Small Catalogs Forum: Adopting an Untapped Niche

Although Laurie Wallmark has never adopted a child, she adopted the notion that there was an unfilled need for information on the subject of adoption. That’s why Wallmark 12 years ago founded Ringoes, NJ-based Tapestry Books, a cataloger of books for adoptive children, parents of adoptees, and people considering adopting children.

Wallmark left her job as a computer programmer in 1990 to start the catalog. The first 24-page edition included fewer than 90 titles — sold without photos or illustrations. Of the 15,000 copies that Wallmark printed, 5,000 went to a rented list from now-defunct magazine Adopted Child; the others were mailed to requesters generated from a space ad in Parenting magazine. Although Wallmark used to rent lists from church groups and other family-oriented groups, she now distributes the catalogs directly to adoption agencies. This has helped grow the house file to 120,000 names, of whom she estimates 70,000 are active customers.

In 1993 Wallmark reluctantly added photos of the book covers to the catalog, which she admits enhanced customer response. Going to four-color in 1997 further boosted the catalog’s results.

“I thought that because I was selling books, interesting copy would be the outstanding factor for customers’ purchasing decisions,” she says, “but it has really helped enhance customer perception of the book to see full-color product depictions.” The catalog’s annual sales have increased from $85,000 in 1991 to $675,000 in 2001.

When Wallmark founded the catalog, she relied on mainstream books with distribution through publishing companies, but today she seeks out independent writers to include in the catalog. “This is a market of people who are eager to learn about the process of adoption,” Wallmark says, “and we are able to market to both individuals and professionals due to the depth and range of books I have been able to find.”

Wallmark still runs Tapestry Books out of her home. Although she employs three part-time workers to help run operations, Wallmark handles everything from merchandising to production and design. Her background in computer programming has come in handy: She established a Website in 1995 and maintains it inhouse. About 80% of the Web buyers are new to the company.

Founded: 1990
Annual sales: $675,000
Annual circulation: 200,000
Based in: Ringoes, NJ
URL: www.tapestrybooks.com
Phone: 800-765-2367
Editions a year: 2

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