Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Archive for June, 2013

Dave Donald Talks Covers

Posted by admin On June - 25 - 2013

Dave Donald is the current art director of This MagazinePoint of View Magazine and Education Canada. He has been in publication design for over 20 years, working on magazines such as Chatelaine and Masthead. He is now a freelance design consultant and lecturer specializing in publication design. He is a four-time winner of Canada’s National Newsstand Awards.

At the 2013 MagNet Conference, Dave gave an inspired lecture.  For those of you who missed it, I asked Dave if he’d submit to a 5 question Q & A, which he kindly agreed to do.

Q#1:   In your session you talked about “covers as commerce”…can you expand on that for my readers?

 A #1:  The quote about “covers as commerce” comes from the noted American art director, Robert Newman (of VIBE, Village Voice, Details, etc. fame).  What he meant by that was that design needs to take a backseat to the first priority of a cover, which is to sell magazines.  I’ve always said that the front cover of your magazine is the most important sales tool for your magazine.  Never lose sight of that as you create it.

 Q #2:  What are your 3 favourite covers that you have designed, and why?

 A #2:  This was my second cover for This Magazine. The line-up of writers was so strong I knew immediately that I’d go with an all type cover. My instincts were right as it had a 62 percent sell-through and went on to be a winner at the National Newsstand Awards.  The colours were selected to create something bright and fresh while still allowing me to establish a clear hierarchy within all those type elements.

For The New Quarterly I wanted to create something elegant in a very repeatable format.  The nearly square shape announced a dramatic change from this literary magazine’s more traditional trade paperback size.  It was also the first issue with a four-colour cover. Once they saw how much better it looked, they never when back to their old two-colour format.  It also has provided an opportunity to showcase the work of Canadian photographic artists.

Another all-type cover for This Magazine proved to be an additional hit on the newsstand and another winner of a National Newsstand Award.  This one took longer to develop.  We knew we wanted it to be all type but it developed slowly until we’d stripped it down to the basics.  The only thing that got more complicated was the cow.  The spots came later but they helped to bring the colours together.

Q #3:  Talk a bit about covers as posters, and covers as charts…

A #3: The famous Madison Avenue ad man, George Lois, revolutionized American magazine covers through his work with Esquire in the 1960s. He treated each cover as a poster to create maximum impact on newsstands.  His famous cover from December 1963 created a sensation by placing Sonny Liston, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world and one mean guy, on the cover wearing a Santa hat.  There are no cover lines but the incongruity of the image would have been so powerful to the audience of 1963 that words would have been unnecessary.

Today Richard Turley has taken up the “cover as poster” baton at Bloomberg Businessweek to great acclaim.


Not enough has been done with the possibilities for the cover as chart.  We live in the age of Big Data and the infographic has become a staple of the magazine format. A few notable examples of charts on covers are these issues of Time and Bloomberg Businessweek.

The venn diagram of the Time cover shows the closeness of the race in the last American presidential election and the importance of the undecided voters.

The Bloomberg Businessweek cover shows the colossal number of Facebook users (one billion) compared to anything else (e.g. 111.3 million Super Bowl 1212 viewers).

There are few examples of this new form of cover but I suspect we’ll see many more soon.

Q#4:  Talk a bit about the “ideal cover team.”

 A#4:  If you want to consistently create great covers then you need to assemble a great cover team.  This group should include the art director, the editor and the publisher/marketer.  I’ve created the term “marketer” to cover the marketing aspect in a small magazine.  This is usually the publisher’s role.  In larger magazines there may be a separate newsstand marketing position.  In that case, this individual should also be part of the team.  At This Magazine we have been blessed with a cover guru, Steve Trumper.  He’s not a staff member but brings decades of newsstand experience to the table every time we meet to discuss our cover strategy.

Q #5:  What are your 3 favourite covers of all time, and why?

A #5: The famous Demi Moore cover was an event when it first hit the newsstands. It was outrageous to put a pregnant movie star on the cover of a magazine but Vanity Fair pulled it off with beauty and grace. It has been done to death since and the results pale by comparison with this gem by the photographer Annie Leibovitz.

