Subscription Box Basics

Source books for your box? Here's how to make it easier.

December 11, 2023 Episode 192
Subscription Box Basics
Source books for your box? Here's how to make it easier.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In today's episode, Julie sat down with Carrie Severson of Indie Book Box, to explore books and subscription boxes. As the co-founder of this innovative platform, Carrie takes us on her journey to launching Indie Book Box and how it's changing the game for indie authors. We dive into the specifics of their operations - the guidelines they follow when onboarding authors and publishers, and how they're shaking things up in the publishing world. Carrie even shares her personal experiences with burnout, offering relatable insights for those in the startup world.

But that's not all! We also explore the multitude of advantages Indie Book Box offers to both subscription box owners and authors. Tired of endlessly scrolling through Amazon or other boxes to discover something worthwhile? Carrie explains how Indie Book Box simplifies the process and saves precious time. 

If you're an author or subscription box owner (or both,)  you'll want to learn this insider's perspective on how Indie Book Box operates and how it can streamline your operations. 

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Speaker 1:

So you want to launch a subscription box and don't know where to start? Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball and I'm Renee Gonzalez, your host here at Subscription Box Basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs wanting to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper and let's have some fun. Hey everybody, and welcome back to Subscription Box Basics. Today I have a very special guest on, and the reason why I am talking to her is one I met her at Subsummit, which is just an awesome place to network with other people in the subscription box industry. But two she's involved in the book publishing industry and if you know anything about my background with, Well, House will grow. We included a book in every single box for years and years, and now I know a lot of you listening also buy books for your subscription boxes, and so that's why I wanted to have this conversation. I would like to welcome Carrie Severson. She is the co-founder of the Indie Book Box. Welcome, Hi. Thanks so much for having me. Hi, everyone, this is going to be the first time that a lot of them are meeting you, so why don't you take a minute to introduce yourself and then we'll talk more about the Indie Book Box and the service it provides.

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a published author. I've been in the storytelling space for 30 years as a professional author and my background is in storytelling, marketing, pr. I launched a nonprofit actually in 2011 to support girls and their girl on girl bullying. It was a nonprofit that grew nationally and I hit this bubble of bullying when it was in the spotlight and I, my little organization, blew up nationally and I burned out as a result. I did not have the infrastructure put in place to sustain the growth. To answer, you name it we did it. I'm partnering with national organizations flying all over the place, tons of media, lots of exposure, but I burned out pretty hard as a result of it. So I actually wrote a book about my burnout journey and it was received really well. I put it out into the marketplace and, as a result, my book was picked out by subscription boxes.

Speaker 1:

How nice.

Speaker 2:

I published it last year, right when burnout is still a really hot topic, for sure, health Boxes, self-care boxes and I think the subscription box industry is a disruptor of the publishing industry and, as a published author, I look at subscription boxes as not traditional sales. So I went down this rabbit hole in 2022, learning everything I could about the subscription industry, figuring out how it could be a part of it. And the indie book box is a brand new business. Me and my partner, j you Bell, started it in May of 2023 to answer the call between how do indie and self-published authors get into this huge business right, the subscription industry? I think don't have anyone out here fighting for them in the trenches with them, because so many boxes are going to bigger publishers. And then there's this whole behind the scenes thing. And so Indie Book Box was born based on my personal experience of working with boxes directly and being an author myself, and so now we represent authors and we go out and we pitch boxes. They're books. It's going really cool.

Speaker 1:

Okay, before we dive too much into it, you didn't tell us the name of your book.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I'm so sorry, unapologetically enough. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1:

Perfect, I love that. Okay, we're going to have to link to that. So if anyone is interested in reading that which I definitely want to I can relate to the whole burnout thing. Yeah, it's, I like to work in seasons of hustle and seasons of rest and that's a learned behavior. Because of burnout in the past, I would just hustle so like a hustle culture dropout Cause I just don't think that it's healthy. So I applaud you for writing about that and I cannot wait to read that book. So the indie book box Okay, it is a marketing service, right, it is not an actual box, correct?

Speaker 2:

Not yet it is. We do plan on launching a box, but we're probably a year to two years down the road on that. It is in the worst, which is why we start we call it any book box Cause eventually we want to be able to have our own box, have the authors and sort of be almost like that.

Speaker 1:

Well, you know where to go when you need to learn about launching your script. She bought I got you, I got you Okay. So tell us about the service that you and Jane, through indie book box, provide.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So authors or publishers come to us and we take on. We really like nonfiction bugs. We know that's a great space. If it's a brand, if it's a new fiction book that hasn't yet been published, we'll look at that as well. We have very specific guidelines. We're interested in five by eight or five by five by eight, so we know that it fits in the box. Yeah, we're interested in you know, 200 pages or less, self-help, self-care, mental health, happiness, things like that, unless we're also looking at leadership very specific guidelines that we know boxes are interested in. Including work bugs are really popular as well, and so we're taking on these clients monthly and we work with the boxes on their themes. We send out books to bosses specifically for consideration or review. When a box comes to us and says, hey, I have 350 subscribers that I would love to include this with, we then work with the author on fulfilling that order in terms of current inventory, finding the best printer for the best price and working with that budget that the box has. The author gets that piece covered, the printing covered and everyone walks away feeling fulfilled in budget, a little profitable and making an impact with their message, which is why authors create what they create. So it's going well.

