• It is quicker to produce. You can prepare
and mail a small promotion within days or weeks rather
than months. Hence, it is perfect for testing prices,
titles, offers, and potential audiences. More elaborate
and carefully targeted promotions do take longer to
prepare, but even then they usually require a shorter
lead time than most other media.
• Response is quicker. Not only is a direct
mail quicker to prepare, but response time to direct
mail is usually quicker as well. Thus you can project
the final results of a mailing more quickly and
accurately than you can with most other
• It can be cheaper, especially for smaller
tests. Using computer to generate the sales
letters, I have done personalized first-class mailings
to lists as large as 500 for only the cost of paper,
envelopes, and postage (about 40¢ per piece).
• It does not require as much design time. A
standardized direct mail format (letter, response card,
folder or brochure, and return envelope) is much easier
to design and produce than a magazine advertisement or
• It can be highly targeted. If you choose
lists carefully, you can target your mailings more
selectively than you can with most other media. You can
reach almost any market segment, buyer profile, or area
of the country you feel is most appropriate for each
• It allows you to target hard-to-reach
consumers. Direct mail allows you to reach
audiences you might not be able to reach through any
other method. Rodale Press has sold over a million
copies of their book Stocking Up sine its 1977
publication. Only 10% of those sales were made through
bookstores. Indeed, of Rodale’s $250 million in 1996
book sales, $212 million were the result of their
direct marketing efforts.
• It is more flexible. After testing a
promotion, you can change almost anything right away
without waiting. You have complete control over the
media, the audience, and your offer.
• It can offer more details. You can pack
alot of information into one envelope, far more than
you can on a full-page magazine or newspaper ad, or in
two minutes or even a half hour on radio or TV.
• There is less competition. Your advertising
message does not have to compete with other advertising
messages or editorial matter. At least, it doesn’t have
to compete once the envelope is opened.
• Direct mail can be more personal. Not only
can letters be personalized via mail-merging
techniques, but you can use more informal language in
writing your letter and can direct your letter to the
specific interest of the reader.
• It is easier to respond to. The inclusion
of an order card and return envelope makes it easier
for the consumer to respond to direct mail as compared
to magazine ads (unless you include a bind-in card
opposite the advertisement or include a toll-free order
• It is easier to keep. A direct mail piece
is more likely to be retained for future reference than
a magazine ad since many readers find it inconvenient
to tear an advertisement out of a magazine or will be
reluctant to do so. Other forms of advertising (radio,
TV, and telemarketing) offer noting to retain.
• It can be used to test. You can build an
advertising campaign with more confidence by testing
small lists, then building to larger lists, and then
rolling out to a full list or lists. Strawberry Hill
Press turned to direct mail after selling only 3,000
copies of Stephen Chang’s The Book of Internal
Exercises. They started small with a four-page direct
mail letter to a list of 10,000 proven buyers of health
books. When that mailing pulled a 9% response for a net
profit of $9,000, they tested a variety of other lists
which, in turn, produced a net profit of $40,000. When
they finally rolled out to larger lists, they sold
almost 100,000 copies of the book within a year (for a
net profit of $150,000).
• It can build a list of loyal customers.
Direct mail allows you to build and maintain an
in-house list of prime prospects for your future books
(and backlist books). Furthermore, you can make money
renting the list. Strawberry Hill Press, in the example
noted above, also had over $20,000 worth of list rental
income in that same year.
• Direct mail helps bookstore sales. When
Rudolf Flesch’s The Art of Plain Talk was first
published, it sold 1,800 copies through bookstore in
two years. Not happy with these results, Flesch
persuaded his publisher to test a direct mail campaign.
Within seven months, the publisher sold 40,000 copies
via direct mail. But the really good news was that they
also sold 45,000 copies through bookstores (with no
other marketing efforts of any kind).