The Quest for the Perfect Cover
3. If you can spare the time, go to the local drugstore or bookstore, and sneak your upcoming issue in among the other magazines on the racks. Does it hold its own or does it disappear? To ensure that atmosphere of realism, I persuaded that multititle publisher to invest in a full-color, life-size photomural of a newsstand and have it permanently installed. We attached clips and glass shelves on it to hold the mock-ups. The realistic circumstances not only improved the noticeability of the covers, but reduced friction between art/edit/circulation/management, because everybody could see what the reality of selling was about.
4.If selling on newsstands is not your problem, but competition among executives is, gather copies of what your targets might be reading, including your competition, of course. Mock up an executive’s in-box or tabletop arrangement in some way, and place yours among them. That is the realistic way to judge your cover. Keep that still-life stack for next month’s headaches.
Three fixes—avoiding a weak cover:
1. If the cover pops out from its background, don’t weaken it by fussing with it. You’ve probably done something courageous (like that all-green Swedish Golf Digest) and deserve congratulations. Leave well enough alone.
2. If it is invisible like wallpaper, decide what element is worthy of becoming dominant by enlarging, by isolating, by more controlled color, by more clever wording. … Do it deliberately, strongly, with conviction. The great thing about seeing the sketch cover in its realistic setting is that it warns you away from itsy-bitsy decisions that don’t matter. To succeed out there, you have to realize that you are making a poster, albeit in miniature. A billboard.
3. Check out the suggestions about the four type sizes. (See related content.) A magazine is first and foremost a physical product, so experiment with it as such and be sure to make the most of its capabilities. Unfortunately, every decision will demand a price. Example: The spectacular, shiny coverstock that helps the colors vibrate is so slippery that the magazine falls on the floor. To whom are you catering? Youngsters don’t mind bending down to retrieve it, but seniors will let it lie there, because it is too damn much trouble. It is all really psychology, isn’t it? Well, of course it is! Publishing is a form of person-to-person conversation. The cover triggers it.
Related story: The 4 Functional Scales of Cover Type