January 6, 2020

2020 Book Boxes


Oh sweet friends!! Please let me thank you for your patience at the outset of this post for the nonsensical ramble about to ensue. I've been struggling with a few issues surrounding the book boxes, and now is the time to air those issues and let you know my intentions going forward. (SPOILER ALERT: if you have been wavering and lurking, wondering if you should get a box, YES YOU SHOULD because the likelihood is very very high that this is the last year I'll be doing my seasonally themed boxes.)

First of all, this was always intended as a bit of a lark. A creative pursuit I wanted to do. And I've been amazed that I've sold ANY boxes ha ha! The internet is a BIG BIG place, if you didn't know. And I am but one small person. From the very first box, my first Russian Winter box, the boxes have been received with enthusiasm, and I've been so happy and fortunate to receive email letter after email letter ("MOM YOU GET FAN MAIL", says my sweet daughter) thanking me for my boxes.

I was even more fortunate to receive a subscription order from the magical Alicia Paulson, as well as a lovely and kind shout out on her blog, Posie Gets Cozy. Orders began pouring in after she mentioned me, and she basically single-handedly jump started my book box business. (say those last 3 words very very fast for a fun game)

Me being me, I immediately freaked out, and stopped taking orders after a certain amount, because I was worried about getting enough books for that particular box (A Vintage Summer). And it turns out I was correct to worry - I exhausted both Amazon's and Book Depository's stock of the book, which can be hard to find.

Which leads me to my main problem - because I'm not working directly with publishers, I have to walk a really fine tightrope finding the books - they have to be right for the theme, and also at the correct price point because I'm paying retail for them. I frequently purchase in bulk from England because I like the book covers better and the pricing is often more competitive. I'm missing out including some really perfect books for my boxes because they are simply too expensive and would eat up my treat & tea budget. I have to raise my prices to get around this issue.

There's also this problem: I'm not making a singular item. I'm putting together a combination of items, procuring the items from other vendors, packing them, wrapping them, mailing them,  and it takes a LOT of time and effort. My husband cheerfully offers to tell me what my hourly wage rate is, and I just wave him off because I know how bad it is, and I don't want to hear it. I've made enough to keep the enterprise running, but that's about it. Perhaps if I had a partner, it would take some of the burden off of me, but I don't.

Put another way - there's far far too much work involved in these for what they yield financially.

Anyway - that's the biggest problem - to make the boxes financially feasible, I try as much as possible to order gift items in sets or bulk orders - but I don't know ahead of time how many orders I might get for any given box theme, and the whole endeavor involves some risk and some math, and it's just a bit too much for me!

Yet another issue is time and logistics - because I'm not using new releases (many other book boxes are sent new releases from publishers), I'm finding that I have to sometimes read and wade through 10 books to find the 'right' book. That sounds awesome in theory, but that's time I'm not paid for, and it's time that I don't have.

SO. I am committed for the remainder of this year to my subscribers for 2020 boxes, and I have some really darling themes I'm super excited about; we're going to have some FUN this year! But beyond that I don't know that I will continue. If I do, I might operate more as a pop-up shop when I put together a really fun theme, or I might shift to making literary themed boxes like I do/did with the Anne of Green Gables and the Little Women boxes. I'm dying to create a Jane Austen box!

Or I might make year round themes available like British Boxes, Mystery Boxes, Hygge Boxes, Back of the Attic boxes, and only create those custom if/when people request them. And the likelihood is that I will then price each custom box similarly to the Anne of Green Gables and Little Women boxes, between $45 and $50 plus shipping, so I can really curate and put in the specialty items I'd like to without so many of the purchasing-in-sets constraints.

I won't create any more children's boxes - with the possible exception of Stargazer Boxes and of course, Anne of Green Gables. (Teen Summer Romance, British Boarding School, and Vintage Children's Subscriptions went nowhere LOL, as did every other single children's box - only my adult box themes have been popular!)

Also - I love books. I love talking about books. But I've felt more and more like I had to stifle my voice and what I put on Instagram or the blog, because I felt like I had to hoard every good book I came across as a potential contender for a future book box. And I hate always being in SELL mode. I just want to talk about the books, without always having to make a sales pitch!

Also #2 - trying to build any sort of enterprise based on the whims of what Instagram decides to show and tell on any particular day - NO THANKS. Hard pass on that. It's like standing at the edge of the ocean and trying to yell to someone on the other side.

The smart people out there are out hustling others to give them money, so they can tell you how you might be able to game the system, and I am really not keen on any of that merry-go-round. Fun fact: from the minute I created my Instagram account, I steadily gained a following, slowly over time. The SECOND I switched to a business account, my followers count basically froze. I've gained maybe 20 followers in the past 6 months?? I was gaining 20 followers a WEEK before I switched from a personal to a biz account. That's just crazy. I'm switching back. Insanity, thy name is Instagram!

Got all that? I've had the best time packing these boxes for people, and I'll try to continue it in some fashion or another. I do think I have a talent for gift and book curation in general, and I'm firmly committed to sharing and talking about books for the rest of my life. And who knows? I change my mind every two minutes, so I might just keep on trucking along with the book club parcel enterprise.

4 comments:

  1. Oh Melissa...I'm surprised you've stuck with it as long as you did! It's obvious (to me, anyway) that you put a lot of thought, planning, time, and love into the boxes. I have loved every lovely box I've received. I'm selfish enough to want my subscription to go on forever, but completely get it that it's just too much for one person (if I lived near you, I'd offer to be your helper!). If you decide to continue on some smaller basis, count me in!!!

    P.S. - I'm sure all your subscribers would be happy to pay more for your charming boxes.

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    1. You are so kind, and thank you so so much for your lovely words of support! I've really enjoyed putting these together! xoxoxoxoxo

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  2. P.P.S. Would you be willing to share your source for the ornaments you included in the Christmas box? I love mine and would to have a whole set.

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    1. Absolutely!! I found those ornaments at World Market Cost Plus - they do have an online ordering system, and those ornaments did come as a set!! They usually have them at holiday time pretty consistently, I've found.

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