Choosing a yearbook company can be a difficult thing to do. But there’s a secret to making it a easier: Asking questions. A lot of them. The more you ask of all the yearbook publishers out there, the more likely you’ll be to find which company is the best fit for you and your school.

To help you with all of that, we put together a starter list of questions every yearbook adviser should ask and notes about why you should ask them.

(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.)

How can students or their parents personalize
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.

If you think your students deserve better than that, look for a yearbook publisher who lets them easily add their own memories to their copy of the school yearbook and have those memories uniquely printed in their own, personal pages inside the school’s yearbook.

What does that cost?

Because traditional yearbook companies often use printing presses to produce their yearbooks, personalizing any aspect of a yearbook can be quite time-consuming and expensive for them to pull off. And guess who absorbs those costs? You got it: the schools.

Meanwhile, modern yearbook companies that use the latest in digital, on-demand printing technology can often do a higher level of personalization without any of the added time or costs. Nice, right?

As cool as personalized pages are, you’ll want to make sure the yearbook publisher you choose won’t be hiking up the price of your yearbook just to include them.

How many books do I need to commit to purchasing?

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. Which means, if you guess wrong, you’re either stuck with leftovers (a potentially wasteful and costly situation) or stuck with students who wanted a yearbook, but lost out (a potential bummer of a situation). We don’t know about you, but that’s not a gamble we would want to make.

How many deadlines do you require?

A lot of yearbook publishers will give you several deadlines: one for class pages, one for senior portraits, one for ads, 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.

What's the turnaround time on books?

This question ties in nicely with the “deadlines” question above. 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 within one month of your final sign-off on your print-ready submission.

What are the shipping costs?

One of the most common hidden fees in the yearbook industry is shipping costs. And it’s often not revealed until after the books are ordered and the payments are processed.

So, find out up front whether those costs are included in the price parents are paying for the yearbook. If they’re not, make sure you spell out those extra costs to your parents well in advance.

What kind of publishing software do you offer?

The most effective yearbook publishing software is one that lets you collaborate with others, work remotely and share your progress with others. These days, that software is usually available to use online, through a web browser.

Online software makes it easier for yearbook advisors are yearbook staff to edit the yearbook from wherever they are. It allows students and parents to safely create personalized pages and more easily order their yearbooks using integrated ecommerce platform.

What does it cost to use?

Creating a yearbook shouldn’t cost schools a single penny.

The yearbook has been around since at least 1860, but that tradition is being threatened because of the business models being used by traditional yearbook companies. Instead of turning where you’ve always turned, look to the modern yearbook publishers to see how their combination of technology, school-friendly terms and parent-friendly pricing can work for you.

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