10 Tips to Help You Survive Your First Year as Yearbook Adviser

10 Tips to Help You Survive Your First Year as Yearbook Adviser
  1. Since nobody at your school does what you do, collaborate with other yearbook advisers whenever you get the chance. Join your state’s scholastic journalism organization and utilize your yearbook rep. Don’t isolate yourself.
  1. Right away, take pictures and sell yearbooks.
  1. Set high expectations, but remember they are just kids.
  1. No matter what, though, keep in mind that you can’t do this all by yourself. Your yearbook staff will have to put in the time for the book they want.
  1. Your yearbook does not have to win an award in your first year as an adviser. In my first year, we focused on photography. We had awful captions and minimal copy. We worked on those later.
  1. Celebrate. Have fun. Laugh at yourself when necessary and appropriate. Reward your staff. Food is a great motivator.
  1. Set your own deadlines about two weeks before the real deadline.
  1. Brag about your accomplishments. Tell your principal (and the local newspaper) how awesome your kids are doing. If you do have issues, remember, what happens in yearbook stays in yearbook.
  1. Attend a workshop. If you missed the summer workshop, look for a fall workshop. If you can’t attend with students, go by yourself.
  1. Remember that every year is a fresh start. Every yearbook should represent the year it is printed and should be the work of the students who worked on it. Listen to “We’ve always done it this way,” but then do what works for you and your staff in your year.

Yearbook Academy: What is a Theme?

Yearbook Academy: What is a Theme?

When it comes to creating your best yearbook yet, you can never have enough resources. Just in time for the start of the school year, we’re introducing Yearbook Academy, a series of short videos that will help your staff create and market the yearbook. We’ll be featuring a few of the videos on the blog, but if want access to watch them all, visit the Yearbook Academy page and log in with your HJ credentials. If you’re not yet a Herff Jones customer, click here to watch the entire collection of Yearbook Academy videos. Your editors and staff will love learning more about yearbook from this new video series.




A theme is made up two components:

  • A verbal statement
  • A visual look

These two components should provide unity throughout the book and effectively tell the story of the year.

A good theme is a verbal statement, paired with a visual look that ties the book together

The theme should appear on:

  • Cover
  • Endsheets
  • Title page
  • Opening
  • Dividers
  • Index
  • Closing
  • Folios

The theme should be developed through:

  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Design
  • Type
  • Graphics
  • Color
  • Story content
  • Book organization

Look for each and every possible opportunity to weave your theme into your coverage!

*If you want access to watch them all, visit the Yearbook Academy page and log in with your HJ credentials. Not yet a Herff  Jones customer? Click here to gain access to the entire collection of Yearbook Academy videos.

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

Snow Adversity 2016

Snow Adversity 2016

As I sit in Centreville, Virginia with literally tons of snow surrounding me and my school, I suppose I should be in panic mode about our fourth deadline looming. Will school even be open just one day this week? We are on our fourth consecutive day out as I write; most think we’ll be out the remaining three days this week.

I did send in our final copy count and the business team did submit the nameplate list before the blizzard of 2016. LESSON: When asked for information, comply ASAP.

We are 20 pages ahead. LESSON: Always submit extra pages the first two or three deadlines.

My editors have been texting and using social media to remind staffers of what must be done as soon as we return. LESSON: It is their deadline, not yours!

My rep has been supportive by sending out messages of comfort. LESSON: Trust your rep!

I have been experimenting with new recipes, knitting, reading and movie watching. The point is this: we can’t avoid what nature deals out. It is best for our collective mental health to go with the flow, bank sleep and be ready to go full force upon return. I have urged the editors and staff to clear calendars for work this coming Saturday. We will make it. Always have. Cheers

Did you have a similar experience? Tell us about it!

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!

Refresh — Ten Ways to Refresh and Rejuvenate

Refresh — Ten ways to refresh and rejuvenate

Recharging your internal battery is as important as making sure you have food in the fridge or gas in your car. Finding time or ways to do that are easier than you may think. Consider trying any or all of the following before you get back into full swing of another school year.

  1. Ditch the electronics. Studies have shown that being so connected isn’t the best idea for our brains. We need to have real down time away from electronics so put the smart phone down and go for a walk.
  2. Treat yourself to a spa day. Relieve the tension that has been built up in your muscles from deadlines by visiting your local oasis. Need help finding a spa, visit www.spafinder.com  If massage therapy isn’t affordable, try hydrotherapy in your own tub. Put on some soft music, light a few candles and use some bath salts or essential oils to create a respite at home.
  3. Read something that is candy for your mind. Whether it is a murder mystery, a self-help book or some just for fun fiction, choose something that will help you escape from your hectic schedule, even for a short time.
  4. Get in touch with nature. Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin” is vital to having strong teeth and bones and a healthy immune system and is free just spending time outside.
  5. Get physical. Walking, running, swimming, biking, canoeing, whatever exercise will help wake up your psyche by releasing endorphins which will also help to put you in a better mood.
  6. Talk to a friend. Picking up the phone and actually talking to someone about something other than work is a great mood lifter.
  7. Laugh, a lot. Laughter really is the best medicine so finding ways to increase it in your everyday life will only make you feel better…and might even be contagious.
  8. Try a new hobby. Look for classes that interest you at local shops and schools. With schedules that accommodate working people (and that are often inexpensive),  you can try something new and see if you like it before investing in all the tools and equipment.
  9. Travel. While visiting far off lands may not be in your budget, simply taking a ride in the country and having lunch in a new locale offers you a chance to see what’s outside your little area.
  10. Rest and relax. Getting enough sleep can have profound effects on your stress levels and immune system. Sleep time is when your body and immune system do most of their repairs and rejuvenate to make them ready for the next day. Proper sleep (7-8 hours a night) will enhance your body’s ability to fight infection. Never feel guilty about sneaking in a nap if time allows.