10 Tips for Selling Yearbook Ads

10 Tips for Selling Yearbook Ads

Selling copies of the yearbook is the most important source of the program’s income, while selling ads is the next best source of revenue. Senior parent ads and even student friendship ads can help, but the business community often supports your school by purchasing ad space in the yearbook. It’s really a win-win relationship — their business gets exposure and your yearbook program gains necessary funds. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind before your yearbook staff sets out to sell to surrounding businesses.


Brainstorm the potential target list, including previous years’ advertisers. Add from the local Chamber of Commerce membership list,  yearbook staffers’ contacts and  acquaintances and any businesses you drive past that aren’t already on your list.


Select dates that might provide the greatest response from local businesses. It’s not a bad idea to assign ad sales goals during the summer when school is out, and it’s an even greater feeling to go into the new school year having already sold ads and some established revenue.


Divide and conquer once you create a master list of potential advertisers. Assign specific businesses to specific staffers or if staffers have a personal connection to a business, or a preference to which businesses they approach, let your staff begin by calling “dibs” on those certain businesses.


Bring in your product — your staff’s yearbook, of course! Bookmark great examples of all ad sizes you offer, ads that have been pre-designed, business card ads that have been scanned in and show your point person ads that your staff have created. Show them what you can do for them and their business. Find out how many books you sold last year and let them know how an ad in your yearbook will increase their business’s visibility.


Consider community groups as potential advertisers. Community service groups, non-profits and military recruiters are all potential sources of ad revenue. More ads for school groups like band and student council are appearing in books from coast to coast. Some have expanded to include AP classes and other small groups that have purchased pages.


Patron ads are a way to make it possible for individuals to help support the yearbook. A one line, two line or three line listing can be an inexpensive way for individuals and small businesses to be included.


Follow-up is the key to getting as many business ads as possible included in the yearbook. If the owner/manager is out when the initial sales call is made, be sure someone goes back to talk to the decision maker.


When the time comes, whether you’re working on ads over the summer or first thing when school starts, be sure to proof all business ads very carefully. It is best to stop by the business or send a PDF of the ad by email for approval before it is finalized.


Collection of all ad revenue should be completed before ads are actually submitted to the plant. Make it clear in all communications with the advertisers that full payment needs to be made by a specified date. Leave no room for confusion — they’re busy and so are you.


Submit the pages after careful proofing, knowing that you have a jump start on the deadline process by being able to submit income-generating pages early in the production season. Checking ads off your list and having necessary funds can pave the way for stress-free yearbook days!

For more great tips and useful guides check out https://yearbookdiscoveries.com/resources/.

Imitation vs Inspiration

Imitation vs Inspiration

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” In some instances, this phrase can be true, however, when it comes to design, imitation is more often a four-letter word that leads to hurt feelings, public shaming or even copyright lawsuits for “ripping off” the original designer’s work. Although those whose work is copied in the yearbook world may not go as far as to lawyer up, most consider it anything but a compliment.

Having a background as a Herff Jones traveling artist and product designer for almost a decade, I’ve seen and worked on A LOT of yearbook covers. While most of my sessions were filled with creative ideas fueled by inspiration, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down with a staff and they pulled out a magazine, poster or even another yearbook and say, “We want this design, but change it to our theme and school colors.” Good people, I give you imitation. Simply changing colors and text does not necessarily make a design your own.

There is nothing wrong with loving a design and gaining inspiration from it. You should, however, avoid copying it outright. Ask yourself WHY you like it. WHAT is it about the design that draws you in? The key in avoiding imitation and using inspiration is the ability to take aspects of a design you love and find a solution to make them work in a new way.

See below for examples of how marketing designers have used inspiration in the process of updating the HJ Litho Design covers.

Imitation vs Inspiration

The examples above show inspirational adaptations that involved combining ideas to create another. The great news is that is part of an easy solution. Rather than copy someone’s work, you can avoid all of the issues by changing aspects of the original that allow you to communicate more effectively. By changing colors, shapes, scale, fonts, order and other aspects of the work that inspired you, you can develop answers to your personal design “problems.”

Being a stronger designer is part inspiration, part adaptation and part the willingness to rework until you’re satisfied.


There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, and those include commonly identifiable elements of design/verbal elements. A great example of this is “Keep Calm and Carry On” — lots of different adaptations of that common phrase, designed like the original, have been created, and that’s okay. It’s relatable to varied audiences, no matter what it says to keep calm about. Another example is Mastercard’s ads that list objects with prices and lastly, closes with a sentimental piece and deeming it “priceless” — we all are familiar with that. When going with one of these popular elements often seen through the window of pop culture, it’s easy to do it the right way. You may choose to incorporate a phrase, icone or device due to its timely relevance. It could help mark your school year. In order to actually resonate with your readers, the design elements have to resemble the original to the point where the play on words and design is immediately identifiable without tons of interpretation. This is a completely different ballpark, and therefore not imitation. The more you know…


Curate an inspiration board. Whether it be a Pinterest board, a saved folder of images on your desktop or a corkboard in the classroom, save photos, color palettes and design elements that speak to you. Having these things to shuffle through on the days you’re feeling stuck will help to keep those creative juices flowing.

