I love subscription boxes. This is not a secret.
I have been subscribed to at least one since 2015 (before Owlcrate was so popular I was subscribed to them). And I have tested a huge quantity of them as my first post about them shows (there is a second one in the making, I am just waiting on a couple more to arrive so I can review them).
So I will try to do a 101 on them to help those trying to decide which box to start off with, and what to consider.
What is a book subscription box?
It is a box full of magic. On the most basic level, it is a box with a book inside and some extra goodies (usually bookish merchandise). It can be simple and cheap (like Leafer Box, starting at £12.99 + shipping) or expensive and custom made (like Bookish Land, €40.00 + shipping, which sadly I can’t recommend to you anymore due to quality issues with the last boxes).
Clockwise from top left: My Bookish Crate (out of business), Bookishland, Lit-Cube and Illumicrate (Hermes are bad in my area so they tend to mistreat my boxes but I know it is just the particular drivers I get).
How do I get one?
In general, they will open subscriptions for a box a month ahead and close for that month near shipping date (most ship between 15th-20th of the month). Some sell out quickly, so be prepared to miss out on subscriptions or having to wait until the subscriptions renew and they have some available (from those subscribers that skipped or didn’t renew). A select few will be available the whole month and you can buy any day of the month to get that month’s box.
If you are unsure when subscriptions open, usually their website or social media will say (or you can contact order support).
How do people afford them?
I have a full time job, so I use some of my income for it. What helps is I try to buy a 3 month subscription for a box (A) one month. This is because most will have discount codes if you subscribe and also the more months together you buy the “cheaper” it is (there are exceptions to this like Fairyloot, which costs the same regardless of how many months you choose). Next month I will subscribe to another box (B) for 3 months (which means I don’t have to pay that month for box A, but yes for box B), and so forth the next month (which means I’ll be able to get A,B & C all in one month). I know I am paying for all of those boxes but it is easier for me to pay one lump sum once and not have to worry about it each month. Also, by the third month, I have made up my mind about the box and if I will subscribe again or not.
Also, discount codes are your best friends. Find them! Most boxes have Reps who will have codes for 5-10% off.
For example, if you use code MOON17 on Book Box Club, you get 5% off. Or you can use KESTREL10 for 10% on a Leafer Box.
The best way to find these codes is check for their reps on Instagram. (You can also try to become a rep, but this is tricky since despite them saying followers DO NOT count, they don’t usually choose people with less than 1k followers).
And finally, you can always cancel renewal/subscription. Most won’t refund you, but will send boxes due to you.
When does the payment happen? And you mentioned renewal day?
So, if this is the first time you subscribe, it is usually paid the day you subscribed (if you subscribed before renewal day, it is possible it’ll be on renewal day rather than the day you subscribed). Again, this will be on the website of the box. If you buy it on Etsy, it will be paid immediately regardless of when the box is sent. If you are renewing, most boxes have a renewal day which is when the next payment will be taken.
In most cases, you can see when it is due to be renewed on your Cratejoy account or the box’s account website.
One-Off vs Subscription?
Some sell one-off purchase boxes as a choice. This is if you do not want to subscribe but want that particular box. I use this option when there’s no discount code and I really don’t want the hassle of subscription. Subscriptions have the bonus of being able to use a discount code so it may be cheaper for you.
One-Off boxes will always be paid when you buy them, subscriptions can wait until renewal day.
Past Boxes? No Book Box? Other options?
Some will make available past boxes from previous months on their shop. This gives you a chance to buy a specific box if you missed out and really want it. Sometimes you can also get a no book box from their site. Or you can check online on Facebook or Instagram to see if someone is selling items from the box or the full box (they subscribed and didn’t like it, etc, it happens).
I see a lot of YA, are there boxes for adults?
There a lot of YA ones, but there are also adult options (and I am not referring to Erotica and XXX content). And also junior or children’s options. Check my post or feel free to ask me about recommendations for a specific genre you’d like to find a box about. There are also a few options in country of origin language (there are a couple of Dutch boxes sending books in Dutch, for example).
Now tell me all about shipping, please…
This is probably the worst part about the book subscription boxes. Some boxes include shipping to the country they are located in for free, others have shipping aside.
