Marketing Your Books

Marketing Your Books

It’s not enough to create a beautiful yearbook and hope it sells so you can pay your final bill. It takes strategic planning and implementation of the plan to experience a sell-out and true success.

There are a variety of successful strategies that can be used to sell yearbooks so you’ll want to consider all of them and choose the one(s) that best fit your school. Next, you’ll want to use as many different ways to get the information about sales into the hands of the people buying the books — the parents.

Don’t forget about social media which is playing a larger role than ever in helping to boost sales. While Facebook may not be the most popular site with the students at your school, it is still a very popular site with parents and if used correctly, can help drive more sales. Other sites like Instagram, Twitter and even Pinterest can be used by your staff to get the word out that books are on sale by giving sneak peeks at images that are actually being used in the book. Don’t worry if you’re not a power user of all of these social sites, yet. Use this social media guide to get started today or better yet, assign one of your savvy staffers to the post of social media manager.

For even more great videos to help you make the most of your marketing efforts, you’ll want to log in and watch these Yearbook Academy Marketing videos. If you’re not currently a Herff Jones customer, contact your local representative who would be happy to share these with you.

And, no matter what you do, always remember that students really only want to own a book if they know that they are in it so you’ll want to do everything in your power to have as many of your students featured in the book at least two to three times.

Let Them Know They are Appreciated From the Very Beginning of the Year

Let Them Know They are Appreciated From the Very Beginning of the Year

Let’s face it, no matter what you teach, your class time is valuable. You have lots of material to cover and a short period of time to get it all in and the last thing you need is someone asking if they can talk to Tyler for just a minute or if they can take pictures in your class. As yearbook advisers, you get it and the last thing you want to do is to cause unnecessary interruptions, but — in order to do your job and tell the stories that make this year unique — you will need to interrupt classes. So, if you want to ensure that the rest of the faculty and staff are more willing to help, you need to do everything you can to let them know from the start of the school year how much you and your staff appreciate their help and understanding.

Here are a few acts of appreciation that your teachers are sure to enjoy.

  • During their pre-planning week, have doughnuts, bagels, coffee and OJ for the teachers to enjoy. If that’s no longer an option, offer them on a teacher workday or deliver them early before school starts.
  • Find out favorite beverages and snacks at the beginning of the year and surprise them during the year especially if you find that you need to interrupt them more often than others.
  • Give them the “write” stuff and let them know you care by giving them what they need and who doesn’t need pencils or pens in their classrooms?
  • Put some Reese’s peanut butter cups into a small baggie tied with a ribbon and a note that says “Have we told you “Reese”-ently how much we appreciate you?”

No matter how you decide to show your appreciation, it shouldn’t be a one-and-done deal. 

We’re sure you have some of your own fantastic ways to let the faculty and staff know that you appreciate their support and would love to hear about them in the comments below so please share.



Finding theme ideas was probably one of my favorite activities to do with yearbook staffs because there are viable theme ideas literally everywhere but you do need a trained “eye” to find the perfect one so let’s do a quick review before we start our hunt.

A theme is a verbal statement with visual cues that help to tell the story of your school for a particular year. It needs to be relevant and relatable to your students and community and should appear on the cover, endsheets (if you print on them), title page, opening section, dividers and closing section. Elements of the theme may appear throughout the book in the folios or as graphics on pages.

Types of themes you may want to consider are as follows:

  • Anniversary
  • School Initials
  • School Colors
  • School Mascot  
  • School Location
  • School Name
  • Event
  • Fun
  • Pride
  • Reaction
  • Change
  • Double-Edged
  • Contemplative
  • Conceptual

Once you’ve decided on the type of theme that would work best for you, you can turn your attention to finding the perfect visual phrases and graphic ideas to help convey it. One of my very favorite places to start is on Pinterest and specifically on the Herff Jones Yearbooks Dream Your Theme board and the Inspiring Yearbooks board. And, if there aren’t enough ideas there, you’ll definitely want to check out Ideas that Fly. The examples in Ideas That Fly are all great because they are tested, tried and true themes, but if you want to challenge yourselves a bit more, you might want to page through magazines online at zinio or at your local Barnes and Noble bookstore to find other verbal/visual ideas that stand out and can be adapted to your school easily.

And, just like you can find design ideas everywhere as evidenced in this post, theme ideas are there for the taking so long as you keep your school’s special character in mind when you choose.

Where is the most unique place that you have found a theme for your yearbook? Tell us in the comments below.

