It's in the Mail

How do you find the best mail order catalog for your product-and get it in the door?
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This story appears in the April 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: I have a great product I want to sell. I've thought about selling it in a mail order catalog, but how do I get my products into a catalog?Name withheld

A: Your first step is to identify the catalogs that specialize in your type of product and sell at prices your product justifies. You can either contact catalog companies yourself, or you can work through a catalog broker who can place your product for you. Oxbridge Communications ( publishes the National Directory of Catalogs, which lists more than 9,000 North American catalogs. The listing includes products carried and production information for vendors like you. You'll likely want to use this at a library because the print version costs $595 and the CD-ROM is $795.

Once you've targeted some catalogs, check out their Web sites or call them to determine their procedures for submitting new products. Follow these guidelines carefully. Usually you'll be asked to send product descriptions, samples and pricing information. Once you've submitted the requested materials, follow up repeatedly by phone, if necessary. Expect to give catalog buyers your best price so they can test your product before committing to selling it.

While selling your products wholesale to a catalog is the preferred way to go, some catalogs charge you for ad space to be included in their catalog, while others operate on a drop-ship basis, meaning they'll take the orders and pass them on for you to fulfill. If you don't want to store and ship merchandise yourself, you can use a fulfillment house.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is Why Aren't You Your Own Boss? Leaping Over the Obstacles That Stand Between You and Your Dream (

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