Here are some tips publishers can use to get the most out of selling on the newsstand and avoid premature returns.
Date Your Issues Carefully
Particularly relevant for magazines that do not publish frequently, paying close attention to the wording of your issue dates will avoid stale-dating. Retailers pay close attention to the dates you publish on your cover and they may return magazines early to ensure they don't miss a final return date. In the case of a quarterly magazine, if your magazine comes out in April but will stay on the newsstand until July, it's a good idea to call the issue Summer, not Spring—if it's the middle of June and retailers see Spring 2013 on the cover, they may send the magazine back because they don't want to miss the final return date. Sales may also improve if your Summer issue comes out as early as March or April, because consumers may think, "Wow! This must be brand new." A good rule of thumb for quarterlies is to date a magazine one season ahead. For a monthly or bi-monthly publication, one to three months ahead is sufficient.
Stick to a Regular Publishing Schedule
Many retailers have each title's frequency set in their computers. Some smaller titles that publish four issues per year neglect the importance of putting out a new magazine every three months. If your title goes on the stands as a quarterly, it's unlikely that it will stay on the shelf for more than three months.
Even more harmful than a lapse in publishing frequency is when publishers put issues out too close together, which sometimes happens near year-end to meet granting requirements. Try to give your magazine a full shelf life. Readers are more likely to know your frequency than are retail employees. If readers buy an issue, they may assume that they won't find the next one for three months (for quarterly magazines). However, if you publish three issues in a row at two-month intervals, loyal readers could easily miss an issue. If you know a certain issue is often late or depends on funding to come through each year, make sure the issue before that one doesn't come out too many months in advance.
Publish a Display-Until Date On Your Cover
Tell retailers when to return your title. The best trick for newsstand success is to print "Display Until Month, Day, Year" right on your cover. This also helps you to maintain a regular publishing schedule. Some retailers just do big returns when they feel like it or if they think your title has been there for a long time. Giving them a display-until date lets them know not to take it off the shelves too early.
It's a good idea to put the display-until date on the cover in close proximity to the price, issue and bar code. The best place for the display-until date is above or below the bar code, because retailers look to it and the issue name for an idea of when the issue should be returned.
Time It Right
As with stale-dating, don't forget to consider times for shipping, invoicing, etc. Plan on getting your March issue done well before March, for example. When you consider the time it takes for printing, shipping to your distributor, re-shipping to stores and shelving, there may be weeks involved. Generally, for monthly and bimonthly magazines, it's good to hit the newsstands at least a week before the start of the month to keep your title fresh and on the stands for a maximum amount of time.
Use Your Cover As a Marketing Tool
Here are some tips to help you think about your cover and how it helps maximize sales.