First, I would like to state that I have been a volunteer/unpaid yearbook advisor since 2008. I am a team of one and have created yearbooks for the Pre-K/Kindergarten school, the elementary school, the 6th grade building and the Junior High School. I began using Taylor Publishing and the following year I began using Entourage Yearbooks. For the next several years, I used Entourage Yearbooks for 2 different school yearbooks. Then I added a book for a 1 year building and they had an existing contract with Jostens and 2 years later the contract was switched to Walsworth. That means for a few years, I was doing 3 year books with 2 different companies. I mostly use Adobe Creative Suite software (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) to create my books along with what each company has available.
The first year I was a Yearbook Advisor the school had been using Taylor Publishing. The local reps were a father and son and the training and support was very limited. I had one training day that was not communicated clearly with me, so I received a called and asked where I was, but I had never been told about it. The training was being held at another school in my district, but by the time I arrived they had already begun. That was the only time I spoke with the son or received any training. The other rep, the father, did not communicate deadlines or steps in the process to me, but he did call to report my missed deadline for the yearbook cover to the principal; he never spoke to me about it. I mostly had to learn it on my own, when I needed support I found the national support number the most helpful and called them with questions, I even requesting that the national tech support rep to become my full-time rep, but I was told no. The book was done entirely online which I found glitchy and hard to navigate, and the resources and templates were very limited. Nothing was exceptional about the book quality, support, pricing, or options/templates. Deadlines were early, cover was due in October, and the completed book was due in February for delivery by the middle of May. As far as pricing, our book sale price was set at $15 for a 60 page book and our cost was very close to that, we never saw the yearbook as a profit maker.
The next fall when school started, I was ready to start a new year with more information and experience with Taylor Publishing and how they work, only to find out that the principals of the school had switched to Entourage Yearbooks. I admit I was not happy with learning a new system and we had no information on their quality or reliability since they were a new company. I was certain the principals only chose them because their pricing was outstanding! I quickly learned that it was a good change! The first year was better than the previous, but there were still some challenging phases, but the difference was that I had consistent support from my rep, including training. I was given the deadlines for the entire project early and the steps I would need to take to reach those deadlines were communicated clearly. If I cannot reach my rep, there is a tech support line and other reps and assistants who are always willing to help me. Entourage has a lot of flexibility with regards to design and software that you can use to create your yearbook. There are several options when it comes to designing and creating a yearbook; there is EdOnline to create a book all online, there is FotoFusion which is a software that is downloaded onto your computer, you can use the Adobe Creative Suite, or you can use a combination of all of these options. I do use all of them to create my books. One year I decided I wanted my yearbook to be a coloring book, they found special paper for my book to make it non-smearing and colarable! My rep is someone I consider as part of my yearbook team. I am a yearbook team of one and she and the Entourage staff make sure I get the book I want and help me complete the book. Pricing came in much, much lower and we even added an extra 20 pages to our book! We eventually raised our sale price to $20 and we make a nice profit each year with over 80% of students purchasing them. Deadlines are much more generous, which means I get more activities and events into my yearbook. The cover is due in January and the completed book is due in April, with still a delivery of mid May.
I began as a yearbook advisor for our district’s one year 6th grade building about 5 years later using Josten’s, while also doing the elementary book with Entourage, which gave me insight into how both work and showed me how different the companies were. My first Jostens rep was extremely involved in our book and knew our building secretary and principal well. He stopped in often and made the process of creating the book easy. As a new yearbook advisor for that building and most likely only there for 1 year, I chose to continue with Jostens, because the local rep would be able to meet the new advisor every year and train them and since he stopped into the building all the time, I thought that would help with the yearly transition for a new advisor every year. The pricing was higher and the software was limited, as were the templates. When I talked about terminating the contract, the rep was able to lower the pricing, for one year, to get me to stay with Jostens, so I stayed. I admit I was accustomed to Entourage where if I had an idea in mind, I just made it or Entourage helped me make it, but with these other companies they fit more into the traditional yearbook templates and options and I felt limited, but it was only for 1 year, right? The deadlines were earlier and I always felt like I was missing a large part of the year and activities with such early deadlines.
