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You’d be surprised at how many performing arts organizations I come across that have no idea what their program book is going to look like until they start laying it out!

This is analogous to bowling with a sheet over the pins. You will never come in on budget putting your program books together this way.

You need to manage your program books so they’re not managing you.

At Onstage Publications, before we ever start selling into our program books, we always know what the make-up will be. Sure, pages may be added or deleted somewhere down the line, but by having a plan in place we can make better informed decisions on what the impact of these changes will be in real time, as opposed to having an “Oh Shit” moment at the very last minute.

We’ve developed a simple tool, called our Pagination Grid, that helps us manage our program books. And if you like puzzles, you’ll love this because it’s kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle.

Step 1:

Figure out how many pages you want your program book to be, including the covers, as well as the number of color pages versus black and white pages.

It is important to work closely with your printer on this if you are new to program book publishing. Perfect signatures are going to be your key to figuring out the layout of your program book. By working with your printer you will also get an understanding of what type of press they use so that you can add and delete pages accordingly. You would be amazed at how many people think you can just add one page! Also, your color pages are going to be more expensive, so this is why distinguishing your color pages from your black and white pages on the Pagination Grid is so important.

Then, figure out if your program book is going to be a stand-alone (printed for each performance) or a wrap with inserts (wrap printed all at once and in advance, with the inserts being printed for each performance.)

Step 2:

In column 1 of a spreadsheet, note all the way down the column what color these pages will be (taking into consideration step 1.)

Step 3:

In column 2, note all of your page numbers starting with FC (Front Cover) and going all the way down and ending with OBC (Outside Back Cover.)

Step 4:

In column 3 (this will be your largest column), note what pages go where. It is best to start with your content pages. For example, table of contents, cast, staff page, etc. Then go through and note your sponsor ads. What you should be left with is sold advertising pages. Hopefully you have enough of these pages to make sure your costs will be covered.

This is where the jig-saw puzzle part comes in. You can get a quick visual of the flow of your program book via the Pagination Grid. You will want to move things around so you have a well flowing program book.

Step 5:

Columns 4-7 will be your formula columns. This is where you’re capturing actual page counts to make sure you don’t go over your allotted pages.

In column 4, your header will be AD.

In column 5, your header will be FILLER.

In column 6, your header will be Sponsor.

In column 7, your header will be Content.

In these columns, you will plug in the corresponding page increment from the third column.

For example, on page 10, you could have a ½ page ad, and a ½ page sponsor. So in column 4 your entry would be .5, and in column 6 your entry would be .5 to equal 1 page.

Step 6:

Column 8 is where you simply have a formula to total columns 4-7. If you have a total over 1.0 then you have too much on that page and you will have to move something. This column needs to always total 1.0.

Finally, total columns 4-8 at the bottom. This will give you a quick tabulation for all of your pages.

Below are two examples of our Pagination Grid. Example 1 is a stand-alone with both color and b&w pages. Example 2 is a wrap with inserts.

Onstage Publications Stand Alone Pagination Grid

This may look confusing, but I guarantee, once you get the hang of the Pagination Grid, your performing arts program book will never mange you again! Good selling.

A few of our satisfied clients.

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