issue of GardenMaking (the fourth and final issue of the launch year) is set to hit racks on November 15th, 2010.

This cover recognizes the seasonality challenge gardening titles face when the snow starts to fly.  Gardening  junkies, in need of a fix to satisfy their addictive passion, will find plenty of inspirational advice to help them lay their plans for 2011.

This cover totally commits to Rule # 2:  Subject Matter Matters

It also honours Rule #3:  Benefits, Benefits, Benefits

In additon, it is clean and uncluttered, uses the “real estate” effectively, both for the main sell line and supporting hooks on the left hand side, and employs an elegant use of colour to help draw the eye down the page.

This cover will  jump off newsstands, and leap from subscribers mailboxes, into the hands of readers whose hearts will be pounding in anticipation.

Addictive magazines sell.


Posted by Scott On November - 12 - 2010

The new Canadian Business Franchise Directory Annual SIP (from Kenilworth Media Inc.) is set to hit newsstands on November 29th, 2010.  The cover price is $9.95

This year’s edition is printed in a new, larger, “European trim size” of 9  X 10 ¾.

For the first time ever, the word DIRECTORY takes the lead, with the branded logo playing a supporting role.

The cover features a border for the first time ever, as well as a bold cover slash tactic.

It also subscribes to Rule #21:  Use Numbers

The numbers help quantify the value proposition the SIP offers, and draws attention to the many benefits inside.

Look for special point of purchase promotions at Chapters/Indigo, Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs, and Presse Commerce.


Posted by Scott On November - 9 - 2010

The Fall 2010 issue of British Columbia magazine features a cover that is the closest thing to a “lifestyle” cover I’ve ever seen them do.

The type treatment is bold, and alternates colors well to help the eye travel down the left hand side…great use of the cover real estate to take full advantage of merchandising realities.

The sky bar treatment is one of my favorites ever.  It really pops those three additional selling features, yet remains sophisticated while having fun.

Clean and uncluttered.  Strong benefit-oriented cover lines.  Promising fun and adventure.  This cover has the look of a winner.


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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