Discover Savings with Letter-size Catalogs and Booklets

In our last blog post, we shared the neuroscience thatCatalog effectiveness metrics explains why storytelling is so powerful, particularly when it is in the tangible form of print. With consumers now spending more time at home, longing for normalcy and human connection, the conversion opportunity of direct mail is greater than ever. Another focus for marketers this year, and in budgeting for next, has been making the most of every dollar spent.

In this article, we compare two effective direct mail formats in their cost-efficiency and flexibility to meet your marketing needs; letter-size booklets and flat-size booklets. Both have a particular stickiness, as they typically sit on the coffee table for an extended period of time. Their real estate also allows for the best in brand storytelling to elicit connection and emotion. But there are significant savings to be had by using letter-size booklets.

Letter-size versus flat-size

Booklets come in two flavors, letter-sized and flat.

The USPS defines a letter-size booklet as having multiple pages, bound on one side by pasting or stitching. There are various size formats to choose from, with some formats having specific requirements for paper stocks, folding, and closure mechanisms (see USPS Commercial Design Standards, section 3.16.2). Those formats qualify for automation and machinable price reductions, while most everything else up to the allowed maximum sizes fall under flat-rate mailing.

Flat-size allows for more variations in sizes and must also conform to specific flexibility and uniformity standards. While the devil is in the details, a good direct mail provider will guide you on the choices that will be most cost-efficient while meeting your goals for the outcome you are trying to achieve.

Then what is a catalog?

There are numerous opinions on what constitutes a catalog, but there’s only one official source whose opinion matters: the USPS. Catalogs are defined by their content instead of their physical parameters. To be considered a catalog, a publication must include:

  • a listing of products arranged systematically with descriptive images
  • details
  • pricing
  • information that facilitates ordering, such as a website, order form, and/or phone number
  • shipping options

So it is possible for a catalog to be produced as a letter-size booklet so long as it meets the physical requirements. This is an ideal solution for companies with narrower product ranges, versus a brand selling thousands of items.

It is important to note that catalog-defining criteria does not preclude you from also employing the power of storytelling to engage and convert your audiences.


Cost-efficiency in direct mail marketing is defined by several things:

  • The flexibility to be manufactured across multiple presses
  • Paper efficiency, which can cut cost dramatically
  • That the format is cost-efficient even in smaller test quantities
  • That it is USPS optimized, which means it is designed for the most efficient mailing using paper and sizes best suited for postage savings and minimizing additional features that add expense

Letter-size booklets can fit this criteria well. Switching from a flat to a letter-size booklet, or supplementing larger catalogs with letter-rate booklets, can be decrease costs for potentially the same or greater response rates. Mailers who send out millions of pieces per mailing could see postage savings in excess of $1M each month they mail by using letter-size booklets.

What’s better, letter-size or flat-size booklets?

It depends on your priorities. The production and postage involved to make letter-size booklets can be less expensive than flat mail.Comparing letter and flat-size direct mail booklets

If you sell an extensive line of products, such that your page count makes a letter-size booklet physically impossible, then flat mail is your solution. Or, depending on your goal for the piece, you may find it increases profitability to replace your flat-size catalogs with letter-size booklets. You’ll also want to consider quantity. Booklets in quantities of two million plus can be cost-efficient up to 32 pages. Lower quantities are best at a 24-page maximum. Mailing a press-pasted booklet with fugitive glue sealing methods up to 6 x 9.5″ is the best way to save the cost of additional finishing. Ultimately, your most cost-efficient size and mail-ability will be based on page counts, quantities, and format specifications.

Strategies for the greatest ROI

In general, to maximize the impact of a mailing in 2021, re-focus your attention on your offer and your audience selection.

One nurture tactic to improve profitability is to present a select set of products in between seasonal catalogs. Most importantly, think about the number of products you showcase relative to the stage in the buying funnel of the receiving audience. No thanks to the events of 2020, cost per acquisition has risen to an uncomfortable level. But you can mitigate this by using smaller, more cost-efficient booklets as a prospecting vehicle. Include only your best-selling items to introduce prospects to your brand to nurture them into a customer. This will cost you a fraction of the investment it takes to send a full catalog. Using this strategy, only once they have made their first purchase will you send them your full line of offerings.

In addition, here are a couple potent strategies to boost results of your mailing:

  1. Add to the prospect audience customers lapsed 24+ months (or whatever amount of time is appropriate for your organization). Lapsed customers are low-hanging fruit that will likely convert at a higher percentage than other prospects.
  2. Use digital signals, such as number of website visits, to identify the most-likely-to-convert prospects.

If you’d like strategic guidance or a quote, contact us to speak to a solutions expert.

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