Good news, bluestockings: Our Fall 2013 catalog mails next week! While you wait (impatiently and with bated breath, we’re sure), we thought you’d like to learn about the method behind the madness that is creating an issue of the Bas Bleu catalog.
Our editorial staff begins the hunt for new books months in advance of a catalog’s mail date. We gather title recommendations from a variety of sources—newspapers, magazines, book blogs, friends, family members, customers, and more—but the majority come straight from the publishers. We receive hundreds of product catalogs each year and our editors peruse every single one to identify titles and merchandise we think you might like. Some of our sales reps at the publishing houses have worked with us for years, cultivating a keen nose for the books that have that “special something” we’re looking for.
Once we tap the titles we want to give a closer look, we request samples from the publishers. The pile of boxes pictured here is just a fraction of what comes through our office door each month. Needless to say, we’ve gotten to know our UPS deliveryman pretty well!
Once unpacked, each review copy and merchandise sample is added to our “to be considered” bookshelf. (Trust us when we tell you the shelves pictured here are only half full…and remarkably tidy. Without upkeep, our office runs a very real danger of being overrun by books!)
Our editorial staff gathers regularly to sort through review copies and select books we think are worth a deeper read. Some titles get an immediate thumbs-up and go straight into the “definite yes!” pile. This one, Wretched Writing, is an amusing reference guide making its debut in our Fall catalog.
We work hard to keep our catalog offerings fresh and new, with a strict rule that no more than half of the items in each catalog can be carried over from previous issues. That means at least one hundred items in each issue are brand-new to you. Once these items are chosen, they are divvied up among our editorial staff, who get to work writing the catalog copy you depend on to make your choices.
One basic tenet of shopping by mail is that customers are selecting products without being able to pick them up and examine them. Consequently, we endeavor to make sure our catalog images give you the best view possible of our merchandise. This involves a multi-day photo shoot, followed by vigilant proofing of contact sheets to ensure that we are printing the most realistic renderings of our products.
Once the catalog copy and images are finalized, it’s time to put all the pieces together. Our catalog layout is done entirely in-house; our multi-talented editors aren’t just buyers and copywriters, they’re designers too! Some folks ask us about the method with which we organize the items in our pages: Is it alphabetical or new-to-old? Do we group like objects or place our favorite items in certain spots? Not exactly. With occasional exception—Jane Austen has been known to warrant her own catalog spread, as have our best-selling Advent calendars—the secret to our catalog layout is pairing the items that look prettiest together. Sometimes vanity pays!
After weeks hunched over computer keyboards, our editors print out page proofs and revise, revise, revise. Every word on the page is reread, to correct any copy errors that may have slipped past the first time around. No detail is too small to escape careful scrutiny—margins, font size and style, crops, even page numbers are double-checked for accuracy. When we think we’ve got it just about perfect, we send the whole kit and caboodle off to our printer…who sends back another page proof which we go over with a fine-toothed comb. (All this to say, if you ever spy a typo in one of our catalogs, please be kind: On the rare occasion when those little suckers do manage to sneak by us, no one’s angrier about it than we are.)
Finally, after months of work, the finished product! The only thing that excites us more than seeing a new issue all bright and shiny and hot off the press is the prospect of our customers being delighted by the treasures within its pages. We think you’ll like this one a lot.
Now the time has come for us to do our happy dance, our “the catalog is finished!” dance. (That photo has been removed for the sake of maintaining our professional image. You know the drill: If we showed you, we’d have to kill you.) Nonetheless, it’s a quick celebration, because while you’re counting down the days until Fall, we’re already hard at work on the Holiday issue!