Most book boxes are located in the US, so there’s a bigger variety there. If you live in the country the box is located, shipping will be straight forward (either already included or flat rate). However, if you are international, you may find they do not ship to your country (Uppercase only ships to US/Canada, for example). It may also be the shipping is costlier than the box. Or you will find a customs charge note left at your address rather than your box. This are all possibilities, so it is a good idea to check with someone who has already got the box what the shipping will be like, and if there will be the dreaded customs charges. (Note: I do not mind paying the customs charges, but it is not a pleasant surprise when you really just want your box and usually the post offices add a charge to the customs charge as a “handling” fee which usually means it doubles up and may cost as much as the box. This is NOT fun at all specially if you already spent £30 on box + £30 shipping + £15-20 on customs, as an example).
As I mentioned before, most boxes will ship between 15-20th of the month, with a few exceptions. If the company is big enough, they will do staggered shipping so some may ship a little earlier and others later. Give it a few days before you freak out about getting a shipping email. (Stressing about when your box will arrive and if it has been shipped and going all over social media about it, just adds stress. If you are worried, contact support, and they will probably reply. If you know someone who also subscribes to that box, ask them how shipping usually goes and how long it takes for it to arrive to your area/country).
Why does my box add VAT/Tax when I purchase?
This is an interesting one. See, if you are in the EU and the book box company is also located there, VAT may be displayed as extra charge. (Not all boxes do this). Or it may happen if you are in the US and the box is located in the US. However, international customers will not see this charge, so prices can vary between customers. This charges are to accomodate the law, so yes, they may not make it great to see extra charges (some are just a breakdown of what is VAT/Tax without additional charges) but it means you’re a lawful citizen, howdy! (this always makes me think of westerns and cowboys… don’t know why).
What about the contents of the boxes?
You will find a book in all the book subscription ones, there are bookish merchandise subscription boxes and some that allow the option of book or not book, and some that only include a signed/first edition book. But let’s go with a book box in the most generic terms.
You will find a book in the genre/style of the box. This may be YA Fantasy, YA general, Horror, ChickLit, etc. It may be a new very hyped release, or a “not released this month but this year” book with less hype. Make sure you are aware which kind of books the box you choose tends to feature. There is a group in Facebook called Book Box Sherlocks that guesses which books will be in each different box, which usually gets it right, so if you don’t mind getting spoiled about what book is in the box, you can check out the possible guesses there. Heck, you can even get an annotated by the author (with sticky notes) book from Page Habit.
Most boxes will include 2-6 bookish items alongside. The amount will depend on the box you choose and also on the month. Usually if you get costlier items in a box, there will be less of them that month. Most book boxes reveal a few suppliers so you have a hint of what kind of possibile items may be in the box. Social Media is your friend.
In general, expect a more female based approach (there is a huge possibility there will be jewelry or items that cater more for females but it isn’t always the case). Check all my unboxing posts if you’d like to get an idea of contents of book boxes.
Just so you get an idea of contents. PageHabit, Novel Tea Club (out of business), Magic Chest, FairyLoot, Leafer Box.
Spoilers? Unboxings? What are you talking about?
Unboxing is when you show the contents of the box. You can do this in so many ways but the usual ones are Instagram Stories, Instagram posts, Blog posts and Facebook posts/comments on groups.
Spoilers is when the contents of the box are revealed before you have received your own.
As a good base policy (this is not forced, just courtesy to other subscribers), warn people you are starting an unboxing in your stories (I add a picture of the box unopened and add a “Unboxing ABC Box” then another one with a countdown before actually showing the contents). If you decide to post on Instagram or a blog, you can either wait at least two weeks, or the start of the 5th of the next month before doing a full unboxing (showing ALL the contents without warning), or you can add a featured image without spoilers (say a picture of the box closed). Or you can do both. This is just a policy I use. I don’t mind spoilers in general, but understand others do, so I try to be polite about it and respectful.
Ok, so why buy them?
I buy them for several reasons. I started to help me deal with PTSD and depression. It was something to look forward to, and there is something lovely about receiving a box of goodies in the post. I also just love books and appreciate bookish merchandise. They also help me find small businesses (which I love supporting) and discover things I didn’t even know where made or that existed. They give me joy when I open them. (I admit if a box makes me sad every box and I am not feeling happy with it, I do consider not renewing subscriptions, and I have it for some boxes).
