Over the years I’ve seen a few bookstores with Book of the Month, Signed First Edition, or other subscription clubs. Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas, has a unique spin on the idea. This fall, they launched a new subscription program called Baby’s First Year.
“I’ve always wanted to do a book of the month club or first editions or subscription box but never could figure out how to make it profitable yet reasonably priced,” says Valerie Koehler, self-proclaimed “girlboss” at Blue Willow.
Koehler gives credit to Parnassus Books for giving her the initial idea. She also says she tailored a program to fit her clientele based on information from Nielsen that revealed the fact that boards books were increasing in popularity nationally, a trend confirmed in her own sales information. “And I knew why: new grandmothers, sip and sees, showers where you bring a book instead of a card, and friends buying libraries for their grandmother friends,” says Koehler.
The Blue Willow Bookshop staff chose 14 books for the first year. They charge $150 for a one-year subscription, which includes tax, shipping, and gift wrap. Recipients of a gift subscription receive an email at sign-up that explains the program as well as who gave it. The giver also receives a monthly email when each book is shipped.
The program was featured in Blue Willow Bookshop’s monthly newsletter and is promoted through a graphic block (image featured above) on the store’s website. “We had a soft push at first and then advertised in the shopping bags at a local church holiday market,” says Koehler. “We have signed up 16 so far.”
“We are now actively looking for Baby’s Second Year titles,” Koehler says. “When we get to hardcover picture books, we will need to reassess. The pricing is so much higher.”