This early Martha Stewart Living cover defies all the rules of cover line writing: it’s simply a list of what’s inside. However, the sunflower is so riveting that it must have shone on the newsstand. It’s also the opener for one of the most beautifully designed features I’ve ever come across.  I never knew there were so many different kinds of sunflowers.  But Martha knew.

This National Lampoon cover gets a hearty laugh every time I show it.  It’s what creating great covers is all about: it sells you on the magazine because who would want anything to happy to such an obedient pup?





Split Covers

Posted by admin On June - 25 - 2013

An interesting article from the NY Times (thanks Peter Lebensold) regarding split covers.  Worth reading, not just to sell more copies at newsstands, but to sell ads!

So why not shake things up?

The cost of a plate change is considerably less than almost all retail promotions.  This is something easily affordable and well worth testing

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Posted by admin On June - 24 - 2013

The July 2013 issue of Town & Country magazine is hard to miss on newsstands.

This stunning black & white image, which is brightened up with neon electric cover lines, in big bold type, is the perfect blend of iconic past blended with modern design and newsstand focused use of the left hand real estate.

“Lauren Hutton is considered by many to be the original American beauty. She set into motion an obsession with a love for the gap-toothed smile and her natural beauty covered more magazines, starred in more campaigns and captured the hearts of more woman around the world than we could ever count. The magazine actually took a step back in time and used a vintage shot of Lauren Hutton, from 1968, to decorate the cover. It’s a never-before-seen image that truly captures Hutton in a beautiful moment. Looking within the magazine, Lauren Hutton is photographed in present day and over 40 years later, she’s just as stunning and still a fashion icon if ever there were one…”, says their web site.  It’s hard to disagree. 

Here’s a tune for cover viewing:

Posted by admin On June - 23 - 2013


Kate Winslet…nice watch!

Posted by admin On June - 19 - 2013

The July 2013 issue of Jewellery Business magazine features Kate Winslet on the cover.  The only jewellry she is wearing is a watch.  The magazine debuts on select newsstands on July 1st.

Jewellery Business is Canada’s award-winning jewellery magazine. Published six times a year by Kenilworth Media Inc., the magazine was launched in 2005 to serve the Canadian jewellery industry by providing timely, trusted, and topical editorial content. Since then, the publication has garnered rave reviews from its readership and industry-wide acceptance as the voice of the Canadian jewellery industry.

“Our exclusive interview with Kate Winslet seemed the logical choice for debuting Jewellery Business to the consumer,” said Blair Adams, editorial director. “The magazine will be available in select stores initially as we gauge market response. However, given the appeal of luxury items like jewellery, we are confident readers will embrace the glamour within its pages.”

Click to Enlarge Image:

A tune for cover viewing:

Walrus vs. Toronto Life

Posted by admin On June - 14 - 2013

Two of the most decorated magazines for editorial excellence in Canada (see National Magazine Awards)–the Walrus and Toronto Life–have come out with fantastic new covers for the Summer.

Toronto Life used to do a summer reading issue (back when John Macfarlane was the editor and I was the Circulation Director).  Now at the Walrus, John has made this a staple of his editorial line-up at the Walrus.

“The July/August 2013 Summer Reading issue of The Walrus features six emerging creative writers from across the country, Richard Gwyn on the appeal of Justin Trudeau’s emotional intelligence, Sara Angel on Shary Boyle at the Venice Biennale, Peter Andrey Smith on the state of Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area, a plea for Senate reform, Craig Davidson on memories of Marineland, and more!”, says their press release.

Here is Christine Dewairy’s (Toronto Life‘s Art Director) take on this cover:

“Because the McCains are not instantly recognizable, the typography and background had to really do the work. I chose neon green (809C) because it is bright and eye-catching, evoking wealth, money and toxicity.”

