This 'Birchbox for books' subscription box hopes to seduce female readers with careful curation, luxe design, and complementary lifestyle treats.
Reading in Heels is a monthly subscription service and digital book club "for intelligent, stylish modern women", offering members an edit of the latest literary fiction alongside a selection of new beauty and lifestyle products. There's an accompanying digital book club, too, so members can discuss each month's choice, add their reviews and comments, and access rich media content on the book itself.
Who is the team behind it?
Alice Revel and Caroline Finn, who have worked together for several years on the online women's magazine Running in Heels. As founder and editor-in-chief of Running in Heels - launched in 2009 - Revel believes she has a tried and tested sense of what her audience really wants . Finn, the commercial director, has an impressive background in ecommerce and retail for luxury lifestyle brands, including former roles as global director of digital at haircare brand ghd and global director of ecommerce at Belstaff.
What's the gap in the market?
"We had a real lightbulb moment looking at the book subscription services out there and noticing that none of them were really well-designed, or included an interactive element," Revel explains. "We knew from our Running in Heels audience that this combination of books and treats - and culture teamed with frivolity - would be something they'd love."
The pair are putting a 'female-first' mantra at the heart of their offering, pushing female writers and female-owned brands. They also think the luxe, physical nature of their boxes will prove a balm to digitally jaded minds. "Of course, with the right book, reading is the perfect antidote to scrolling through social media and other mindful phone-centric activities," Revel says. "Reading in Heels is about putting the pleasure back into reading. Being so absorbed by a book that you totally forget about your phone. Slowing down. Parcels and real post."
Success so far?
Reading in Heels sold out of the first box - whch combined Nell Zink's Nictoine with Halo raw chocolate, Pukka women's tea, a Su-Man clay face mask and Legology leg tint - without any marketing push. "Most of our subscriptions in the first month were either ongoing or for 6 or 12 months – which is a major endorsement considering no one actually knew what would be in the boxes!" Revel says.
They're planning a full launch to bloggers and influencers next month, and then will be sending boxes to women's culture and lifestyle magazines and national newspapers in October.
Keeping things fresh. "We simply can't have 'dud' boxes," Revel admits. "Every month needs to be strong, with a fantastic book and a few treats that members really enjoy. We want the beauty and lifestyle brands in the box to reflect the no chick lit/no trashy crime ethos – so that means luxury, independent and indie products. So far the response from both publishers and brands has been very encouraging – they really 'get' it."
The Reading in Heels team hope become as mainstream as a Go Fresh or Birchbox subscrption - and, in the process, to stop reading from sliding down the Gen Y and Z priority list.
"Everyone wants to read more, and when we talked to women about Reading in Heels, one thing that kept coming up was a 'should'," Revel says. "'I'd like to read more, but'. In our non-stop, alway-on world, reading has become an obligation - something we know we should do, but it takes too long, too much of our attention span, too much time researching books and visiting book shops and shopping online. And the chances of being disappointed are high. We want to disrupt publishing, push books and products by women to the fore, and get people reading more, more often."
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"I think a lot of people feel like there's no space for innovation in something as traditional as publishing, but that's just not the case. If you have a great idea and the right contacts, there's no reason why you can't make it work. Just be prepared for the hard work!"