Once Upon A Book Club brings immersive experience to reading through gifts

Once Upon a Book Club
Photo courtesy of Once Upon A Book Club

A subscription book service is going the extra mile to make sure its readers are fully immersed in the story.

Once Upon A Book Club is an online book subscription service that curates gifts that you can open while you read. The company was created by Michelle Wollett in January 2016 after being in a book club herself.

“Our CEO Michelle was in a real-life book club and she was reading ‘The Nightingale.’ It was her turn to host the book club and she went all out: she decorated her house, had a whole smattering of snacks themed like the timeline of the book, she dressed up in character and they had a great meeting and discussion about the book,” said Logan LeDuc, Director of Customer Experience at Once Upon A Book Club. “She kinda just was at the point of, ‘How can I make every book feel like this, where you are part of the story, it’s not just you reading a book, you close it and it’s over. How do I bring this not only to myself and my book club but to people all over the world?'”

And with that, Once Upon A Book Club is born. Anyone who subscribes to Once Upon A Book Club can choose between an Adult reading option (usually geared towards those 18+) or a Young Adult option (14+), and then each box the reader receives includes a newly published book and wrapped gifts marked with page numbers that readers will open along the way. Each gift is connected to the book in some way and is usually described in the pages of the novel.

“Readers from all over the world get the same book, just like a book club, get gifts they can open and really experience the book in a really elevated way so they can be a part of the story,” said LeDuc. “Not only are the gifts described in the story, but they are typically described at really heightened moments, either emotionally for a character or at an intense moment.”

Each book box is carefully curated by two people at Once Upon A Book Club, who Deluc says read tons of books every month to find the right fit. Each read must contain descriptive gift elements, but the curators also want to make sure that the story is good as well.

“We pride ourselves on being a very diverse box as far as genre and trying to appeal to as many readers as we can,” said LeDuc. “So even if you might not particularly be a fantasy reader — every once and a while we include a fantasy — and more often than not we get emails from our customers that say ‘I never would have picked this book up, but you sent it to me and I gave it a try because you never let me down before and I loved it.’ They try new things through us because they trust our book rec and want to open our gifts.”

When the box is ready to go, it gets posted online. To keep the surprise going, Once Upon A Book Club keeps the title a mystery and posts hints about the book. Customers have the option to purchase an Adult or Young Adult subscription for $49.99 a month (with the option to switch to the other genre at any point if you want), a past box or a gift box. Each month contains a theme, such as the upcoming Spooky and Sweet Halloween boxes.

“We had quite a few horrors that came through, and they were either not scary enough to fit spooky or weren’t dainty enough to be considered sweet, so it was finding that good cozy mystery vibe for the sweet box and that terrifying, ‘I can’t sleep tonight’ book for the spooky box. We think we came up with some good ones this year,” said LeDuc.

The shop also sells items that have been in past boxes, limited edition books, apparel and more. For the subscriptions that don’t sell out, the team at Once Upon A Book Club goes through the inventory and places the remaining boxes (with the book titles revealed) online to sell individually — but once those boxes are sold out, they are gone for good.

Though Once Upon A Book Club has been a smash with readers since its inception, LeDuc says that the subscription service got a huge bump during the pandemic. They were not expecting the influx of readers, but were pleasantly surprised with how well the service was resonating with readers and their families.

“We were blown away by the number of people that found us and that loved getting our boxes every month during the pandemic, it was a surprise,” said LeDuc. “If they wanted to know what the book was, they could email us, we had no problem sharing the book title with readers, but if they want to keep it a surprise, it was great for families that couldn’t be together during the pandemic. People loved it, it meant so much to get emails that said you kept my family sane.”

LeDuc says that there’s a lot to look forward to from Once Upon A Book Club in the coming weeks and months. In addition to the Halloween boxes, Once Upon A Book Club released its holiday-themed boxes, including its annual “12 Days of Book-Club-Mas” box.

“In that box, we hire novice writers to write short stories that incorporate gifts, the gifts are what we put in the Advent calendar,” said LeDuc. “The whole point is for 12 days, we recommend Dec. 13-25 so you open your last one on Christmas, and you get to read a short story and open a gift one per day.”

Additionally, customers can keep an eye out for the club’s Christmas-themed box, which contains a Christmas story inside with gifts, or the New Year’s-themed “Up All Night” box, which also contains a copy of Once Upon A Book Club’s 40-book reading challenge.

“[The “Up All Night” box] includes a book that we couldn’t put down, we skipped our bedtime to finish it,” said LeDuc. “That’s the vibes we wanted it to have, the bookworm’s way to celebrate the New Year.”

For more information or to purchase a box, visit onceuponabookclub.com.

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