If you've ever wondered what it takes to produce a cover, sit back because I'm about to tell you. For starters, it's a little more involved than picking out an image, laying down some text, and saying it's good to go. There is a lot of forethought that goes into them, especially if we have a certain theme planned for a particular issue. Sometimes I farm the image(s) out to the ace shooters and other times I find myself hiding behind the lens.
Personally, I think shooting is the easy part. Once we visualize what we're looking for, it's simply executing what was going on in the gray matter. The tough part is laying out the image and planning out the verbiage, commonly referred to as the blurbs. Every magazine is different, and I'm a firm believer in getting straight to the point, which is why you generally won't see clichés or snarky blurbs on our covers.
Being direct still requires us to look over the past years' covers to ensure that we're constantly providing a fresh look; given the number of covers we've produced, they tend to blend together from our perspective. While doing the covers has gotten a little smoother over the years, I have to think back to 2006 when Hot Rod magazine's editor in chief, David Freiburger, was my editorial director. Cover meetings were brutal, it'd be me; my art director, Dave Conrey; and Freiburger on lockdown-safely away from everyone-for hours, sometimes the entire day, just going over blurbs and image placement. Yes, they were grueling, but it was time well spent, especially since I was so new to managing my own title back then.
Over the years, Conrey and I have become pretty proficient and have learned each other's little quirks and can produce a cover a bit quicker, but that's not to say there aren't times when we go back and forth-and back and forth and back and forth-before settling on the final product.
All this brings me to this month's question: If you're a subscriber, you probably noticed that last month's issue had a beautiful Tri-Five on the cover, whereas the newsstand issue featured a small-block 355. Our reasoning isn't to make you go run out and purchase the one you didn't get (although that's always appreciated); instead it's to change it up a little bit and use spectacular images of cars, including various engine components that we wouldn't normally put on the newsstand, because it's not as catchy to the casual, mainstream observer. Of course, your feedback as a subscriber, your input, is always welcomed.
Since we're planning to do this from time to time, I want to know what you think. So, do you want to see two versions of the cover? What about more Tri-Fives in the magazine? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.