Selling Yearbook Ads? Read This First.

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If you’re considering whether selling yearbook ads is right for you, it probably means you’re looking to take your staff to the next level. Of course, it might also mean that you’re struggling with the (often exorbitant) financial obligation you have to your publisher.  

Sure, yearbook ads can represent a great learning opportunity. Students can learn valuable business skills by selling yearbook ads. The ability to upgrade your staff’s cameras or send your rising seniors to yearbook camp or buy more licenses for necessary software isn’t cheap, and selling ads to parents and local businesses can offset or eliminate these costs. But yearbook ads aren’t always roses. In many cases they’re a means to an end, a necessary evil to pay a debt owed thanks to past missteps or unfavorable terms.

If you fall into the first camp, fantastic; ads could be exactly what you need to take your staff and yearbook to the big leagues. If, on the other hand, you find yourself resigned to the latter, there’s no need to fret just yet; all it takes to turn yearbook ads from an interest payment into a bona fide, revenue-generating learning opportunity is a plan.

In this post, we’re going to show you how to determine whether or not you need to sell yearbook ads and, more importantly, what to do once you’ve figured it out.

So, You Wanna Sell Yearbook Ads?

Before you even think about selling an ad, ask yourself one thing: in an ideal world, what is your goal for doing so? Without completing this step, and giving yourself and your staff something to strive towards, there’s no point in investing the time and effort into creating yearbook ads.

Generally speaking, schools sell yearbook ads for one of four reasons:

  • To pay back existing publisher debt
  • As an opportunity to teach business skills (sales, advertising, negotiation, and more)
  • As a fundraising effort to purchase new equipment
  • To foster staff enrichment (using the proceeds to help your students pursue related learning opportunities)

Boy is that first one a doozy.

The remaining items on that list sound pretty great, though, don’t they? Purchasing hardware and software that, in the hands of your well-trained staff will only serve to enhance your yearbooks for years to come, is a dream. Being able to do so self-sufficiently, without having to wait for an additional budget from your higher up’s, is even better.

But before you can even think about spending that hard-earned ad revenue, you’ve got to pay the piper.

Paying Yearbook Publishers with Yearbook Ads

There is a litany of reasons that your yearbook organization could be in debt. Perhaps you bought far too many books last year; maybe your budget was slashed three weeks ago and your typical fundraising efforts simply won’t be enough to cover costs. Regardless of why, the desire to sell ads for any reason outside of improving the final product and the skills of its creators probably signals one thing: unfavorable terms with your publisher.

The solution to this issue is obvious: negotiate school-friendly terms.

I know, I know, it sounds daunting. But if you’re given a quota (a set number of books to sell) or a price per book that seems outrageous, open a dialogue and see what happens. Be open and honest with your publisher and see if they’re willing to renegotiate. After all: your school’s still going to be there next year, and the year after that, and likely decades into the future. It’s in the best interest of a publisher to create goodwill and ensure a steady stream of revenue in perpetuity.

And if they don’t see that, shop around. There are plenty of yearbook publishers who are willing to work with schools as equals, not dollar signs: you just need to search them out

Whatever you do, don’t try to sell yearbook ads just to pay your yearbook publisher. If you’re going to use a portion of the money generated from yearbook ad sales to make a dent in your debt, that’s great. But frankly, there are easier way, ones that won’t sap your staff’s time and effort away from actually working on your school’s yearbook.

While selling ads is a good way to teach students about business, it’s not a necessity for every yearbook program. Virtually any fundraising opportunity can be turned into something teachable, and selling ads is probably the most resource-intensive of the bunch. This reality is what makes ad sales particularly alluring because they quite literally become part of the finished product.

Yearbook publishers know this, too, and some of them even see ads as an additional revenue stream for themselves. You read that right: there are yearbook publishers who will charge you a premium for allowing you the privilege of doing every ounce of ad-related legwork.

Frankly, this is ludicrous.

Selling Yearbook Ads: The Bottom Line

It boils down to this: if you aren’t keeping most (ideally 90%) of your yearbook ad revenue, then ads aren’t the answer. You’ve got other issues to address before you start sending students down to the local pizza joints and car dealerships pitching opportunities to grow brand awareness.

If you’re not quite ready to reap the benefits of yearbook ads, consider renegotiating with your publisher or find one that’s willing to work with you. This will allow you to create more favorable terms for your school, which means ads can go towards net positives like cameras and camps and anything else you discover that might give your staff a creative edge.

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