Choosing a yearbook company can be a difficult thing to do. But there’s a secret to making it easier: Asking questions. A lot of them. The more you ask of all the yearbook companies out there, the more likely you’ll be to find which publisher is the best fit for you and your school community. To help you with all of that, we put together a starter list of ten questions every yearbook adviser should ask.
(A word about these questions: None of them can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” We did that intentionally—and you should too—because a question that can be answered with one word usually won’t get you a very useful answer.)
1. What is the Real Price Per Book, Including All Fees?
It’s not surprising with all the a la carte pricing out there (thank you airlines and cell phone providers) that determining the actual price per yearbook can be difficult. There’s a reason: hidden fees. It really shouldn’t be this difficult—at least we don’t think so.
There are a ton of possibilities, but here are the popular sneaky fees you can ask about now, so you’re not frustrated later:
- Unsold books
- Late fees
- Shipping costs
- Software subscriptions
- Training and support costs
- Custom cover upgrades
- 100lb. paper upcharge
- Personalized pages costs
- Online photo storage fees
Your yearbook quote should have an itemized list of costs, deadlines (more on these in a bit), and what’s included.
2. Are There Any Costs for Which the School Is Responsible?
Creating a yearbook shouldn’t cost schools a single penny. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Schools should be able to offer students (and parents) a yearbook without it costing the school anything. At least that’s what we think. Traditional yearbook companies typically make schools front the cost, which we think is completely outdated and unfair to schools.
Our combination of technology, school-friendly terms, and parent-friendly pricing allows parents to purchase their student’s yearbook directly online. This means the school pays nothing and you don’t even need to worry about managing all the orders. We’ll let you stick to the fun stuff, like designing a beautiful book.
3. How User-Friendly and Powerful Is the Yearbook Software?
The most effective yearbook publishing software is one that’s easy to use, lets you collaborate with others, and quickly design beautiful pages. Does it look like you need an engineering degree to build a yearbook, or does it seem straightforward? Does it look like you need to be a professional graphic designer to create beautiful pages, or does it provide gorgeous templates for you to choose from? Can students and parents purchase their yearbooks online from their phone/computer, or do you need to manage that manually?
Your best bet is to ask for a live demonstration. This way you can see how it works in real life and ask questions. Have them show you how to add and move a page in the yearbook. Find out how you would upload and lay out portraits. See what folder system they have to help you organize your photos. Better yet, ask for a free trial so you can check it out yourself.
4. How Are Each Student’s Memories Captured in Their Copy of the Yearbook?
Raise your hand if you ever felt a twinge of disappointment on the day you got your yearbook because your photo was only in there once or twice.
Traditional yearbook publishers think personalization means adding a cheesy icon or someone’s initials to the cover. We think every child deserves to see their own personal memories in their own personal yearbook. In today’s world where children have photos documenting their entire life, it would be a shame to not include these personal memories in each student’s individual copy of the yearbook.
5. Are You Locked Into The Quantity Of Yearbooks You Can Order?
One of the reasons traditional yearbook companies still use printing presses is that they’ve invested a good deal of money in them and, perhaps more importantly, they’ve developed a revenue model that strongly favors the yearbook publisher.
The gist of the revenue model is this: schools need to commit to a certain number of books in advance. If you guess wrong, you’re either stuck with leftovers (a wasteful and expensive situation) or stuck with students who wanted a yearbook and lost out (a hurtful situation). We don’t know about you, but that’s not a gamble we would want to make.
6. How Many Deadlines Does Your Yearbook Company Require?
A lot of yearbook publishers will give you several deadlines: one for your cover design, one for class pages, one for senior portraits, one for ads, and so on and so forth. And if you miss a deadline, they’ll often charge you a late fee.
But shouldn’t there only be one deadline? The day the book needs to be ready so that your publisher can print your yearbook and ship it for an on-time arrival? We think so. And we don’t think you should be charged a fee if you miss it.
7. What is the Turn-Around Time for You to Receive the Yearbook?
You’ll want to know how long your publisher needs to print and ship your yearbooks because that amount of time directly impacts how much of the school year can be documented in the printed version of the book.
A yearbook publisher who uses digital, on-demand printing technology should be able to guarantee you that your yearbook will arrive at your school at most three weeks from your final sign-off on your print-ready submission. This way you’ll be able to get all those great spring events such as spring sports and maybe even prom.
8. Can I Raise Money With the Yearbook?
The yearbook can be a great way to raise money for your school’s arts program, new computers, tablets, STEM programs, and so on. Traditional yearbook companies often don’t make this an option or take a large fee for the service.
If you’re going to add a fundraiser to the core price of your yearbook, you’ll want to make sure your school is receiving the money, not your yearbook company.
9. What Is the Cost and Level of Support That Will Be Provided?
Many yearbook companies will provide you with a local rep, which can be great as long as that person is available anytime you want and has no other customers. Everyone edits their yearbook at different times, and you’ll want someone who works on your schedule.
Make sure your rep has backup, or if you’ll have free access to help videos, training events, and articles. Yes, some companies charge for different levels of support!
10. What Does the Book Look Like When it’s Printed?
It might seem like a given that all yearbook companies print a book that is good quality. However, this is not always the case. You should request a sample, so you can see the quality of their printing for yourself.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a print expert to judge the quality. Here are a few tests. First, do the “see-through test.” Once you get the sample, hold a page up and see if you can see through the page. You’ll be able to easily images from the other side of the page on paper that is less than 100lb.
Next, do the “pull test,” grab one page in the middle of the book and bounce the book up and down. Does the page rip, does the page pull out? Finally, do the “fade test.” Leave the book in the sun for a day. Does it start fade? Any yearbook cover not UV coated will begin to fade.
Materials matter. Your yearbook not only holds the memories for the entire school that year: it is a book that people hold onto for a lifetime. It should be built to last that long.