Effective January 5, letter-sized folded self-mailers (FSM) must comply with new standards to be eligible for automation-based postage discounts. The changes are designed to prevent jams in high-speed mail processing machines and consequent damage to mail pieces. The USPS is also aiming to discourage mailers from converting letter-sized self-mailers to flat size.
The USPS defines an FSM as a mail piece consisting of a single sheet of paper or multiple unbound sheets of paper that have been folded and sealed to create a letter-sized mail piece. The primary elements of an FSM are overall dimension; fold style and orientation; paper basis weight of cover; closure method (tabs, glue); and thickness, total weight, and number of layers or panels. Optional elements include loose inserts secured in a pocket, interior attachments, die-cut on cover, and perforations.
Mailers should note that the new requirements do not apply to cards, envelopes, booklet-style letters (e.g.: letter-sized bound booklets), and mail pieces designed to carry disks or flats. If you are in doubt as to whether a mail piece is a letter-sized bound booklet or an FSM, check with your MDA while the mail piece is still in the design stage.
To review, here are the current standards for FSMs (in effect since January 2012):
- • Length: A minimum of five inches and a maximum of 10.5 inches
- • Height: A minimum of 3.5 inches and a maximum of six inches
- • Thickness: A minimum of 0.007 inch; (0.009 inch if the height exceeds 4.25 inches or if the length exceeds six inches); the maximum thickness is 0.25 inch
- • Maximum Weight: Three ounces
- • Rectangular: With four square corners and parallel opposite sides
- • Within an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5, inclusive
Here is what’s new:
- • Number of panels: For bi-fold, trifold, or oblong (e.g.: a fold vertical to the length) FSMs, a minimum of two and maximum of 12 (there is an exception for FSMs printed on newsprint)
- • Final fold panel: Creates non-address side of mail piece by folding from bottom to top (i.e.: final fold is at bottom) or lead-to-trail edge
- • Tabbing: Depending on design, two or three tabs measuring one inch, 1.5 inches, or two inches may be required. Tab placement is either at the top or lead/trail edge, within one inch of adjacent edges. Tabs cannot be perforated.
- • Paper basis weight: The minimum paper basis weight of 60-pound book is no longer allowed; it has been increased to 70-pound book/text. If the FSM weighs more than one ounce, then 80-pound basis weight must be used. Mailers should consult their MDA for clarification on the paper basis weight for interior sheets of an FSM consisting of more than a single sheet of stock.
With the new standards, the USPS accommodated the request of mailers for a variety of permissible designs. Easy to understand illustrations of possible folds and the consequent tabbing requirements can be found on the RIBBS website at https://ribbs.usps.gov/fsm/documents/tech_guides/FSMReference.pdf.
Throughout 2013, the USPS is offering price incentives for mailers to participate in various promotions. However, all of them require use of full service IMb and eDoc (electronic documentation for the statement of mailing). For a listing and explanation of the incentives, visit https://www.usps.com/business/promotions-and-incentives.htm.
Nancy DeDiemar is a former chairman of NAQP and Printer of the Year. She is the co-publisher of Printips (www.MyPRINTResource.com/10206473), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy91762@gmail.com.