We review the best small business and investing books
How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business.
by Julian L. Simon
How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business by Julian Simon is one of the "classic" books about starting and building a mail-order business. The book is an excellent introduction to mail order and selling via catalogs, direct-mail, and classified advertisements.
How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business has many useful chapters. Most notable is the chapter about the calculating the value of a customer and the chapter about calculating order margins. There is also a decent introduction to direct-mail testing. Julian Simon's book also has some good advice about writing direct mail advertising copy with contributed chapters from yea-old time successful direct marketers.
Our only objections to How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business is that the book is really a bit longer than it needs to be. Much of the material is interesting from a historical perspective, but has little bearing on building a modern mail-order business.
To see just how dated the book is, consider the quote:
Carnation Milk is the best in the land
Cute to read, but many of the approximately 500 pages of How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business rattle on with outdated pseudo-case studies. Fun to read (for some), but not as much information as there might be about the business of mail order from a practical how-to standpoint. The book could properly cover mail order in far fewer pages.
The other minor complaint is the strong focus upon the "traditional" mail-order products, i.e. those products that are viewed as "cheap" and which few people really should really want to buy. Less attempt is made to integrate the use of direct mail and mail order selling with higher quality products. Some of the pictures of the products are a downright turn off.
How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business also lacks much of the behind the scenes computer statistical analysis done by the mail-order business today. Despite being dated, there is much good information in How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business.
The end of the book lists several types of successful mail-order businesses such as home study courses and such. Despite our criticisms, we do recommend reading How To Start And Operate A Mail-Order Business if you primarily view your business as a mail-order company. Julian Simon's book is a classic for a reason. There is a lot to learn here.