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8 Ways to Make a Magazine Cover That Sells

Updated on September 12, 2012
grand old lady profile image

Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

Magazine covers are the first thing that make a publication sell

8 Ways to Make a Magazine Cover That Sells

I have been writing for magazines for some 30 years. Most of them were local publications, but I have also written for a regional magazine and a British publication in the past.

I also edited two magazines. One was a marketing magazine and the other was a food magazine. I want to share with you some tips on making a magazine cover that sells, and how to choose a good printing company that will present your hard work in the best light.

There days there are all types of magazines in the market – sports, health, gadgets, lifestyle, architecture and more. They look for a good printing company because the cover inspires people to pull your magazine out of a shelf and buy it, amid many other competing publications.

To make a Magazine Cover that sells, here are some tips:

1. Be consistent. You don’t want to sell just one magazine. You want a loyal readership. Loyal readers don’t like surprises. They want to get what they are expecting. Your magazine cover artist should communicate well with your printing company. He should also know the magazine’s inside layouts and content, and make the cover consistent with it. Also, have a standard cover template that rocks. This template will stay for a long, long time. Vogue, Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated and Good Housekeeping have regular templates, knowing their target market feels comfortable with consistency. Within the ranges of consistency, each edition can add a little extra to give each magazine cover added pop.

2. Audience first. Your cover must suit your target market. Try testing it by gathering people who comprise your target market, and ask them to view your design and give inputs on it. Your printing company should also be able to add valuable input.

3. Be inspired. Your cover won’t be inspired if you yourself aren’t inspired. Some tips: Bookmark magazine covers you see online that you like. When you feel dry you can look at them for starting points of inspiration. Also, have a collection of magazine design annuals from the last five years, and a copy of the Society of Publications Designers. The American Society of Magazine Editor’s Top 40 is another great reference tool. Look at their cover lines, use of white space, images and typography for ideas. If you still don’t feel inspired, go for a walk. That should do it.

4. Typography. Typography is how you arrange your cover text. More than selecting fonts, it involves principles of hierarchy that affect the style and appearance of the cover headlines. The top story should be emphasized through either color, height, glow, drop shadow or other techniques. It also involves the use of pull quotes, font colors and headlines. A good printing company should be able to spot weak points in your typography. This makes a big difference because typography can make a boring article attractive to a reader.

5. Offer benefits. Your magazine cover line should list the benefits the reader can expect such as latest updates, knowledge, tips on growing healthy vegetables and the like. Be specific and only include your top stories.

6. Use an amazing photo. The photo should have high quality and draw readers in. Consult your printing company to ensure that it has enough pixels for the job. The main image should be clearly seen. It could be an actor, athlete, food, or an animal. The image must personify what your magazine is about at just one glance. Choose a strong image with a plain background. Also, don’t keep your cover too busy.

7. Space matters. Balance white space on your cover design for a clear, clean look. It will have a subliminal relaxing feeling that will please your reader, especially when it is planned well with your other elements such as image, typography et. al. A good printing company should know when you have too much or too little space.

8. Don’t take risks with your printer. A magazine cover is the selling page of a publication. To make a fabulous design and then waste it on a sloppy, sub par printer wastes all your hard work. Go for experience and a track record. Choose a good printing company with a track record that includes good service and printing quality. A good printing company should be able to advise you on your cover elements, factoring in your brand, marketing goals, target market and budget.


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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you PegCole17. It never occurred to me that the same principles can apply to book covers. That's a wonderful observation. I've never designed a book cover before, but thanks to your comment, I know that if ever the time comes, I'll know more or less what to do:). Thank you for stopping by and reading:).

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Even in today's computer driven mode, magazines are still popular items in a handy form for reading. When arranged at the checkout, their covers capture the attention of idle shoppers waiting for their turn at the register. A great cover does the job of selling.

      Your ideas on how to design magazine covers are timeless and can also be used in the design of book covers, on-line articles and more.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you All4Jesus. How clever of you to use these tips for the posters you're designing. Hope you make lovely designs.

    • ALL4JESUS profile image

      ALL4JESUS 3 years ago from USA

      Very helpful and yet very concise. Thank you! I am making some posters and appreciate these tips.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 5 years ago from Philippines

      Keith Ham, I uploaded a Magazine cover of a publication I worked with. However, it hasn't come out yet. I don't know why, but maybe I will give it a day. Maybe it's harder to edit a published article. If it isn't posted by tomorrow, I will ask for some help:)

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 5 years ago from Philippines

      Keith Ham, I worked in my country on magazines before computers became as big as they are now. But I will upload some magazines I worked for with great covers as per your suggestion.

      Sangre, thank you. Actually, with the two magazines that I edited, the publisher had the last word on covers. But I will look for some competlling covers of some of the publications I worked with as a contributing writer. I am aware of one good magazine cover where I was executive editor. The cover was designed by the publisher. I will upload that. Alecia, in the Philippines, magazines have had to adjust a lot to the internet. To stay afloat, sadly, some magazines have had to sell covers, but make it take on an editorial format. Others practically sell almost every article. They balance it with good quality stories and writers. But 30 years ago these things would never have happened. I miss the days when the essay was THE preferred writing format...

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      It's very interesting how magazines are still popular even after technology. I guess as opposed to other media, it adapts pretty well with the electronic tablets and e-readers. But thinking about it, nothing really catches your eye quite like an iconic magazine cover. Very nice hub!

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 5 years ago from Ireland

      Wise words and very good advice for beginners or long term editors trying to sell magazines.

    • Keith Ham profile image

      Keith Ham 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, Ontario

      This is good, its too bad you couldn't include a few examples :D