It Themed So Perfect

It Themed So Perfect

The purpose of a theme is to tell the complete story of the school year in a unique and compelling way. As a staff, you’ll have to consider how this year is different than last year even if, on the surface, it seems like nothing extraordinary has really changed. Not a small job by any means, but with the help of a theme, you and your staff will be one step closer to making it clear for your students and school community.

A well thought-out theme may be subtle to your readers only later giving them an “a-ha moment” where they put the pieces together for themselves. Once they “get it” they will clearly see that the verbal and visual pieces you chose were used purposefully and that there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the story being told so they have a complete picture of that particular school year.

Sometimes, the perfect theme will almost literally fall from the sky with little to no effort, but — more likely — it will take time and lots of brainstorming to land on the one that works best to help tell the story of your school, for this year.

Your brainstorming session might be with the entire staff or it might be in small groups who then present their top three ideas to the staff which are then brainstormed further until, as a staff, you identify the one that will work best this year.

Have you noticed that I’ve mentioned “this year” quite a few times already in this post? If you’ve been on your staff for any time at all, you probably know that mentioning “this year” in any of your copy is a big “no no,” but for the purposes of explaining theme, it’s an absolute necessity. One of your goals as an adviser and staff should be that every student owns a book for each year they are in school so, if you think about it,  who would want to order a book if it was the same thing every year with maybe — or maybe not — a different cover? I don’t see as many takers for this scenario.

Now, don’t panic if your book hasn’t had a theme before. There’s no better time than now to start a new tradition, and to help you step up your theme game, you may want to consider asking your Herff Jones representative about our curriculum lessons on this topic. Here’s a Quick Start Guide for the first five weeks of high school and one for middle school that introduces Theme Projects which are the perfect way to engage your staff in choosing the best theme.

Once your staff have done their brainstorming and voting and think that they’ve landed on the perfect theme, you’ll want to put it to the 5 R’s test.

Is it RECOGNIZABLE? REPEATABLE? RELEVANT? REFRESHING? REALISTIC? And, if it’s not all of these, it’s time to rethink your theme idea.

Stay tuned for the next post about different types of themes and where you can find them.

Surviving the First Week / Month

Surviving the First Week Month

For both new advisers or seasoned veterans, the first day of school probably looks a little like this: meet new students, assign seats, review the syllabus, discuss classroom rules, check materials required for the class, share your expectations AND do an ice-breaker to get to know everyone. Phew, I’m exhausted and the real work hasn’t even begun, yet. How will you ever survive the rest of the week, let alone a full year? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.

With a little bit of planning and the handy list you’ll find here, you’ll be on the path to a successful year. There’s another list perfect for the first month of school and more lists exist for each month of the year. Plus, we’ve done separate lists for major yearbook events like ad campaigns, ladder planning and preparing for your distribution event and so much more. By using these, you can set the stage for a successful year with some concrete plans.

We’d love to hear any tips you have for surviving the first week of school so please share them below in the comments.

Organizing your Staff and Classroom

Organizing your Staff and Classroom

The start of the year is a perfect time to create systems to make life easier. Taking the time now to organize will pay off in months to come when everything has a place and efficiency comes second nature. Here are 10 ways you can control the process of yearbook instead of the craziness and chaos controlling you:


Put together a binder with dividers so the entire staff can easily find important information. Sections of the binder should include:

  • Contact information (phone numbers and addresses for your reps, the plant, staff members, etc.)
  • Deadlines (easy-to-read list of deadlines)
  • Print-outs of style guidelines for each section of the book
  • Calendar (all deadlines and yearbook-related events should be marked on the calendar in this section)
  • Budget updates
  • Activities (this section can include projects and assignments for rare moments of “down time”)
  • Plant correspondence


Color-code each deadline on your ladder so that the entire staff can keep track of dates on which pages are due. Color-coding also helps the students see when events must be covered in order to meet deadlines. HJ Planner and Planner Assistant make building your ladder and creating consistent page templates easier than ever.


Whether you use folders, envelopes or binders for each section/spread/kind of content, there should be some system used to file physical content. If notes are left on the table and need to be put away or scoreboard info is delivered by a coach, anyone on staff should be able to put it in the right place. At the end of each week, ask staffers to print out the current version of their work. The envelopes/folders/binders never leave the classroom. This enables you to check the progress of the book and to see if students are meeting deadlines. (This is also useful in grading—try assigning points for each item on the spread and assign a grade value based on the total number of points earned for each grading period.)


