The world is growing more anxious, and they’re turning to self-help books to cope: Data from Barnes and Noble found that sales of books related to anxiety are up a massive 26% year-over-year in 2018. The demand is so strong, in fact, that one just-launched subscription box, WILDWOMAN, aims to deliver one non-fiction self-help book a month to all of its subscribers.
Donna Louise Hay, the founder behind the service, agrees that the demand is growing. “In part of our research we found that 1 in 6 people experience a common mental health disorder and 4 in 10 people don’t feel they have the ability to manage their own self care. We need to do more about this,” Hay noted, citing pressure from society to emphasize accomplishments over one’s one wellbeing.
Part of the reason behind the rise in self-help books may not be the growth of the problem of anxiety so much as a stronger interest in finding a solution: “I think the generation I was born into are now so much more open and in tune with their feelings,” Hays explained. “It’s more accepted now to put your hands up and say ‘I’m struggling’ – there is less stigma about picking up a self-help book.”
Hay’s own struggle lies behind her company: “I’ve been a bookworm since forever. I’ve just always loved books. But it wasn’t until a particularly dark period in my life that I turned to non-fiction books,” she said. “I used these books as a way of taking care of myself and healing myself after a sustained period of grief in my family and the sudden suicide of a friend. When I started to see the positive impact non-fiction writing was having on my wellbeing I started to recommend some of the books to friends. I could see the changes in their mindsets too and it wasn’t all about mental health. It was really about growth in all areas of our lives – careers, relationships, friendships, health. The words were speaking to all of us. After a few book suggestions, a friend suggested I start a book club and voila, GozenGirls was born.”
While this book club community is “mainly based in the South East of England” currently, Hay explains, she plans to eventually expand the women-oriented book discussion meetups across the globe, saying “We are working on a franchise model for GozenGirls at the moment.”
WILDWOMAN organically grew out of this club, and Hay’s belief that reading non-fiction books can change people for the better. “The bookclub was working. I wanted to package up the experience of a GozenGirls bookclub for people to enjoy in their own home, wherever in the world they are. I already had experience in subscription marketing which helped plan my vision and after immersing myself in the subscription box market specifically and doing a lot of research around women in business and mental health I saw the opportunity. There are a few book subscription boxes in the UK but nothing centred on non-fiction books for women. WILDWOMAN is the first of its kind.”
What type of products can subscribers expect in a typical box? In addition to a book a month, subscribers paying the £28.50 monthly fee will receive gifts curated to match the topic covered in the book. “These gifts are aimed to reconnect each subscriber to their mind, body and spirit and may include journals, affirmation cards, stationary, wellbeing gifts such as essential oils, beauty treatments, snacks and sweet treats,” said Hay. The service comes with its own magazine as well: “In every box is the WILDWOMAN magazine which includes offers and competitions from partners, author interviews and GozenGirls bookclub related news. Subscribers will be encouraged to join the online community to connect with like-minded women from across the world.”
In terms of scale, the WILDWOMAN service is aiming high: “As an organic company (we are home grown from the kitchen table!) we do not have any investment. However, we have a confident and realistic growth plan in place and it is already likely we will exceed our initial targets by at least 20%,” Hay said.
In the world of subscription boxes, a sturdy brand is essential, Hays explains: “I think as with any new business or startup it’s a very good idea to be cautious and lay solid foundations as well as find out from others what works and what doesn’t. Very early on in the curation of the first box it was absolutely paramount to me that WILDWOMAN had strong branding, a strong identity and that the physical box itself was beautiful.” Adding clear and consistent value is key to keeping churn rates decreasing. “I want subscribers to love opening the box, to enjoy the feel of it in their hands – much like when you open up an Apple product – WILDWOMAN is not just a box – it’s an experience.”