Publishing and distributing a mail order ad sheet can be very profitable. They are simple and easy to produce, with most quick print shops able to handle printing at fairly low cost. The important consideration is that you can use them to pull in advertising dollars for yourself, as a free advertising media for your own products, and as an exchange medium with which to get greater exposure for your own ads.
Before starting an ad sheet, you should plan it all out - decide on an interesting, informative title, choose a masthead, lay out your columns for size, determine if it is to be a simple 8 1/2 x 11 single sheet of paper or an 11 x 17 sheet folded in half. You'll also need to know your production cost for number you intend to have printed, and post age cost to mail them out.
Most ad sheets start out as single sheets of paper, 8 1/2 x 11, printed on both sides. Usually, front side is divided into three equal columns about 2% inches wide, with a inch margin from edge of paper on both sides and top and bottom.
Assuming that space occupied by your title, masthead and listing of rates for advertisers interested in placing an ad with you is two inches deep, this leaves you about 24 inches of advertising space to sell on front side. Figuring a cost of $50 for 1,000 copies of such an ad sheet, printed both sides, and a third-class bulk-rate postage of $110, this means that your 24 inches of ad space will have to be sold at a rate of $6.25 each in order to break even. This means: You h ave to sell all of ad space on front of your ad sheet at $6.25 Per ad - and then expect to make your profits from sale of back side of your ad sheet. Actually, it would be feasible to charge $7.00 per inch for space on front side, and carry your own full page ad on back side. At any rate, don't box yourself into a loss situation where you can't afford to place your own ads in your ad sheet.
You get ads by making up an advertising solicitation sales letter and sending it out to as many mail order dealers as you can find. You can also run ads in other people's publications, inviting readers to check with you regarding placement of an ad in your publication. And of course, you'll be wanting to work out some exchange advertising deals (whereby another publisher runs your ad in his publication, and you run his in exchange). From experience of many, many publishers, this can be one of most effective ways of getting your ads run, at low/no cost, and it is recognized to be successful in field of Mail Order.
You probably won't be able to fill up all of your available ad space with paid ads until you're well established - but no problem - first you fill your ad space with paid ads, and then you fill in empty space with ads of your own. Some beginning advertisers fill a part of their empty space with complimentary ads for other mail order operators, send them a copy of issue in which complimentary ad appears, and invite them to continue ad on a "paid" basis from there. Many of them will appreciate favor and send you a check or money order to continue running ad.