Bas Bleu’s Big-Time Birthday Celebration

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, books mailer Bas Bleu decided to play with the creative of its catalog. Says Eleanor Edmondson, president of the Atlanta-based cataloger: “We just wanted to have fun with it.”

For starters, the trim size of the anniversary edition is 8″ × 10-1/2″, up from usual 6″ × 10-3/8″. And whereas the cover usually displays a genteel illustration, the cover of the anniversary issue features a photo of Edmondson and the copywriting staff, all wearing blue stockings. Bas bleu, you see, is French for “blue stocking,” an 18th-century term used to describe a literary woman.

Inside, the edition will be more like a “magalog,” as Edmondson refers to it. In addition to offering staff-written reviews of the usual array of fiction, travel, and children’s books, the catalog will include articles from the Bas Bleu newsletter. Mailed three times a year, the newsletter is sent to “premium” customers who pay $20 a year to receive free shipping and special offers.

The anniversary edition dropped on March 15 to 640,000 customers and choice prospects. A second mailing, in mid-April, was scheduled to go to another 300,000 of the catalog’s customers and best prospects. That mailing included a four-page cover wrap with a special illustration in honor of the anniversary, as well as additional comments from Bas Bleu staff and copywriters.

Although the trim size of the anniversary edition is larger, its circulation is smaller. Last year Bas Bleu mailed an average of 1.7 million copies of each of its five editions. But “it was a soft year,” Edmondson says, so she chose not to do major prospecting with this issue, sending it to fewer than 1 million.

But Bas Bleu is returning to form with its summer edition. Slated to drop in early May to 2 million customers and prospects, the catalog will be a slim-jim once again.