Sistah Girls, Black romance is a thriving genre and every day there is a new author dropping a hot book. Sometimes it can be hard to follow what new books should make your TBR list, and that’s where ReadHer Book Box comes in. It’s a book subscription box dedicated to lovers of Black independent romance.
Founder, Ashley is a lover of Black romance in literature, this passion led her to create the ReadHer Book Box. She also runs her own digital book club (The Black Romance Book Club) and is dedicated to promoting black love in literature to all of her followers and book club members.
We caught up with Ashley to learn more about ReadHer Book Box, how she came up with the idea, and how you can snag one.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
SGBC: What book or author made you fall in love with reading?
Ashley: I’m an old-school reader, so I’ve been reading for a very long time. As a kid, I definitely read Sweet Valley High and R.L. Stine books.
Unlike now, there was really little diversity in books. There was no Amazon or anything like that to buy books from. So I got a lot of my books from the library. When I got older, I read Zane, Eric Jerome Dickey, Omar Tyree, Brenda Jackson, Francis Ray, and L.A. Banks. Those were the authors that told Black stories and made me fall in love with reading.
SGBC: What made you dedicate your site and business to Black independent romance authors?
Ashley: At first it wasn’t solely dedicated to indie Black romance authors. It was just about the things that I read, which wasn’t always indie. But then I just noticed that I kept reading indie. And then it got to the point where that was all that I was reading.
So I focused on the indie community. I noticed that I didn’t really vibe with a lot of mainstream publishing. The stories didn’t capture my attention and they didn’t move me like indie books were. Plus, I felt like indie authors were giving the Black stories that we all needed to hear. So I wanted to be a part of the charge that was telling people to read these stories.
SGBC: Tell us how the ReadHer Book Box subscription works…
Ashley: ReadHer is a subscription similar to a gym membership! You sign up and you get a box until you cancel. We’re bi-monthly, so our boxes go out every other month. Folks can choose to subscribe to pay as they go, or they can pre-pay for 3 boxes/6months or 6 boxes/12 months, which allows for folks to save a bit!
Each box comes with a book by a Black indie author and 3-5 book-ish/fun add-ons.
SGBC: What inspired you to start a book subscription box specifically for Black romance?
Ashley: I started ReadHer because I honestly saw that there wasn’t a product like this. I randomly discovered Book of the Month one day and thought it was a great idea. But then I saw the real lack of diversity in their offerings and I felt kinda disappointed.
I read a lot of indies but I do occasionally read mainstream publishing. So when I was looking at Book of the Month and looked online for other offerings and didn’t see options that felt even a lil Black, I kinda asked myself why couldn’t I do it?
I know that there’s a community of readers who enjoy Black indie romance as I do and we’d love a box that offers multiple authors and focuses on us as both women readers who love romance. So I went for it! I talked to fellow readers, got some feedback, chatted with authors, and felt it was both something that I could do and that was needed.
SGBC: How do you select what authors and goodies you’re going to feature with each box?
Ashley: Selecting the book is the hardest thing! Here you have a plethora of authors and books that they’ve written but how do you pick something that most, if not all, will love? That has been super hard.
There are a lot of things to consider. Have people read this book? Did they love it if they did? Would people enjoy having a printed copy if they’ve already read it? Picking the goodies is easy because I’m a reader too! I think about what things I find useful and I’ve asked fellow readers what they like.
It’s really about theming the goodies with the book or the vibe you want to create in the box. The first one was a box around the things that readers would need; the essentials. The next one is centered around reading and relaxation. It’s been a rough year, so we want their next reading experience to focus on comfort and convenience.
SGBC: What’s your goal for ReadHer Book Box within the next two years?
Ashley: My goal for ReadHer is to definitely grow in our subscriptions. I want way more people to get their hands on these boxes. I feel like ReadHer can be one of many ways that indie Black romances can expand their audiences.
I also hope to do collaborations with authors. I want to have specially curated boxes between myself and some of my favorite authors with personal touches from both myself and the authors that I know readers would love. I also want to create merchandise.
I used to always wear shirts with funny sayings like “dump him” “rooting for everybody Black”, especially on Dad Hats, sweatshirts, wristbands. So I would love to create those things to go along with the boxes. I know readers would love merch like that that centers on Black romance.
SGBC: Do you plan on branching out to include more genres?
Ashley: As of now, our genre is Black romance, most specifically contemporary romance. But there is a plan to expand to other Black romance sub-genres like Urban, YA. I think that readers are interested in options, so we’d like to be able to supply that need. I’d like to continue to work with Black indie authors and support their work.
SGBC: What’s one thing you wished you knew about the book subscription business before you started that you know now?
Ashley: One thing I wish I knew then was how slow shipping is through USPS! It’s so unpredictable and honestly unreliable. Had I known the extent that this issue exists, I would have ordered things way earlier! Slow shipping has caused me a lot of stress. But now I know, so that will help with the next round.
SGBC: Did you ever have doubts about starting your business? If so, how did you get over the fear to push forward?
Ashley: I’ve had doubts at every stage of starting ReadHer. I doubted the idea of ReadHer. Then I doubted people would like it. Then I doubted that authors would support it. And lastly, I doubted that people would buy it. At every stage I had doubts, and at every stage, my doubts were proven wrong.
The worst thing that could happen at each stage was a no. And that no wouldn’t have shut down the idea, it would have redirected it. I’ve always known that a no is possible. And there have been no’s. But at each stage, I had to remind myself that in life I’ve proven to myself that I can do anything I want to do.
Life has prepared me for this. So if I can accomplish my personal goals, why not in a business built on a passion for reading? I know it’s not going to be easy and there will be failures, but nothing that I can’t overcome. So why not try?
SGBC: What has been one amazing thing that’s happened since starting your business?
Ashley: The most amazing thing has honestly been the fact that people bought and subscribed to ReadHer without seeing one thing inside of it!
To have the type of trust from people in the ReadHer and my vision and then for them to love it has been amazing! Its one thing to have an idea. But it’s a whole other experience to have people connect to it and enjoy it. That has been amazing!
SGBC: What do you want customers to experience when they open a ReadHer Book Box?
Ashley: I want customers to feel joy! I want them to feel excited when they open the box and see the pink crinkle stuff. I want them to wonder what’s inside the box.
I want them to see the book and have a moment of excitement and curiosity. And then I want them to look at the things we’ve sent them and feel good. My goal is to give everyone who opens their box an experience that gives them joy and contentment.
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