Speaker 1:

I really think it's brilliant because I can attest to the time and effort that it takes to source a book for every single box. I was building relationships with publishers. I was building relationships with authors. I was buying some of them online. There was it's doable, but it was taking me a lot of time. I can imagine how much time that this would have saved me as a box owner trying to find the right books, because I could come to you and say, hey, these are the themes, these are the topics that I'm looking for, and you have a portfolio of authors and books that you can just dive right into. So and I can imagine how impactful it is for authors as well, like on the flip side, it just feels like such a win, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And there are, you know, the big publishers. The big publishers are doing this, but they're doing it as author copy price, so that 850 mark and when you're talking about 500 copies, that is that gets really pricey for the box. The authors don't always see that, and so this is eliminating a lot of pain points that are currently in the system and, like I said, when this started happening for me in 2022, I looked at it as a disruptor. I was like, oh, I know how to do this. So any book box is really utilizing all of the skills I have, having been in this business for so long as a publicist, as a marketer, as an author, as an entrepreneur, knowing, you know, when I have, like Spurgeville Hustle Grow, as a client of ours actually and so they're not interested in fiction. They're not interested in, you know, certain types of books. I have very specific guidelines of what they're looking for and I pitch them only what they're looking for.

Speaker 1:

I love it.

Speaker 2:

Awesome. Same thing with one of our boxes Hustle Grow. I saw it on and on. It was one of our boot campers, oh, awesome, yeah.

Speaker 1:

So shopping through our program, and I think that this just really streamlines things and it's giving the box owners a go-to place instead of being so scattered and seeing what sticks Like is this book going to fit? Is this going to fit the budget and physically going to fit? One of my biggest challenges was I had to pass up on a lot of the books that I wanted to put in the box, but they were maybe published by some of the larger publishing houses and at my quantities you know, somewhere around 1500, I still couldn't get the pricing right and so I would pass up all these books or the size of the book you had mentioned that you specifically look for like five by eight or five and a half by eight and a half, yep, and I was looking for the same things because the Sparkle Hustle Grow box when I was running it and it still is, with six by nine by three, and so a lot of hardback books aren't going to fit.

Speaker 2:

Right, we look at when I take on a book and I'm the decision maker in that of like what books we do take on, because I've been doing this for so long and more than just pitching boxes. But, like understanding, you know I also write a publishing house and so I understand the weight of a book, the trim of a book, the cost of production and the paper and all of that jazz that if I'm taking on a book that's heavy, that's big, that it has thick paper, all of that goes against what we're trying to do here, which is print great quality for the least expensive possible, have good relationships with printers, and a lot of authors think that the bigger the book the better, because it's going to take up space and their spine is going to be great and we're just no longer in that. We're not there anymore. So I wish more publishers talked to their authors before they create that and get ahead of it so they're not creating six by nine bugs. My bug is eight by five and it's 308 pages and so it is big. If I knew then when I go now I would probably have cut 40 pages out of it, but it's under a pound, it's only 12-months, it's not pushing boxes up into a different week class. Those are all things that I look at.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and you've got this unique experience that you can look from the publishing side and now from the subscription box side. So take us a step back and like how did this get started and how did you meet Jane and what's her role in the business?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So Jane is a super powerful woman. She runs a business called Bitsite Greeting and so I run a publishing house. She runs a marketing agency for bugs and we have similar client. And so she calls me out of the blue and she's like hey, I just want to introduce myself, this is what I'm doing. I like creating relationships with publishers, and this was in the beginning of 2023. And I was like well, this is where I want to take my business. I want to learn more about the subscription industry. I see this taking over bookstores. I think this is where people are putting their money. There's something happening here. I feel like we're at the beginning of it and I want to be a part of it. And so she's like my body is filled with blue, so I have to talk. And I was speaking at the Independent Book Publishing Association conference in San Diego two months after she and I had our first call, and so she came out. I came out, we had a brainstorm and it just sort of one thing after another, and it just sort of popped just right away out of the gate. This is what we can do, and we launched in May of 2023. We currently have probably I don't know, I think, 35 clients already and, in terms of deals that we've been able to secure, we have five boxes already, one already out, coming out before December of 2023. And another 5,000 copies pending for January of 2024. So it's going really well and there's more subscription boxes popping up every day, as you know, and we're working with some boxes that have a list of 10 all the way up to 6,000. So it's going great, that's awesome.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, obviously you are filling a gap in the market, something that, as box owners, we could really jump on board. So let's talk a little bit more about the benefits to the box owner for using your services, because the obvious one for me is to streamline things, because there's so much involved in relationship building. You already have the relationship, all those things that you talked about, like trim and paper, and so what do you think some of the benefits, like the biggest benefits, are to the subscription box owner, who would be our listener?