Reasons can be very varied.
But what if I don’t like all the items in my box? What do I do?
This is normal. Remember, this is a box curated by the person behind it. You’re different to that person. And we don’t all like the same things. I usually have at least one item per box I won’t keep or that I don’t like. (I get concerned when I only liked one item from the box, and disliked most of it).
Once again, there are a lot of options. You can use the items as giveaway prizes. You can use those items as gifts for someone else. There are also groups on Facebook specifically to trade book box contents, so you can buy/sell/trade there. You can also donate to charity.
After unboxing a box, I will make separate piles (book to bookcase, items to decorate bookcase, things that go to certain rooms in my house, etc, and a pile of items I don’t want ot keep). Once I have a “I won’t keep pile” I set it aside. I check trade groups to see if someone if searching for that particular item and offer to send it if they are interested. Sometimes I will post on them offering them for sale. Most of the time I will either send to friends, or to my mum who teaches English to poor orphan children (where English isn’t their mother tongue) so she can give them out as prices and incentives to the children. Trust me, they LOVE it and my mum is very happy to have this extras to encourage her students.
What about repeat/duplicate books?
Most boxes will try to get exclusivity to a book in their country (or they may have an exclusive cover), so this shouldn’t be a big issue, unless you choose to subscribe to several of them that do not guarantee this. It is a risk you take. If you buy international boxes, there is a higher risk of this happening.
In the two years and all the different boxes I have tried, I have only had duplicates 3 times. Two of them were because UK box had exclusivity to the UK edition and then a US box also did the book. If you are into collecting different editions, this is a “bonus”. This also applies for exclusive covers (at the moment only OwlCrate and Fairyloot do exclusive cover books in their boxes, and Fairyloot isn’t every box). The other time was when a publisher had given exclusivity to box A, but box B bought the books from a bookshop rather than directly from publisher. This is rare, since most boxes will try to contact publishers directly rather than buy through third-party. Of course, box A had a signed bookplate which box B didn’t.
You will most probably NOT get a refund if this happens. The very first few times this happened, the boxes involved did a discount and offered some incentives, but this was back then. Now they try to make sure to keep things clear with publishers.
Last but not least, a list of book subscriptions I know about.
If the box is in bold, I am currently subscribed to them. If it is
strikedthrough, it is out of business (these do not include further information). Cursive means I have yet to try it (this is probably due to shipping costs). Underlined is that I have tried it already but I am not currently subscribed (it doesn’t mean it is a bad box, I have to be selective, can’t afford all of them). If it is just normal text it means it is not possible for me to try because of my shipping/other restrictions. An asterisk (*) alongisde it means it has a special focus (diverse, indie, gives back, sends books in language other than English, etc). A plus sign (+) means they have recently launched or are about to launch.
Alongside it, I will state genre (if there is a / it means it does separate boxes, one for each part), country of origin, a link if it is available, code if I have one available, if box isn’t a monthly one, I will also include what kind of schedule it does. I am not including boxes that do not include a book in this list, but you can find those in my Collection of Subscription Boxes posts.
- Book Box Club – YA, website, UK.
- FairyLoot – Fantasy YA, website, UK.
- Leafer Box – Various box per genre, website, UK, No subscription but can buy for 3 or 6 months in one go.
- LitJoy Crate – YA/Children’s, website, US.
- Owlcrate – YA, website, US
- Owlcrate Jr. – Children’s, website, US
- Unicorn Crate – YA, website, US
- Hootloot Box – YA, website, US, bi-monthly
- The Bookish Box – YA/Adult, website, US
- Enchanted Book Box – YA, website, US
- The Bookie Box – YA, website, US
- Shelflove Crate – Fantasy and Sci-fi YA/Children’s, website, US
- Shelflove Reads (+) – Part of Shelflove Crate, but does general YA.
- Whimsify Box – Fantasy YA, website, US
- Uppercase – YA, website, US (only ships to US/Canada)
- Illumicrate -Usually YA but has exceptions, website, UK, quarterly.
