Have you ever wished that reading could be your job? Like seriously, to sit around and be paid to read good books? Michelle Wolett gets to do this every day and has pretty much the best job on the planet. She is the creator of Once Upon a Book Club, a subscription box. It is one of the most fun reading experiences I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Here’s how it works. Each month, for the bargain price of $34.99, a box arrives on your doorstep. Inside your box (both adult and young adult options are available), awaits hours of reading entertainment and enjoyment. The box contains a book (sometimes paperback, sometimes hardcover) and three to five wrapped gifts. Set the gifts aside (I promise your patience will be rewarded…) and start reading. After a few chapters you will come across a little post it note that says, open your gift! Find the gift with the corresponding page number and voila! The very item you were just reading about, is now in your hands! It is pure perfection for my geeky little soul.
The anticipation and full sensory experience of reading a book this way is incredible! Here are a few examples of past books and the gifts included so you can see what I’m talking about.
It’s genius right? I recently caught up with the creator of this curated reading experience, Michelle, an Arizona momma-prenuer of Rockstar levels, and picked her brain on the how and why of her business, as well as asked her some nerdy, bookish questions.
When did you first have the idea for Once Upon a Book Club?
I came up with the idea in May of 2016 when looking for a gift for my mom. I had recently read "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah. I thought it would be cool to include a gift of something that was actually mentioned in the book and decided to pair it with a wine from the region the book takes place.
At the time, I had already ran a subscription box service for phone cases called "Once Upon a Book Case". I immediately started thinking about how this concept of books and paired gifts would make a great subscription box. I thought, “What if we could create something that makes you feel like you were physically a part of that world? ” My mind started brainstorming and I eventually came up with the Once Upon a Book Club.
When did you decide to take the leap and put your idea into the world?
I'm the type of person that doesn't waste time. As soon as I had the idea I created an Instagram page and started working on prototypes. Then I set up my website. We started accepting subscribers in mid-June 2016 for the July box, and just a little over two months after I had the idea, the first box went out on July 17th.
How many subscribers did you start with your first month? How many are you up to now?
Our first month we sold out at 200 subscribers! Since then we have grown massively and are now averaging about 1,200 boxes a month.
What has been your biggest challenge with Once Upon a Book Club?
Planning and staying within a budget. I underestimated how hard it can be to find a good book that a large audience would enjoy. A lot of time is spent reading- and sometimes books don't offer up good gift ideas, or we have already done a certain gift or theme that was mentioned. Sometimes we begrudgingly have to put the book down and find another! Also, our discounts for books aren't as good for certain publishers- so sometimes we have go into our gift budget- which makes it hard! It can truly be a puzzle to put together the perfect reading experience, but this is also what makes it fun.
What has been the greatest surprise with Once Upon a Book Club?
The community! I especially love how involved everyone is active on our social media sites like our Instagram and Facebook pages! We have read-alongs and discussion questions each month where readers can chime in with their thoughts. I just love the little online reading community we have built!
Who are the top three authors on your pipe-dream list to include in Once Upon a Book Club?
Hmm,,, that is a hard one- I really love authors that are great at describing details. So definitely Kristin Hannah... Sarah J Maas... and Sarah Addison Allen. Each is so different- but they are all so good!
What advice do you have for running a great book club?
Book Clubs are about Community! You want to create a space where readers not only discuss books, but discuss their lives and feelings.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Just take the leap! Test things out and if they don't work- move on to something that does. My favorite quote is by Erin Hanson "What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?"
Anything else you'd like to share about Once Upon a Book Club?
Once Upon a Book Club is a lot of work, but it has been the best thing I have ever done. I have been able to quit my day job, and support my family while staying home with my little one to watch her grow. What could be better? Plus, I get to read a lot of books!
So there you have it. Michelle and Once Upon A Book Club. What do you think? I just received my first box last week, and already I am in love! What book would you love to see turned into a Once Upon a Book Club box? (P.S. I created a set of gifts to go with my book, Champion Chocolatier… if you are in need of a divine holiday gift, you know where to find me! Michelle even featured this book combo on her Facebook page!)
Happy subscribing, and happy reading!