Roxanne Coady, founder of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison and Middlebury, Connecticut, launched Just the Right Book, a fully personalized book subscription service that recommends front list and backlist titles to customers, as a separate enterprise from her bookstore in 2009. The business has grown to be quite successful, said Coady, noting that it has thousands of customers that span the globe, has a high renewal rate, and can generate even more enthusiasm than a happy customer in-store.
“Most of our customers are giving it as a gift, and they appreciate the kind of thank-you notes they get,” Coady said. She told Bookselling This Week that a man in the U.S Armed Forces who bought a subscription for his wife said she loves it because it feels like he’s talking to her each month through the personalization of the pick. “You appreciate that the person [gifting it] is thinking about you in that way,” Coady added. “Really, I think of it as having your own personal bookseller.”
While the service is well-known by its longstanding legacy in the world of book subscription services, Just the Right Book is also marketed through e-mail newsletters sent out every other week, social media, and has appeared on news outlets such as the TODAY Show. Coady said that for its most recent newsletter, they opted to include a humorous bit of feedback from a former customer of the week, James. See James’ full comment below.
“Periodically we put in comments from customers, but that was so over the top and clever and charming that it was a little bit irresistible,” Coady said.
Coady suggested that booksellers who are looking to launch a subscription service figure out what model works best for them. For R.J. Julia, that meant creating a business wholly separate from the store. “We consider it e-commerce only,” Coady said. “It has its own staff. There are two booksellers who are picking the books for the customers. That’s all they do — they don’t work in the bookstore.”
In 2009, Coady conceived of Just the Right Book as a free-standing business because she had once thought about selling R.J. Julia (which instead now has two locations in Connecticut). “There was some thinking on my part that I’d keep Just the Right Book, but not the bookstore…that’s why it has its own staff and is its own corporate entity,” she said. Coady also said her role in both endeavors has shifted toward one that is more strategic; Lori Fazio is currently COO of both of the stores as well as Just the Right Book.
“I think some of the overseas companies have really done this well,” Coady added. “Daunt Books has a subscription service, and a bookstore in London, Heywood Hill, has a really good subscription service. Those are the models I look to.”
Booksellers who are interested in learning more about book subscription services can also read about last fall’s marketing roundtable on the topic.
From the April 11 edition of the Just the Right Book newsletter:
Remember James, our last Customer of the Week? After getting featured, he wrote us this amazing response (which we had to post in full because — well, once you start reading, you’ll understand):
Oh wow. Customer of the week. Gosh. That’s just...I don’t know what to say. Except for, you know, that you and I BOTH KNOW that I’m AT LEAST customer of the month. MAYBE OF ALL TIME!!!
Kidding aside, I’d like to thank RJ Julia for this truly humbling honor and for the unique service they provide with Just the Right Book — hands down the greatest book club I’ve ever joined, and I’ve joined a lot. I’d also like to thank Britt for tolerating my bizarre e-mails and for seemingly getting my overall vibe.
I’d also like to thank my wife, Beth Holmes, for not only purchasing my membership to Just the Right Book but for also thinking that I’m funnier than I am and for always laughing whenever I read her my communiques between myself and JTRB. I LITERALLY COULD NOT AND WOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU!!
Gosh I can see they’re trying to hurry me up so I guess I gotta do this quickly. I’d also like to give a quick shout to my mom for always taking me to the library, letting me check out more books than a kid could possibly read in two weeks, and for betting me that I couldn’t finish Matilda in a day and then actually paying me $5 when I did. MOREOVER, for always somehow finding the money to buy me a book when I asked and for buying me books TO THIS DAY if I ask, even though she knows that I know she’s a sucker that can’t say no to buying me books.
And also to the good people at—
*orchestra plays louder*
I’M FINISHED WHEN I’M FINISHED!!
To the good people at Fretz Park and Richardson Public Libraries for giving me a place to go on those hot Texas summer days and for opening up worlds of imagination I never would’ve dreamed possible. ESPECIALLY to that one librarian who always set aside a new Roald Dahl book for me. I wish I remembered your name!
And to my grandfather, who always fell asleep in his chair with a Louis L’Amour book in his hand, for teaching me that it’s OKAY TO LIKE TRASH and that popular and pulp fiction has its place and shouldn’t be considered lesser regardless what the forces of elitist gatekeepers would otherwise have you believe as they try desperately to hold onto outmoded conventions and classist ideologies.
*orchestra starts playing fortississimo as the conductor looks uncomfortable, the audience shifts awkwardly in their seats, and the producers debate cutting my mic off*
Never let it be said that your inane rants to strangers have no impact!! Never let them tell you that moments of bizarre creativity in benign communications have no value!! EMBRACE YOUR PERSONAL WEIRD!! Send lightly entertaining e-mails to book sellers, music sellers, tattoo shops, or whomever you are in sort of contact with!! BE UNABASHEDLY YOURSELF EVEN IF THAT MEANS DOUBLING DOWN ON YOUR STRANGE COMMITMENT TO A BIZARRE JOKE E-MAIL FORMAT AT 12:30 ON A FRIDAY NIGHT!!
*spotlight shuts off and the mic gets cut but it’s cool because my phone has a flashlight and I brought a megaphone because I figured this would happen because it ALWAYS HAPPENS*
READ MORE BOOKS. READ BOOKS YOU’D NEVER THOUGHT TO READ BEFORE. READ AUTHORS YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF. BRING BACK BORDERS BUT ALSO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS. SEEK OUT NEW VOICES AND OPINIONS AND CHALLENGE YOURSELF CONSTANTLY. READ TRASH. READ CLASSICS. READ CLASSIC TRASH. BUT READ MORE BOOKS!!!
*several security guards rush the stage and grab me by my limbs as the nervous murmurs of the audience approach a dull roar and the cameras cut to commercial*
THIS IS THE GREATEST NIGHT OF MY LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiifffffffeeeeeeee....
James “Customer of the Week” Roberts