April 1, 2008 / Spring 2008 / Staff Management

Strategies for successful distribution

Written by Idea File Staff

All of those D-Days during the school year – those deadlines that needed to be met – were just the precursor to your yearbook’s big D-Day – Distribution Day. Distribution is another yearbook job that requires planning, organizing and coordination. It is a lot of work, but that effort before the big D-Day will make handing out the books as rewarding for you as for the recipients.

Schools distribute their yearbooks in a variety of ways. Some staffs hand them out by homeroom during the last week or first week of school. Some hand them out at registration in August. Some make students come to the yearbook room to get it.

However you do it, this vast project needs organization before the books arrive from the printer. This article is a compilation of the good advice from all of the articles on distribution that are on our website, walsworthyearbooks.com. Adapt them to your process to stay organized.

Live by the List

Your distribution list is one of the most important items you will need at distribution time. The quality of your distribution will depend on the quality of your list.

Start by taking the receipts and compiling the names of every student who has purchased a book. If you sell your book at varying prices – such as an early bird price and a regular price – make sure those lists of buyers are combined. You may want to end book sales when you begin creating the distribution list. And consider making extra books available for remaining students to buy on distribution day.

Now put the list in a usable form. To do that, you must decide how the books will be distributed. If students will pick up the books in one central location, create an alphabetical list by grade. If the books will be delivered to specific classrooms, make lists by the teachers’ names and the students’ names in alphabetical order. If you sell namestamped books, make sure the list has those names clearly marked so that purchasers get their books.

Make sure to delete from the distribution list the names of students who have left the school. Indicate on a new list which students received refunds and which students have paid for postage to have their book mailed to them, if you allow this.

The list also needs a place to mark who has received their book. This can be a checkmark by the staff member handing out the book, or the initials of the student picking up the book.

Make sure you set cutoff dates for sales and refunds to allow plenty of time to create your lists.

Another note on handing out books: students who are picking up books for friends or siblings need to have a signed note granting permission. Make this known when students purchase yearbooks and make announcements closer to distribution time. Have the notes brought to you or your editor before distribution and kept with the distribution list to resolve discrepancies.

D-day necessities

If you plan to pass out books at one time in one place, then reserve the place at least one month, if not two or three, before the distribution day. The place could be the gym, cafeteria, commons area or a classroom. Make sure you have these items:

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Pens
  • Highlighters
  • Tape
  • Sales records/receipts
  • Signs to direct students to the correct lines
  • Carts or dollies to move books
  • Trash cans
  • Change, if you will be selling yearbooks
  • Enough staff members
  • Adult supervisors, such as teachers or parents

More on the jobs of the people involved in a minute.

When the books arrive

These books cost money to create, and they cannot be left sitting against a wall of the yearbook room when they arrive. Lock them up – in a yearbook room closet or another secure closet or storage area in the building.

When the books are safely stored, find a minute to open a box and look at one. Then set a time to look at the yearbook with just your editor. Warn the editor beforehand: if there are any errors, they will pop out like burnt toast from a toaster. Help the editor focus on all the positive aspects of the yearbook and not the mistakes of others.

Then, have a ceremonial unveiling of the yearbook with the entire staff. Help them enjoy their successes in this book they have created. Then, lock up the books again so no one else sees them until distribution day.

Enough help

There are some situations in which there may be too much help. Distribution probably is not one of them, especially if there is one big distribution event where everyone is getting their yearbook at once. Staff members will be needed to:

  • Sit at tables and hand out books
  • Keep distribution tables supplied with books
  • Keep the lines moving
  • Clean up
  • Move leftover and unclaimed books back to the closet

Adult supervisors are needed to watch over the students. Ask teachers or parents to help. Where will you be? At the problem table, the extra table set up where students can go for help. It is there that you will be able to determine whether the student without a receipt really bought a yearbook, or field complaints about the book.

Informing students about distribution

Remind your student body at least three times about picking up their yearbook. They need to know:

  • When and where
  • To bring their receipt
  • To bring photo ID
  • Whether they can buy a book and its cost
  • Whether signing time will be available
  • Whether there will be a signing party, and how much admission is

PR counts

Your staff may have struggled to produce this yearbook. Things probably went wrong, and staff members may have yelled. The students do not care how much blood, sweat and tears went into the book – they just want their books. You and your staff should smile when you hand them out, and thank all buyers for making this purchase. Be understanding and pleasant if problems arise. Good will, along with a good book, will keep customers coming back.

And one last tip on cleanup: tell teachers that sturdy boxes will be available for the taking at this event. They should disappear, leaving you with one less thing to think about.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.