Since you’ll have thousands of photo images, your photo leaders and team need an easy systems for archiving and retrieving photos. In addition, the system you use should allow for somehow marking images once they have been used and for accurately crediting the photographers for their work.


The materials most yearbook staffs use today are very different than in the past. While mailing boxes, copy shipment forms and page envelopes are used in fewer schools each year, pens, highlighters, tape, photo assignment forms, page planning sheets and more should have established locations on shelves or in cabinets with easy access for all.


Make individual mail cubbies for everyone on the staff. This gives you, other staff members, and people on campus a place to “mail” information to specific staff members. The cubbies can be made from shoe boxes or even large envelopes tacked to the wall.


If you can give the editor a personal work space, he/she will be more productive. Remember the editor is ultimately responsible for putting the book together. Assign jobs for everyone on staff. Make a detailed chart of all the positions. The editors are the only people that report directly to you. Don’t be afraid to delegate.


You should maintain a printed copy of your yearbook. Whether you self-proof pages before you submit or receive proofs from the plant, you want to have a binder which includes the final version of each page submitted to the plant in numerical order.


Make staff badges or press passes with students’ names and photos. This badge may allow students into otherwise restricted areas or athletic events and will identify them as yearbook staff. T-shirts are another way to make your staff feel special. It’s fun to design the shirts to go with your cover or theme.


Assign a student to each of the following tasks:

  • Tracking, organizing and promoting book sales
  • Shooting photos of before-school and first-week events and activities
  • Keeping materials organized and in stock
  • Maintaining computers by rebuilding the desktop when needed; backing up yearbook files once a week; creating templates and organizing electronic proofs
  • Tracking ad sales, acting as liaison between parents and businesses, making sure ads (including links, fonts, graphics, etc.) are received in time
  • Keeping the room organized and clean
  • Acting as the staff social coordinator to celebrate staff members’ birthdays, deadline completion and to keep the staff motivated.

Creating your Theme and Developing a Unifier

Creating your Theme and Developing a Unifier


A unifying statement or idea (also referred to as “theme”) within a yearbook that clearly tells a story, creates a personality and marks the school year by mirroring the action, tempo and mood of the student body.


  • Have a brainstorming session where everyone convenes and shares their ideas. This might take place at a staff-only meeting over the summer or at a summer camp or workshop.
  • A designated person should write down all the ideas.
  • Ideas should be shared openly without criticism or comment.
  • Consider words/phrases and ideas; discuss the verbal voice of each.
  • Narrow the ideas down to two or three that meet the required criteria and have the most appeal.
  • Determine whether traditional sections or some other format makes most sense.
  • Discuss whether mini-theme ideas would be appropriate for each section.
  • Usually one of the ideas becomes an obvious choice at this point.
  • If not, continue developing the ideas and have the staff, editor(s) and adviser determine the best concept.


  • relate to the school. There should be an obvious tie between the school and the theme. For example if school morale is low – DO NOT choose a pride theme.
  • relate to the year. Major school events and/or circumstances that occur during the year provide logical and appropriate theme choices.
  • be verbal. The catch phrase should be memorable and flexible so that it can be adapted to theme copy, captions and mini-themes or spin-offs.
  • be visual. A theme look is created by using fonts, graphic elements and colors that are consistent with the message.


  • a song, movie, TV or magazine title.
  • copyrighted material.
  • a condescending or demoralizing theme.
  • an overused phrase or idea.


Utilize the cover, endsheets, title page, opening spread(s), closing spread(s) and all divider pages to convey the theme throughout the book. The reader should immediately recognize the theme in each section of the book. Supporting elements such as graphic devices, titles or folios may be used to help unify the yearbook.

Layouts that are necessary for the theme pages within the book are:

  • The title page which carries key school information.
  • The opening spread(s) and closing spread(s) are often identical layouts.
  • All dividers should be identical, and similar to the opening and closing spreads. Consistent divider pages help indicate to the reader that a transition is being made.


Theme copy should support the theme concept in tone and content as well as through word choices and font selection. Specific details and informative words are key elements when writing dynamic theme copy, which should read like anything but a descriptive paragraph or graduation speech.

Starting Points for Developing a Theme

Starting Points for Developing a Theme

Theme is considered the thread that ties an entire yearbook together. It is a cohesive package for the readers to get the story of the entire school year, and if you haven’t already began developing the next one, odds are, you’ll start soon! Here are some starting points to begin the theme development process.