Well, as it turns out, I like making yearbooks, so I agreed to be the advisor for a 2nd year, even though I didn’t have a child at that building. However, that rep that was so great the year before, left halfway through the year. So many things that he did that I thought were part of what that company included as part of their customer service, it turns out were just how he did it, but not the new rep. The previous rep, entered orders into their system that were paid by check or cash (online payment wasn’t a huge thing just 5 years ago, so a lot of orders had to be entered by him or myself with all the personalizations and extras, which I hadn’t offered at the elementary level). He would stop in just to check in with the secretary every week or two. When the books came in he printed out the distribution lists, sorted the books by teacher, so they were ready for distribution and sorted the personalized books and extras. The new rep didn’t do any of that, never stopped by the school, didn’t check in on us, and when it came to delivery, we called him to see when he would be organizing the distribution, to which he said is not his responsibility.
Then the next school year started, my 3rd year at a 1 year school, and again I had a child at the building. From August, when he told me my cover was due Labor Day weekend, through December I didn’t hear from him, that is until he got the contract termination letter. I cancelled that contract because I thought the customer service would make up for the big increase in pricing and fewer pages, but it seemed customer service dropped below even the most basic level. Did I mention his business card didn’t even have a phone number on it? I’d had enough. So, in November I switched to Walsworth. The reason I chose Walsworth was out of convenience to the next person who would take over that one year building’s book. Our Junior High and High School both use Walsworth and at those buildings the yearbook advisors are paid stipend positions for teachers, and my plan was that a teacher could take over the position in the future and the other buildings could support each other. I also thought the kids could learn how to use the online program in a yearbook club in 6th grade, which would help them going forward at the JH Yearbook Club and HS Yearbook class. Walsworth’s Sales Rep was much more involved and I saw him often for meetings/trainings and he helped when I had problems understanding their program, but the software was pretty similar to Jostens’. The pricing wasn’t much better, deadlines were only a little bit better. I will also say that I am kind of an easy client. I don’t usually need a lot of support and consider myself kind of tinker/techie, so I worked my way through this new program. Again, it’s a one year building and I knew he’d be there to support the next advisor to train them and help them do things in the building when they needed it. For the extra money and the potential for having someone or something consistent, even if a teacher took it over, I was willing to stick with them, which I have for 3 years.
A couple years ago, I opened the Walsworth yearbooks to preview them on the day of delivery only to find that my cover background, that I turned in in October was all white. Now, I will say the kids never knew the difference, however I had done a graffiti theme and this what white with some spray painted looking words. I had proofed, approved it and thought things were good to go. I had sent the file to the national rep and it was then sent to the production plant, however the file was corrupted when it got to production, but they assumed that it was supposed to be that way. I was not happy and very disappointed at the disconnect in this process. When I complained, I received a few sorries, but the financial compensation was not as I had hoped. What they said is that they had already discounted my fees for missing a deadline. Again, very disappointing. In my first year with Entourage, we had a few books that came out misprinted and they offered me upgrades for the following year, which greatly improved my yearbook.
Every year, the Walsworth wants to talk to me about how to get my other book with Walsworth and I tell him he is wasting his time and I will not switch from Entourage. For 2 years now, I have thought I was going to be doing that 6th grade yearbook, but a parent with a child in that building that year, has stepped up and done the book. First, those parents call me and say they had no idea what they were getting into, can I help, and second, that rep asks that I please do that book the next year and help the advisor in the current year. Every year when a new group of parents come to that building from my elementary school where I have used Entourage, they are shocked at the price increase and quality of the book change. They question why it is so much more expensive, for fewer pages and for less of a quality. A few years ago, the principal from the elementary moved up to that building, she and the PTO treasurer insisted we switch to a softcover and get more pages(from 40 to 68), but Walsworth’s cost of the book didn’t change, it still remained over $22 per book. The elementary book has 80-84 pages and the cost is less than $15 per book.
One other difference I’d like to talk about is marketing. Entourage offers printed marketing flyers and posters. The other companies charge for that. That is a huge expense and can really affect your sales.
It’s no secret that I prefer Entourage Yearbooks. I prefer them for the support and options they have. The flexibility of how I design my books and the relationships I have built working with them. Their pricing may have initially landed me there, but their support, amazing team of employees, and quality of books, that is always improving, keeps me there for 11 years and counting!