Speaker 2:

So I think, for your listeners, the big the time element of not having to look at other boxes to see what other people are doing, or not having to scroll through Amazon to find the best thing, the hottest thing, the scroll holes, or really know what's trending, what's out there, if you send us like a list of themes that you have, which other boxes have done, and they're literally like what do you have? If I don't have anything, I'm going to be up front but at the same time, knowing what your theme is, that's going to sort of when I meet an author. That just happened. I met an author and I'm like you know what? Actually I know so and so was looking for this in March of 2024, it would be about 350 bucks. This is what we're looking at. So we really are acting as this agent in this, in between space between the author in the box and eliminating a lot of time for the box owners. Like you said, streamlining and understanding the business and everything from your weight class, keeping things under certain weights and your budget.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. Do you play a part in negotiating? Because I know when I would develop relationships with the publishers, I would definitely negotiate with them. I would say, if I commit four of the 12 months this year to your authors, can I get a deeper discount? And so that took a lot of back and forth, a lot of time and effort. So do you play a part in the budget as well?

Speaker 2:

Yes, for sure, absolutely. I usually find out front what budgets are so that I know that will determine what books I'm going to pitch you, because if your budget is, let's say, $4 a book and I don't want to pitch you something that I know is going to fit that budget, and then we have a lot of clients that have current inventory and so moving current inventory is something that is really going to be a variant, depending on your timing. So if you're looking for something already for December and that means that I have to fulfill something pretty much by October 1st because the pipeline of printing and all of those elements, it's not like I can just turn over 500 copies from a printee tomorrow.

Speaker 1:

So what is that timeline? Are you saying it's a couple months there?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, typically I would say six weeks is like for the state. If I have to print overseas, we're talking like four months and the bigger quantity is to like 6,000 to 10,000. Overseas is something that we can do, we just need a longer lead time.

Speaker 1:

Lead time. Yeah, so what are some of the prices that you're seeing? Like just ballpark. Is it a couple bucks to like eight?

Speaker 2:

nine. Yep, I've been. We've done $2 a book all the way up to $9 a book. Okay, so there's a box in Alaska and shipping to Alaska has a lot to do with that, and so a lot of that cost comes down to shipping, sure.

Speaker 1:

Okay, this all makes sense and I think that a lot of our listeners could really take advantage of this. So if we have a listener that either sources books for their box or, you never know, we might have an author listening, what kind of steps should they take to get connected with you?

Speaker 2:

So indiebookboxcom has all of our current books listed. We list all of our books right there with links to various retailers. You can check out our books there. You're able to fill out a form on indiebookboxcom. But I'm Keri Severson, I'm all over. Yeah, definitely Unapologetically enough as my book. You're welcome to find me over there. Connect with me, send me an email. I would love to learn about things that you've got going on and what you're looking for, and we'd be happy to help you get sourced.

Speaker 1:

Okay, we'll make sure that we put all the relevant links in the show notes. If you are a box owner, do they have to fill out an application to become a client? They just reach out and say hey, this is what I'm looking for. Okay, if you're an author, I'm assuming that you fill out an application to become a client. That makes so much sense. I'm really. Actually. When we met and you told me what you were doing, I was like that is so brilliant. Why hasn't anyone else done that? So I'm really glad that you and Jane moved forward with the idea. I think it's very beneficial to this entire industry and a win for the publishing industry and subscription boxes, yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's why I was like we have to do this. Somebody is going to do this before us. We have to do this.

Speaker 1:

Right, this is such a unique topic too for the podcast. I want to just thank you so much for coming on and telling us all about your story and how you came up with the idea and how it can benefit our listeners. Is there anything that you have in closing that you'd like to share Again? We can make sure all those links are in the show notes for them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely, I understand. As an entrepreneur, I know what it takes to launch something and to keep it going. Burnout is such a huge thing, particularly for startups. As you're doing this, be sure to take care of yourself, get the best rest. You can Be sure to pay attention to your emotions and your nervous system so that you don't burnout, so that this business of yours that you're just starting out it succeeds and soars.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I love that Great parting words of wisdom. I think you'll be glad to know that in Subscription Box Bootcamp we do have self-care as a module. In our launch module, because I think it's so important, we pepper in pep talks because mindset and then we definitely tell our students do not sit in front of your computer at launch clicking refresh for two hours on end because you're just going to burn out. So I appreciate that that is such a big part of your message and I can't wait to dive into your book.

Speaker 2:

Oh, thank you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, all right. Well, thank you so much again, listeners, I hope that you felt inspired by this. I hope that you reach out to Indie Bookbox. If you are a subscription box that actually sources books, this feels like it could be a one-stop shop for you. So again, thank you for listening today, check out the show notes for all of the links and we'll see you in the next episode. Bye, thank you.

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