Hidden Yearbook Costs Are Killing a Tradition

Find out how to save your yearbook program and raise money instead of losing money.

From Leftover Books to Missed Deadline Fees the Yearbook is Costing Schools

It’s astonishing that yearbook costs are eating into school budgets. Especially when schools across America are facing a massive budget crisis. Before the 2020 pandemic Federal funding was already down 10%. In a post-pandemic economy our schools will be feeling the impact from State funding for many years to come given school funding comes primarily from income tax - which declined greatly, and entertainment - which came to a halt.

Why Are Yearbook Costs Hurting Schools?

It's rather simple: traditional yearbook companies require schools to commit to a set number of yearbooks at the beginning of the year before they are sold to parents. If the school doesn't sell all of the books, guess who's left with the tab for those leftover yearbook costs? The school.

Traditional yearbook companies, follow traditional sales models. Your dedicated yearbook "account executive" is just a sales person dedicated to earning commission from your school. Their commission is baked into the cost.

On-demand Printing Eliminates School Yearbook Costs

The commitment based model surely benefits the publisher, since they get to lock in revenue, but it's an unnecessary burden for public schools in the age of on-demand printing.

Historically, for a school to get competitive yearbook prices, they were required to commit to a set number upfront. That mostly had to do with the inefficiencies and expensive set up costs related to offset printing.

Today’s printing technologies allow publishers to produce beautiful and affordably priced books, one at a time. There is no need for schools to place orders in advance. They can simply purchase the exact number of yearbooks they need a few weeks before the end of the school year, or even better, have parents purchase the books directly.

The Traditional Yearbook is Much Less Relevant to Today's Internet Generation

Today's generation of students have 1000s of photos and videos of themselves and their friends. Selling a yearbook with only one or two photos of them does not cut it now adays. Yearbooks need to be updated for kids to want to buy them now. Free custom yearbook pages for each student and the ability to send each other digital signatures that can be included are a huge step in the right direction to make sure each student's year is captured and representative of who they are as indivuduals, not only the school.

Yearbook Costs Are Hidden

Sadly, many school principals and administrators don't realize they are losing money. The impact from leftover yearbook costs is often masked by the revenue generated through fundraising efforts and yearbook ads.

For example, a school that raises $3,000 from a yearbook fundraiser, but ends up with 100 leftover copies of a $30 book, is perceived as "breaking even". The loss comes when the school sends their fundraising check to the publisher to cover the cost for those yearbook leftovers.

Imagine if the school doesn't have to send the $3,000 to their publisher for those 100 unsold books. How could they use that money instead? Arts program? New chromebooks? More teachers?

Dirty Little Secret - Reps are On Commission

Traditional yearbook sales reps are paid largely by commission on what a school purchases. This often times leads to an reps convincing teachers and parents to buy more books for the school than they can sell and creating a large debt for the school.

Farhad Manjoo, of the New York Times, wrote an engaging piece for Slate about the yearbook industry’s “dirty little secret”. Manjoo interviewed George Washington High School's yearbook advisor, Ryan Novack, who revealed that his school's yearbook had left them with a massive $50,000 debt. When the head of GW's sports hall of fame was asked what $50,000 would do for the High School's football program, he said, "It would fund the entire football team for 5 years."

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Calculating Your Yearbook Costs

So how do you calculate your true yearbook costs? You’ll need 3 pieces of data to make the calculation:

  1. Number of leftover books
  2. Cost per book from the publisher
  3. Additional fees: shipping, missed deadlines and proof costs

Enter your data into our easy to use online calculator to help you see your true costs and show your potential savings.

Savings Calculator

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