Back in February 1996 Toronto Life did a cover story entitled, The Divorce From Hell, by Wendy Dennis. This article won Gold at the 1996 National Magazine Awards in the One-of-a-Kind category.   It was a huge seller at newsstands, especially for a February issue, all-type, and a black cover…selling 16,447 copies at a 61% sell-through efficiency!

Please Vote on which cover– of the two below–you think will get the biggest lift.  I will report back in a few months when sales are firmed up.  Rush out to the newsstand and pick up both these great issues.

Click to Enlarge Covers

Which will get the biggest lift?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


Posted by admin On June - 14 - 2013

A quirky little magazine posted on Atlantic News’ newsletter caught my eye.

In the “New to Us” section they show a new magazine that they are carrying at their fantastic Halifax retail location, known for their massive and eclectic title mix.

Mr. Wolf magazine  is an “independent journal profiling the leading personalities behind Nordic design, style, art and music.”

While the cover may be what Paul Jones calls “art with logo”,  this is “poster art” of the highest calibre.  This is a fun cover that deserves to succeed.

Here’s a little tune to accompany this great cover:

Adbusters takes Gold

Posted by Scott On June - 12 - 2013

Adbusters magazine’s March/April 2012 issue won gold for the Best Magazine Cover of the Year at the 2013 National Magazine Awards.  Congratulations to this unique, BC-based magazine that has international appeal.

This fast-food satire cover was their 2nd best selling issue in 2012..and beat their overall average on the other five issues by 22%.  That’s great!

Only the Jan/Feb 2012 issue sold better for Adbusters in 2012…selling 36% more copies than the award-winner, and 81% more than the average on the other five issues.

While this award is essentially an award for artistic merit, it’s nice to see a cover chosen that also enjoyed strong sales at newsstands, and at a premium priced $8.95!

Magazine of The Year 2013

Posted by admin On June - 11 - 2013

The CMC (Circulation Management Association of Canada) named Canada’s History the Magazine of the Year at the 2013 MagNet Conference. 

This new award was created to recognize a magazine for outstanding achievement for overall circulation marketing efforts including ongoing campaigns and/or retail programs that do not isolate just one issue or campaign.

The judges noted that PMB results place Canada’s History as the #1 magazine in Canada for readers per copy at 23 readers per copy and a total PMB readership of 847,000…validating the name change/branding strategy, and a tribute to the outstanding work of the circulation team at Canada’s History…headed up by Danielle Chartier, with support from veteran circulators P.J. Brown and Scott Bullock.

Also noted :  Three covers established new records for their respective time slots, with the Dec/Jan issue setting a new all-time sales record with 5,256 copies sold…22% better than previous best.  The magazine now sells at Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, Wal Mart, London Drugs, Overwaite, Sobeys, in addition to Chapters, LS Travel, and Presse Commerce.  Strategic  retail promotions were implemented to support the switch to mass market newsstand supply.

Also noted were exceptionally strong renewal rates.

Summer on BC Beaches

Posted by admin On June - 10 - 2013

British Columbia magazine’s Summer issue is a bit flirty and playful.  Often, the magazine features wildlife images on the covers (like wolves and bears and foxes), or beautiful alpine shots, but this cover is a departure in a sense that it features an urban beach.  Being definitive and authoritative with their headline:  Best Vancouver Beaches is sure to stir debate and generate some free publicity.

“Summer is all about being spontaneous, and that’s what Art Director Ken Seabrook and I hope to communicate with this cover,” says Editor Jane Nahirny. “Paul Colangelo captured the image late in the afternoon on Kitsilano Beach during a heat wave in early May, when Vancouverites flocked to their city beaches.  It delivers what we know our readers want: gorgeous, natural photography and a strong sense of place.” 
“With mountains in the background, ships in the water, and large logs on the beach, there is no mistaking that this is Vancouver. Even the model’s cowboy boots say “West Coast.”  The carefree young woman shows readers how easy it is to trade city streets for sandy beaches, even in B.C.’s largest city. When I saw this image, I wanted to be there.”

The corner slash with water droplets lets readers know that there are other water-themed features in this issue, too.


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.



    Activate the Flickrss plugin to see the image thumbnails!