How a September Issue Gets Made

The September issues are generally regarded as the most important issue of the year for fashion magazines. Everything about them--from the number of ad pages to the cover star--is picked apart and analyzed to determine the overall health of the magazine. And despite all the talk of the death of print media, glossy September issues have only gotten bigger and bigger. So how does it come together? How do those several-hundred page backache-inducing tomes get made? Glamour EIC Cindi Leive was kind enough to indulge our curiousity and let us in on the process.
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Leah Chernikoff
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The September issues are generally regarded as the most important issue of the year for fashion magazines. Everything about them--from the number of ad pages to the cover star--is picked apart and analyzed to determine the overall health of the magazine. And despite all the talk of the death of print media, glossy September issues have only gotten bigger and bigger. So how does it come together? How do those several-hundred page backache-inducing tomes get made? Glamour EIC Cindi Leive was kind enough to indulge our curiousity and let us in on the process.
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The September issues are generally regarded as the most important issue of the year for fashion magazines. Everything about them--from the number of ad pages to the cover star--is picked apart and analyzed to determine the overall health of the magazine. And despite all the talk of the death of print media, glossy September issues have only gotten bigger and bigger.

So how does it come together? How do those several-hundred page backache-inducing tomes get made?

Glamour EIC Cindi Leive was kind enough to indulge our curiousity and let us in on the process.

First, she's quick to point out that for monthly magazines that only put out 12 issues a year, every one is pretty important. "It's not like you only worry about this one and don't worry about August," she says.

But, she concedes, the interest in September has grown over the years. Whereas the September issues were once only important in the advertising world (WWD and Ad Age and other trade publications still publish the number of ad pages per September book as an indication of how well each magazine is doing), readers have taken an increased interest in September as well, Leive believes, thanks to The September Issue documentary, reality TV and social media. "I think the average woman, the average magazine reader understands that the September issue is a big deal," Leive says. "The fact that people are tweeting at me, 'Who’s going to be on the cover of your September issue?'--that level of hunger would not have existed five years ago."

So, down to the nitty gritty.

Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Leive tells us that an average September issue takes from between nine months to a year to put together. "And then there are parts that [you finish] three days before you ship the issue off to the printer," she says. "But it's the big building blocks you do start planning a good amount of time in advance."

For example, discussions to book Glamour's bankable cover star Jennifer Aniston (she has proven, time after time, to be newsstand gold) began last January.

Determining who is on the September cover is a big decision. "You want somebody who has an interest in fashion and kind of a particular style," Leive explains. "You obviously want somebody that your readers are going to love... somebody they want to hang out with. Glamour has a very girlfriend-y personality so for our key covers, we really try to look for somebody who exemplifies that." So why Aniston now? The cover star has to have more going for her than simply a new movie or album coming out around the same time. "[Aniston] is having a great moment right now," Leive says. "She’s at a really happy place in her life, she’s in a great movie... it just felt like all the stars were aligned."

Then there's the making of the actual cover. Should the image of the celebrity or model be closely cropped, or pulled back to show off more fashion? Will the cover shoot be on location or in a studio? How will the cover headlines work around the cover image?

Everything is taken into consideration.

Because Glamour's September issue is dedicated to Hollywood (Glamour is gearing up for its 75th anniversary in the spring and looking back at those early years when the mag was called Glamour in Hollywood), Leive says "we knew we wanted [Aniston] in some location that looked like she really owned Hollywood." Hence, Aniston on a roof, sitting on a throne-like chair, overlooking Los Angeles. "You're getting that sense of [Aniston] really ruling the town, which is fairly accurate," Leive says.

With the cover image set, other major changes then fall into place. Usually Glamour writes out its name in bold pink lettering on the cover but for September black lettering was used. "We use pink a lot on our covers--it's a color that our readers love and respond to, but on this particular issue the second we put a black logo on there we were like 'That's it, we’re done.'" Leive says. "Because it really balanced the black of her dress and gave the cover a heft that we all loved."

And then there's everything else. The editorials, the well features, and so on. Leive says that the Hollywood theme--Olivia Wilde, Jason Sudeikis, Chloe Moretz, Andy Samberg, and so many more are featured in the mag--took time. "A lot of long conversations and careful booking," Leive says. But it paid off. The piece Wilde penned about turning 30 is hilarious. ("My only feedback on her first draft was, can you write something twice as long?" Leive says.) And a thoroughly researched list of 35 powerful women in Hollywood under 35 is inspiring.

Now that you know what goes into these suckers, you should probably pick one up to continue to stave off that whole death of print media thing.