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Our Folded Self-Mailer FAQs

A self-mailer is a great way to present your services and products to generate leads. They’re simple in design, eye-catching, and, most notably, cost-efficient. Not only that, but self-mailers can reach more than just your intended receiver as they’re often passed around to friends and family. While self-mailers can save you a lot of money as a direct marketing option, it can be pretty easy to mess it all up and miss out on those savings. Luckily for you, we’ve answered our most frequently asked questions about self-mailers right here!

What exactly is a self-mailer?

A folded self-mailer (FSM) is “formed of at least two panels created when a single or multiple unbound sheets of paper are folded together and sealed to form a letter-size mailpiece”. Think of a flyer folded once or twice into multiple panels, but with no envelope. Postcards are almost self-mailers, but they fall into their own postcard category when mailing since they aren’t folded and are in a different size category. A self-mailer mails itself like a postcard does, just don’t expect it to walk itself to the Postal Office.

Does this quality as a self-mailer?

FSMs have strict regulations set by the USPS. They must be between 3.5” - 6” tall and 5” - 10.5” wide and fit into and aspect ratio of 1.3 - 2.5. Your piece can have a maximum of 12 panels when folded depending on your choice of paper stock, but must not be thicker than 0.25”. It must also weigh less than 3 ounces.

How should my self-mailer look?

You should design your FSM to be eye-catching with concise copy, but there a few regulations with it comes to design. The biggest is that FSMs must be in a landscape format, meaning the long edges are at the top and bottom when you’re reading it. If you make an FSM in portrait format, it will classify as a flat. Let’s take a closer look at that situation.

Pretend you have 10,000 self-mailers to send out. The FSM mailing rate with a barcode is $0.274, making the total cost $2,470. Now pretend you design that self-mailer in portrait format. It’ll now classify as a flat, which costs $0.522 totalling $5,220. That’s twice the price of the FSM. You could have saved $2,750 just by changing your design to a landscape format!

More important design notes: your piece cannot open from the bottom, meaning it can’t have a fold at the top. You may be thinking about leaving space for your recipient addresses, but also think about leaving enough white space for the barcode that the USPS will print onto your FSM. We recommend leaving a white space of at least 4” wide and 2” tall to ensure that your barcode doesn’t end up like this:

Smeared barcode on postcard
The barcode is smudged because of the limited white space. These never made it to the recipients.
Brochure with sufficient white space for address and barcode
This piece has plenty of white space with a nice and clear barcode.

Everything looks great. Is it ready to go?

NOPE. Folded self-mailers need to be securely closed so they don’t get caught up in the machines at the Postal Office. Wafer seals are the way to go. They must be a minimum of 1” big and non-perforated. You also need to use at least 2 wafer seals on a single piece, but you’ll need 3 if it weighs over an ounce. Furthermore, you can’t just stick the wafer seals anywhere you want. Sealing requirements change depending on the style of fold you’re using for your work and the paper stock choice. This graphic from the USPS covers the basics:

Wafer seal placement on self mailer

It’s important to keep these guidelines in mind during the design process. You don’t want to cover vital information, like your phone number or website address, with a seal or risk tearing over that info.

There’s a lot to think about when designing and carrying out your folded self-mailer campaign. One small misstep could end up costing you extra at the Postal Office. If you’re unsure about a certain aspect of your self-mailer, send your question to us here!

Post Written by Keenan Rice

Photos by Keenan Rice, Self-mailer graphic by USPS

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