How Bookworm Box Built a Successful Subscription Business

Bookworm Box Subscription Business
The American dream can be defined by fame and fortune or success with riches, but not for Colleen Hoover. With her degree in social work and her eleven-time New York Best Seller novels, Colleen wanted something more. She had dreamt of finding a way to combine her love for books with her love to give. When Colleen began to chase this dream, she started a labor of love giving back to her community. Three months and a subscription service later, Colleen’s Bookworm Box is the go-to for everything literature across the country.

It All began With A Book and A Dream

In 2012, Colleen Hoover’s “Slammed” was published and made into a New York Times Bestseller, the first of what would eventually be eleven books by Colleen making the New York Times Best Seller list. The success with her novels eventually led to Colleen’s movie deal based on her novel “Ugly Love” to be released in 2016. Beyond the incredible success of her books alone, Colleen received an amazing seven-figure deal from the prominent Simon & Schuster. Feeling purposed for more, Colleen explains her dream,

I was so fortunate. Based on my success, I wanted to find a way to give back.

At first, Colleen began this new venture by simply giving away books by Independent Authors on her social media accounts to both support artists she appreciated and to give back to her fan-base. While it was a great experience, Colleen still felt she could give more.

Partnering with her sister, Lin Reynolds, they quickly found that only the subscription business model could handle how big those dreams amounted to. Colleen and Lin opened a Bookstore in Sulphur Springs, Texas where they house their Bookworm Box operation and volunteer their space for book club gatherings. With family and friends volunteering their time to pack and send boxes, Bookworm Box was open for business.

Bookworm Store
Bookworm Store

Colleen and Lin officially launched Bookworm Box at the end of February 2015. The team sold out within three minutes. The following month, the subscription service sold over 800 boxes within just five minutes. Colleen maintained a presence on social media to promote the launch and charitable efforts of Bookworm Box while utilizing her presence in the professional writing world.

Several fellow authors, like Jamie McGuire, author of “Beautiful Disaster”, started referencing Bookworm Box while renowned author of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, E.L. James, held one of her mere two book signings at the Bookworm Box location. Since their first shipped set of boxes in March, Colleen and Lin have sent about 6,600 boxes, meaning, Colleen and Lin have donated a remarkable $170,000 to a variety of charities from their start just five months ago. Proving that through the subscription model, dreams can come true.

Colleen Hoover (right) with E.L. James (left)
Colleen Hoover (right) with E.L. James (left)

Colleen was able to experience an immediate positive impact as she was able to leverage her existing fan-base by utilizing social media. She began with giveaways of independent novels she felt passionate about, to even still furthering her engagement with her customers through activities like a free giveaway to celebrate major milestones. While not everyone has the ability to start off with a mass fan base, Colleen still highly suggests that potential subscription business owners begin conversations to open engagement with their audience, and market to that demographic with free giveaways to gain their very own fan-base relationship.

Creating The Subscription Business of Bookworm Box

In an effort to fulfill Colleen’s goals to give back to the community, it was decided that 100% of the profit made by Bookworm Box would be donated to a different charity every month after overhead costs. The books available to Bookworm Box customers are both donated by independent authors and purchased by Colleen based on what she knows her customers want. Whether the novel is an independent or best seller, it is the Bookworm Box standard that every book arrives to your doorstep hand-signed by the authors themselves. It is with the subscription model that allows Bookworm Box to stay close to their customers. Lin explains,

We’re constantly communicating with our customers and tapped into the publishing world. We know what our customers want, what’s trending, and the good quality our customers deserve.

Every box comes with two signed books, one from an independent author and the other by a Best Seller author. They also come with tons of book swag, such as, Bookworm pens, bookmarks, and more book promotional material. You simply go online to the Bookwork Box website, select your preferences and get your book goods delivered right to your door.

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Trial & Error: The path to success

Bookworm boxes ready to go
Bookworm boxes ready to go

From the start, Colleen wanted to create an ongoing fund for charities and knew that her fan base had grown large enough to see a demand for an ongoing subscription. The sister duo decided to create their Bookworm Box business as an online store through Ecwid with a Pay Pal service. Within minutes of going live, it became evident that the online store services could not handle the customer load. Not only were customers dropped, but shipping arrangements failed and many never completed.

Paypal had to specially work with us to divide sales into Nano-seconds, because we began selling so quickly. It wasn’t cutting it. It couldn’t handle the customer load, and we began losing customers.

The results proved to Colleen and Lin that the world demanded a book subscription service, and they were the team to give it to them. In search of a firm business model and help, Colleen and Lin were not giving up on their dream. Through other business recommendations and diligent research, they found Cratejoy.

We sought out Cratejoy, and we were instantly so impressed. They’ve made loyal customers out of us by going above and beyond for Bookworm Box and all of our customers. They gave us back time and sleep, while they make Bookworm Box more efficient and reliable for our customers.

Without a stable subscription model, Colleen and Lin were not able to deliver to their customers at the standard they demanded. Word of mouth promotion persuaded people from all over the country to become a customer of Bookworm Box. The growing demand was met with an accommodating business model. Lin elaborates,

Without the subscription model, we would not be able to reach as wide of an audience to create our Bookworm Box community or be able to give back as much as we have.


Exceeding the Dream

The success of Bookworm Box is spreading across the country at such a rate, that Colleen and Lin are now offering a limited availability to customers outside of the U.S. Due to the nature of the subscription business, not only has Colleen and Lin been able to provide to the less fortunate, but they have also given a massive platform for independent writers to sell and promote their work. Colleen explains one of her favorite parts of Bookworm,

I love that the subscription business allows me to see the indie artists I showcase getting support from Bookworm Customers, and I love being able to give back to charities.

Due to the rapid success of Bookworm Box, Colleen and Lin are now able to pursue strong relationships with publishers, like Penguin Random House, to work on making Bookworm Box bigger and better. As Colleen credits the platform of the subscription business model, she speaks to how her success has helped her achieve her dreams and the people that surround her, “I feel like a social worker that won the lottery.” Bookworm Box began with a desire to serve, the subscription model was the vehicle, and the end destination became so much bigger than ever expected.

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