Covers, Covers Everywhere

| 9/8/2008 5:05:33 PM

Hi! It's been a while since my last post, because we have been under deadline craze. We got the issue out the door today and itʼs going to be a great one. This issue, we had many great cover options and choosing and refining the final cover was a large, but fun, task. Though it doesn't require the same type of research and year-ahead planning as a feature article, tons of time and effort go into each Natural Home cover. Because the result of all this effort ends up on your coffee table every two months, I thought Iʼd share the process we go through to choose those gorgeous covers.

Although of course itʼs not the most fact-filled part of the magazine, in some ways the cover is the most important aspect of the book: With regard to pulling new readers into the fold, and spreading the message that going green is important, stylish and fun, itʼs vital that our covers jump out from the increasingly crowded newsstand, and that they accurately and enthusiastically display all the great information and inspiration bound up inside. Thatʼs where our readers come in. We have a large and always-helpful group called the editorial advisory group, which is filled with readers who help us by voting in various surveys about our story ideas, cover options and more. It is actually more them than we who determine the covers you see each issue. Hereʼs how:

As you know, there are two elements to every cover: The image and the words. We start thinking about both of these elements WAAAY in advance. Weʼre thinking about potential covers when doing the photo shoots for our home features, about a year in advance. The words part starts with the huge survey we send to the editorial advisory group each year to determine our editorial calendar.

As we come to production each issue, we have the articles in and the huge cache of images from our features to work with. First, we test which six to seven subjects from the issue are your very favorite and these go on the cover. Then we test several phrases that describe the articles, to see which description you find most appealing. For example, this upcoming issue will feature an article about making a holiday feast using local ingredients to lower your mealʼs carbon footprint. We tested all these iterations of a cover line describing that article:
• An Inexpensive, Local Holiday Menu
• The Holiday Feast: Local, Joyful Fare
• A Gift to the Earth: Low-Carbon Holiday Recipes
• A Cheap, Low-Carbon Holiday Feast
• A Low-Pollution Solution to your Holiday Meals
• Celebrate Local Food this Holiday
• Reduce your Holiday Mealʼs Carbon Footprint
• Celebrate, Rejoice! A Local Foods Holiday Feast

You choose which option describes the stories most appealingly and we use that phrasing on the cover.    

Once the words are chosen, we input them into our cover template, and the really fun part begins. We try out nearly every image from the issue, often going through 30 and 40 cover options or more. We narrow down the choices to around 12 or 16, then send out these mock-ups to our editorial advisory group to get their input. To keep the surveys from being excessively long, we split the options and our group in half for this first go-round. They vote, narrowing down the options to the top four to six contenders. We try to perfect color choices and word placement, then send the finalists off for more feedback. Often, the finalists are narrowed down to two top contenders, which we refine even further and test again. In the meantime, we also have our team weighing in: our editorial and design teams, our publisher and editorial director Bryan Welch, our newsstand consultants and several other key staff members weigh in and offer feedback.
Here's an example of the cover choices from last issue:


Finally, with the words and final image determined through our combined efforts, we come up with the winning cover.

Weʼd love to thank all of you who help us out by being members of our editorial advisory group. Your input is truly invaluable and has changed our notion of how best to create a winning cover (the democratic way!). And, Iʼd love to invite any of you who arenʼt already members to join the group. Just click here to sign up. And feel free to leave any comments about our covers and what you like, or dislike, about them. We take reader feedback very seriously and love to hear from you.  

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