They’re in the Book, but Haven’t Purchased One. What Now?

they're in the book

Referring to the index list/coverage report constantly is a best practice of top-notch yearbook staffs. It lets you know to schedule an interview with Bryan about his passion for antique cars, and in turn, avoid Sara who plays varsity soccer, is president of SGA and was on homecoming court. You want your book and your staff to be credible. Your student body doesn’t want to receive a book with the same handful of faces throughout, so make an extra effort to include everyone.

Hopefully this is something your staff does as a matter of practice. So now it’s time to take a look at a list of students who have or haven’t bought a book, and compare that with the ongoing coverage list. If there are students who are in the book three times, but haven’t bought a book yet, make a point to let them know!

You can do this a few ways. Order “Last Chance” postcards to distribute. (Call your CSA with item number: 0406-000-667 to order free of charge.) Or stick a Post-It note on their locker letting them know they’re in it and don’t want to miss out. Or, if you’re an eDesign and eBusiness user, take advantage of Send and Sell to create custom messages and email them to non-buyers. Create a sense of urgency surrounding the need to own a copy of the yearbook which will house the year’s memories, forever!

Keep the Coverage Flowing

Keep the Coverage Flowing

A new term, proofs on top of deadlines, early onset senioritis and winter weather doldrums can all take their toll on yearbook production. But remember — the finish line is almost here. A couple more deadlines and the yearbook will be finished!

This is a great time to step back and recall that enthusiasm we all had at theme-planning time and bring some of that excitement back into the yearbook room. Now is also the perfect time to look ahead and envision the excitement of yearbooks arriving on campus and distribution events where the entire school community gets to share and re-live all the memories of the year that have been preserved forever in the 2016 yearbook.

But first, we need to finish those final deadlines which might entail some, or all, of the following tasks:

  • Finishing up winter sports coverage, including any playoff games or meets
  • Getting a head-start on spring sports coverage by gathering team schedules, spread editors introducing themselves to coaches, interviews with players about preseason training and preparation
  • Double checking the activities calendar to make sure all events planned for inclusion on the final deadlines are still on track to actually happen and that pre-event coverage gets done
  • Verifying all remaining group shots are scheduled and necessary advance information is taken care of so club members and faculty advisers all know the details for their groups
  • Keeping the index updated and running coverage reports to make sure every person at your school is included in the book, or will be on the pages for upcoming deadlines

While there are still plenty of details to attend to as we approach the deadline finish line, also remember to continue to have fun as a yearbook team. Right now may be the perfect time to pull out one of the stress relief activity cards from the HJ Curriculum Skill Set Cards and write a deadline haiku or share some “Me” Time, all of which may help generate some coverage ideas in the process.

Repeat after me – “We’re almost there. We’re almost there. We’re almost…”

Additional resources: Contact your HJ Rep for the entire set.

Teaching Yearbook Journalism Skill Set Cards

Will You Remember?

Will You Remember?

Very few people will be willing to do the extra work to go back and look up the cost of a pair of jeans, a movie ticket, a gallon of gas or a first class stamp during their years in high school. Even fewer could accurately remember the cost of taking the SAT, that daily coffee or a seat at the concert of the year.

And while those details might not really seem to matter, they are an important part of the history that a great yearbook creates. Recording the details of the year means more than making sure to identify photos, including complete scoreboards and having an accurate index. Your staff is creating the only permanent record of this year at your school, and keeping the goal of recording history in mind means your yearbook will be valuable for more than just memories in 10 years and 20 and more.

Aspire to include information that might mean little today, but will be certain to capture the readers’ attention in years to come. Long captions allow you to preserve details about new apps, the cost of new technology, students’ favorite brands for fashion and prices they paid for everything from snacks and entertainment to clothes, phones and college applications.

It’s often said that if a group/event/topic is not included in the yearbook, in five years, it will be as though it never existed. As simplistic as it sounds, the adage is definitely true. You have the power — and the responsibility — to preserve this year for your readers forever.

And, for the record, gas was 59¢ a gallon when I was a senior; jeans and concerts ranged from $8-12 and a stamp cost 13¢. Knowing this today, I’m a leading contender in our class trivia game at next year’s class reunion, where we’ll pay more for the weekend’s festivities than we did for all of our college applications combined!