Ah, the million dollar question every publisher out there is dying to figure out: how do you determine which magazines sell well? The conclusion? There doesn't seem to be much of a logical explanation for -why- certain covers bomb, while others fly off the shelves. Bright colors, obviously, catch more attention. High contrast, so that the title is legible from afar, is also important.
Finding a way to make a publication stand out amongst its competition is key: if every holiday issue is plastered in red and green, then a cover with pale pink will certainly stand out.
a chocolate cupcake dusted with powdered sugar, in a pale pink liner.
This cover won American Society of Magazine Editors 2006 award for Best Celebrity Cover, despite using green (gasp!) on it's cover. The use of the color green has been taboo in the industry, especially women's fashion magazines, for years. Where did this superstition stem from? Some retailers speculate that the fluorescent bulbs in stores cast a yellow light that washes out newsstand greens and gives them a feeble, bluish cast. Others theorize that it has more to do with the technical side of printing, and the trickiness of controlling the color green on a print run. Lynn Staley, assistant managing editor of Newsweek, says that both green and brown "can migrate in the baby poop direction if the printer isn't careful. It's a technical consideration, but it may explain an industry-wide allergy to the color."(source)
Here's a great article on the evolution of magazine covers, for you history-buffs.
And so, the quest for the perfect magazine-selling formula continues. What prompts you to pick up a magazine while you are standing in line at the grocery store? Is it the photo? The text? The design? The color? What compels to you action?