You're putting together your first direct-mail catalog. Where do you turn for tips on building a mailing list and generating publicity? Diana Kaye and Jim Hahn, cofounders of Body Elements, a catalog of natural products in Arlington, Va., headed to the library. Below is a list of some books they found particularly helpful. (The first two are out of print but should be available at major libraries.)

Mail Order 101. Elephants in Your Mailbox, by Roger Horchow, "gave us good information on the ins and outs of running a catalog business," says Hahn. "I based our next year's mailing schedule on the chapter on planning, which explains how to project total orders based on response in the first four weeks."

The Publicity Push. Last October Hahn and Kaye printed a small run of the catalog to test-market the 700 products it included. Then they sent press releases to 300 editors. Media Marketing, by Peter Miller, "is very specific about contacting the media and writing press releases," says Kaye. "The tips helped me get to the right people and not be too pushy on the phone."

Kaye found editors' names and numbers in Bacon's Media Directories (Bacon's Information, 800-621-0561). "The volume on newspapers includes even small newsletters. The magazine volume helped us pinpoint people at major health magazines and at some relevant publications we'd never heard of."

Within two months, Body Elements had received press in seven newspapers and been featured twice on a popular radio talk show. The publicity led 200 people to call for the catalog.

-- Susan Greco

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