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Topic: Tips for making paper mailers work

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Subject: Tips for making paper mailers work
Date Posted: 12/27/2010 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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Once you've been on PBS long enough, you end up with a ton of bubble wrap mailers that you can reuse for mailing books. But early on, and even after you have been a member for awhile, sometimes a paper wrapper ends up working out best. Here are some tips for making sure they work for you...

 - Know whether or not a paper mailer is a good idea for your book. They work best for mass market paperbacks. They are generally NOT recommended for hardbacks. They are not recommended for multiple books unless they are nearly identical in dimensions. For thinner paperbacks (like children's chapter books) you may want to add some cardboard to try to keep them from being bent. 

 - Pick a sturdy paper. I always use scrap printer paper and have never had a problem with a book I sent, and I very rarely have problems with books received in printer paper. I know that paper from a grocery bag _seems_ like it's stronger, but in my experience, it's not. It's thicker, but weaker. Grocery bag paper can still work, but you need to be especially diligent with the tape. You can get creative and use maps or thick ads, but in general, ask yourself if what you are using is stronger or weaker than printer paper. Don't even consider standard newspaper.

 - Use some sort of plastic. I know this is not mandatory, but plastic provides a lot of benefits. In addition to waterproofing your book, wrapping it in plastic first gives you a surface that you can apply tape to. You don't need to use plastic wrap if you don't want to. Any sort of plastic (grocery bags, etc) can work. If it's not a clingy type of plastic, use a little tape (any type of tape) to get it tight around the book. If you are shipping multiple books, this is especially important so that you can get the books into a solid brick and reduce the chances of them moving around in the package. 

 - Use at least 2-3 pieces of paper. I think many problems come from using the bare minimum amount of paper. The more paper, the sturdier your package. I usually start with one piece of paper, tape it to the book (which is covered in plastic). Add a piece of paper to the other side, tape it to the book (usually there is a good amount of overlap between the two. Then I print the label and tape that on. Most of the package is at least 2 layers thick, especially on the edges and corners. 

 - Use packing tape. DO NOT use scotch tape, duct tape, medical tape, or any other type of tape. I have received packages with all of these and they rarely arrive intact. I use decorative packing tape that is a little thinner than the standard clear stuff, but has the added benefit of covering old labels. If you're using a thinner tape, you may need to use extra. 

 - Cover all seams with tape. I have found that when using strong paper and a paperback book, it's not necessary to cover every edge of the book. But you do need to cover all of the seams. If you are using a weaker paper (brown paper, etc), you should cover every edge of the book as well. 

 - Waterproof your label if using an inkjet. I use a laser printer and don't bother with this (and have never had a problem), but if you use an inkjet printer to print your label, you should cover it with clear packing tape. A single drop of water can completely ruin your label. If you are handwriting your label, make sure to use ink and that it is easy to read.

 - Make sure everything is tight. The book should not have any wiggle room in the wrapper. 

 - You can do this all very cheaply by saving scrap paper and scrap plastic. The only thing you really need to invest in is good tape, and you can save by keeping your eyes open for sales/specials/coupons. Buying tape at the post office is just about the most expensive way possible. 

I hope this is helpful to someone, feel free to add your tips below! 

Date Posted: 12/27/2010 7:29 PM ET
Member Since: 7/30/2007
Posts: 4,275
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Perfect Tips Becca, I have worked for the post office 14 years and I can not think of one thing to add to your list.

Date Posted: 12/31/2010 4:59 PM ET
Member Since: 4/28/2009
Posts: 10,198
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I suggest putting a clear piece of shipping tape over the recipient's address ---- any type of print can get smeared from raindrops.  This assures delivery even if the wrapping gets wet then dries--- they can read the delivery address.

Date Posted: 12/31/2010 10:39 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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I've never had a problem with print smearing on my label from my laser printer (and I have seen them get a little wet on the walk from my car to the PO)... but I also don't use clear tape, so it's more of a convenience thing for me. I've never had a book go lost on this site, and only one on bookmooch over hundreds sent, not to mention hundreds of packages sent Priority Mail that I have sold online never went lost...

But inkjet printers... oh man some of them are like water color paints. Instant smear with the slightest bit of moisture!!

Date Posted: 12/31/2010 10:52 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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Good points Becca. 

I live in a wet climate and have learned to tape over the mailing label.  

I like to take the second sheet (bottom 1/2) and insert it under the plastic.  Circle the receivers address with a bright marker, and it makes a nice emergency address...JIC there's a problem with the outer address.  Then add something from my recycle paper bin for added protection under the maililng label (or even a blank page of printer paper).

"...If you are shipping multiple books, this is especially important so that you can get the books into a solid brick..."  Agree with this point also.  I often stack the books, add second sheet, wrap in plastic, then take a couple turns each direction with packing tape to hold them into a firm 'brick' which minimizes the risk of damage during shipping.

ETA - beware of brittle wrapping materials such as gift wrap, newspaper, and some of the brown paper options.  These can shred easily in transit.

Last Edited on: 12/31/10 10:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 7/21/2011 7:35 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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Date Posted: 7/22/2011 2:21 PM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2007
Posts: 30,805
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Great tips!  Some of the best wrapped books I've gotten has come in the printer paper. 

Thanks for reminding us of how to be successful when we package our books.

Date Posted: 7/25/2011 3:24 AM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2010
Posts: 1,540
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Yes, the printer paper works well............the ones I have gotten were obviously wrapped by *pro's*  LOL  They were perfect looking .  :)

Date Posted: 10/28/2011 8:31 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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Time for another bump! I can't believe it's been almost a year since I posted this :)

Date Posted: 10/29/2011 7:22 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,573
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If you use printer paper for the mass market paperbacks, then use the waxed paper cover that the ream of printer paper came in for the hardbacks.  I have been using this for months and have not had any problems. Of course, I cover the hardback in plastic and then add shipping tape over the outside.

Date Posted: 5/30/2014 11:16 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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Bump :) 

Date Posted: 6/11/2014 10:41 AM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2005
Posts: 7,977
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Another source of paper are Large Card envelopes. I've found them in boxes of 100 for about 5 cents each or less. You can find them at the Dollar Stores once in a while, and usually at Walmart and such.

Just slit open the sides and unfold, and they'll usually cover a medium MMPB with little or no trimming at the sides. For the very thick MMPBs you can overlap two. Some of them have self-stick flaps that save you a bit of tape.

They're sturdy, and will go over a book covered in plastic very well. They save from waste from having to cut down other paper sources to size.