  1. We’ve compiled a list of hundreds and hundreds of theme ideas. Have students choose three or four ideas and explore how they could be adapted to your school this year and how they would promote the coverage of your campus.
  2. Brainstorm and list things that will be new and different at your school this year.
  3. List descriptions of your school. How would people from another school describe your campus and student body?
  4. What impact does your school have on the community?
  5. In what ways is the community involved in your school?
  6. What outside influences impact your school? Consider such things as technology, pop culture and social economic situations.
  7. In what ways does the school location have an impact?
  8. Use a variety of current magazines to gather phrases that catch students’ attention and might be modified into a possible theme statement.
  9. Brainstorm possible voice and tone that you think students at your school might relate to and then search websites that use a similar voice and tone to promote their idea or product.
  10. Once a verbal idea has been selected, students should go back to looking at magazines, advertising and websites to gather visual elements that would help develop the theme concept throughout the entire yearbook.

Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Workshop

Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Workshop

Attending a summer yearbook workshop can have a tremendous effect on the following year’s publication, as well as be the perfect team building experience before the school year even begins.


If one workshop doesn’t work for every staffer wanting to attend, consider others with alternative dates. Check out the list of available workshops.


If multiple classes are offered, decide which class will best suit the needs of each staffer. Consider placing students in different classes to get as much information as possible, which can then be shared with the entire yearbook staff.


Complete the registration forms including any medical authorizations and parental requirements. Be sure to submit them prior to the registration deadline.


Payment can be made from the yearbook account funds, from individual staffer funds or a combination of both.


Arrange transportation to and from the workshop through school vehicles or parents. Complete school district forms if required.


Be sure to have a list of staffers with contact information to make communication easy throughout the summer.


Plan to meet with the entire staff during the summer prior to actual workshop dates, allowing all staffers to be involved in the planning process whether or not they attend the workshop.


Getting work done in these areas before the workshop will allow additional valuable work to be accomplished during the workshop.


All staffers, but especially those who will attend a workshop, should put together either a hard copy or digital collection of ideas gathered from magazines, advertising, websites, etc. for design and coverage inspiration.


Hold a discussion about the positive effect of workshop attendance with an open mind and willingness to take advice and suggestions from workshop instructors.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

You’ve made it. You’ve been on the yearbook staff for a while now and you totally know the ropes. You can identify a dull caption from pages away, interview to get to the heart of the story, take a stellar action shot in low light and basically feel very confident to take on another year as a yerd when the unthinkable happens… you learn that you’re getting a new adviser!

Be open to change

Yes, you rocked the old system and you don’t understand why now each staffer needs to fill out an online request before checking out a camera, but I bet your adviser has a reason and it may turn out great. I knew very little about yearbook when I started, but I was pretty good at technology. Thus, this year we integrated augmented reality and joined HJ Plus One to offer our yearbook online. These seemed a little odd at first, but the staff and campus learned to love them.

Be willing to explain

Is your adviser trying to make a change that you know won’t work? Believe it or not, most advisers will succumb to the virtues of logic. Instead of just saying it won’t work, take the time to explain the logical ramifications. You have the experience, and they will listen, OR it will give them a chance to show how that they have considered these pitfalls and what their solutions are.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I had no idea how to spell colophon let alone pronounce it when I started and I was sure I was being judged, but really… that’s small potatoes to the big picture. So if your adviser keeps insisting on the Oxford comma when you’ve never used it before… it’s probably not the best time to mutiny (though advisers, this isn’t really the big push you want to make either). If you focus on every small detail that seems weird, you will end up despising yearbook and your adviser!

Don’t compare

Your new adviser is never going to be the old adviser. They may be better. They may be worse. I can promise you they will DEFINITELY be different. If you continuously compare the two or expect them to do what the last one did, you’re in for a rough ride.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Learn their Starbucks® order

Kidding (kinda). But really, you’re going to spend a lot of time with this random adult. They should be making an effort to get to know you and your staff, and you should learn about them too. Whether you bond over never jumping on the Belieber train, or decide to have a Christmas cookie contest, seeing them as more than just a foreign entity will make everything run a lot smoother (and I strongly believe caffeine makes everything better).

So returning staff members — or new advisers — it’s really not as hard as it may feel at first. Keep the modes of communication wide open, be sure to listen to one another, and you’ll have (or become) a veteran adviser in no time. Good luck and happy yearbooking!