- Once Upon a Book Club Box – YA/Adult, website, US
- Spearcraft Book Box – YA, website, US
- The YA Chronicles – YA, website, Australia
- Celebrate Books (*) – YA, website, Netherlands (also does Dutch editions)
- LitCube – Adult Fiction, website, US
- Book of the Month Club – Various, website, US
- Nocturnal Reader’s (*) – Horror, website, US
- Coffee and a Classic (*) – Various/Classic, website, US
- My Book Box – Adult, website, US
- Cozy Reader Club (*) – Adult(women’s fiction), website, US
- Magic Chest -YA, website, Germany
- Romance Reveal Book Box -Romance, website, US
- Book Case Club – Various/Children, website, US
- The Bookworm Box – Various, website, US
- Ninja Book Box (*) – Indie, website, UK, quarterly
- Wildest Dreams Box (+) – YA, website, UK
- Rainbow Book Box (+,*) – Diverse reads, website, UK
Bookish Land (*) – Various, website, France*See Note at end of list
- The Book Matchmaker (*) – A mystery book, website, UK
- DragonBookBox (+) – Adult Fantasy, website, UK
- Page Habit – Various, website, US
- Mark the Page – YA, website, Australia
- Blue Spiders Attic (*) – Secondhand various, website, US
- My Guilty Pleasures Book Crate (*) – Various, website, US
- Bookmarked Box – YA, website, US
- Mirror Book Box (*) – Diverse, website, US
- Send me Swooning – Romance, website, US (only ships to US)
- Novel Editions – Various, website, Canada (only ships to Canada)
- The Book Crate – YA, website, Australia (only ships to Australia)
- Never Never Book Box (*) – Spec Fiction, website, Australia
- The bookstabox (+) – YA, instagram, US
- Absolutely Booked – YA, website, Pakistan, bi-monthly
- Story Trunk – YA, website, India
- The Big Book Box – Various, website, India
- I Am A Kid (IAAK) (*) – Funko+T-shirt/Book, website, India
- Aurora The Box Of Dreams – YA, website, India
- Book Box – Various/Short Stories & poems, website, India (only ships to India)
- Books N Beyond – Various, website, India
- Yureka Books (*) – Book Match/Various, website, US
- Pop Reads Box (*) – YA+Funko Pop, website, US
- Parnassus Next (*) – YA Signed Book, website, US
- The Book Hook Up (*) – Various Box per genre , website, US
- Goldsboro Book of the Month(*) – Signed Book, website, UK (only book)
- Willoughby Book Blub – Various, website, UK (only books)
- And the Story Begins – Various, website, US
Nerdy Bookworm Box My Bookish Crate NovelTea Club Blue Tome
Last month I would’ve recommended Bookish Land Box since they had sent a fun box to me, it was a bit pricey but it was fun and lovely. So I encouraged Maja to try a custom made one and we both asked for one centered around An Enchantment of Ravens (I mean, fairies, wonderful magic, enchantments, it sounds good, right?). However we were both sent Halloween themed boxes, with cheap items (Maja’as book was damaged, mine wasn’t but it was the only item that matched what we requested), both of us were blocked by the account and told different stories about it (To me she was never in hospital until this week when her story changed when I asked for a partial refund because this was definitely not what I had paid for, to Maja it was a ping pong you can read more about in her blog post, our experiences are basically almost the same).
Neither of us has got their money back, and we both tried several times to contact them about it and making amends privately. A “discount” for the next box means I have to spend into something I can’t trust (which they insist was offered but it was never offered to me, no discount, no refund, no nothing). We were told owner was sick, but I would’ve appreciated an email warning us our orders would not be customised as expected, then I could’ve decided to wait until it was all good again or to cancel my purchase. I wasn’t offered this opportunity. So I just make you aware that if you buy from Bookish Land, you are going to receive an overpriced box full of cheap things, bad customer service and get blocked if you complain.
As you may have noticed, I buy a lot of book boxes out of my own pocket, no one sponsors me, so it is difficult when something like this happens. And I do not wish it on anyone.
Clockwise from top left: Leafer Box (sideways), LitJoy Crate (sideways), Book Box Club, Nerdy Bookworm (out of business), SpearCraft Book Box, and FairyLoot.
Have any more questions? Feel free to comment them here or use the Contact form. I am happy to answer all your questions if I can.