Read Books, Whilst the Sun Shines! (Obviously in Australia, you’re free to cosy up for the winter.)

Prudence's August Reads

Prudence’s August Reads

And, what a quarter it’s been since I last wrote longform to you all! So much has happened, so much has changed…but in essence, nothing at all has changed, either. Which is, it must be said, just how we like it – enough change to keep life interesting, enough continuity to be cosy.

Our biggest change was in terms of packaging – we’re enjoying the new envelopes a lot, and they seem to be, on the whole, doing a much better job of keeping everyone’s bits and books in ship-shape, although, as always, we’re always sure we can improve! The stripey bags are so much fun, although, as I’ve been the one packing them up thus far, I’ve ended up flinging Maoam across the room in a fit of fingers and thumbs at a couple of points each month!

Obviously the biggest impact on our little business came when we were unexpectedly featured in Buzzfeed’s 15 Subscription Boxes You Should Definitely Try Out piece – we were so infinitely grateful we’d just undergone a considerable internal restructure (read: I’d finally sorted out the cupboards we keep everything in) so we were able to accommodate our glorious influx of new subscribers with surprising ease. One of my favourite things about running PatC, which still surprises me every time, is just how many people ‘get’ what we’re about – I love, love, love meeting all our new subscribers, reading the questionnaires, discovering new books myself, and learning so many tales of literary love, hate and curiosity. The Crow and I started PatC because I so desperately wanted something like this to exist myself, and couldn’t find it, and it thrills me daily that there are so many others out there who seem to have felt the same!

We do want this to be more, though, and this is still, despite being well into our second year, only the beginning. We have plans. We can’t tell you much more, because, as every writer knows, you should never tell your story to someone you’d like to read the book, but there’ll be content and community to it, if that’s the sort of thing you like. And if you don’t like, never fear – you can always just get a random book in a box, and we love you just as much.

On another note, we continue to receive all kinds of requests, from bloggers to mainstream print press, requesting (or, in a couple of cases, flat-out demanding) sample boxes and/or photographs of boxes. We’d like to reiterate that we don’t do sample boxes ever, for anyone, however many copies of whatever it is that you sell. Anyone is welcome to purchase a box, fill out the questionnaire, and review/unbox/critique/recommend as they wish, and we are exceptionally grateful to each and every one of you out there who’s done so, but our entire point is not the box, nor the tea, nor the whatever-else-we-put-in…we really are about the books. We always do our best to match you with your read, and, within the bounds of what you tell us about yourself and what we can find, we endeavour to occasionally ridiculous lengths to join the dots for a happy picture. We can’t send samples, because there’s no human who wants to read a book on the other end. We can’t photograph someone else’s box and expect it to mean anything, or to honestly reflect a potential PatC-er’s expectations. The point of PatC is the match, not the box. Special mention to Glamour magazine, who, earlier this year, after a few back-and-forths, did their own photography to meet their print requirements and understood this point well.

I am always, always happy to consider interview/quote/thinkpiece requests submitted properly through our Press Information link, in the usual place at the end of our site, and we love the social media and blogger contributions we’re tagged or included in, but we aren’t interested in chasing subscribers. We have only ever advertised with the wonderful IGGPPC (and once on Facebook, but that was more a statistical curiosity at the beginning – it really wasn’t very helpful for what we’re doing!).

Speaking of the IGGPPC, their annual camp is about to kick off! There are loads of awesome activities, seminars, crafts and challenges to consume, complete and compete in, and you can find out all about it here. Registration is over, but everything is available to all over the next week or so all the same! (Those of you in troops already: Troop Lumos, present and correct!). And if you missed it during last year’s camp, you can see the Crow and I do a ‘Branding and Setting Up a Shop’ seminar here on YouTube. Why I’m wearing that visor, I can’t quite recall! Anyway, we’re all in and we love the IGGPPC and can’t wait to unlock achievements aplenty!

Whilst we’re rounding up, here’s what I’m reading at the moment: Clover, by Susan Coolidge, the joyous follow-up to What Katy Did Next, featuring easily my favourite character from all the novels. The Life of Ian Fleming, by John Pearson, because Fleming was a fascinating man and this is a strangely beautiful old hardback I picked up the other day. Poul Anderson’s The Winter of the World because I was about to send it to someone when I realised it was one of my own books I’d never actually got around to reading, and had mixed it up in the wrong pile (this happens a lot).

My bedtime read (something savoured, a couple of pages a night) is Arsenic For Tea, by Robin Stevens (Wells and Wong #2) because I have just received First Class Murder (Wells and Wong #3) and can’t believe I’ve got behind. If you enjoy 1930’s English boarding school murder mysteries with a glorious strong female PoC protagonist (and if you don’t, I’m not 100% certain we can be friends, but I’ll forgive you if that’s because you’re super-into Ursula K. leGuin, although really, why should these things be mutually exclusive?), then please, dive in. Great fun and pleasingly befuddling as you’re going along; Robin Stevens is a joy and a delight and is exhibit #1 in my ‘Write What you Know’ gallery, even though, at the rate I’m loving her words and characters, I’d be happy to consume her retelling of the ‘phone book…or whatever the modern-day version of that analogy is.

Also, speaking of strong young female protagonists, I must shout out here that if you’ve yet to get to Tim Clare’s The Honours (link to a very, very accurate Guardian review, emphasis particularly on the relaxed sigh that comes when you realise, a little way into a book, that you’re in the hands of a competent storyteller) then I can’t urge you to do so now strongly enough. It’s been a wonderful year for reading for me thus far, and this book alone will tell you exactly why. I’ve already given two copies to friends and need to buy myself another in order to read it again, and treasure it closely.

I finally got around to reading last winter’s ‘this book is everywhere’ read, Station Eleven, which I only adored once I’d actually finished it, but now rate exceptionally highly. I rather liked not knowing what it was going to be about before I started it, so don’t click the link to the review if you also don’t know, and fancy going in with nothing.

Ah, I could continue with this for quite some time, but I think this must do for now, for it’s time, oh yes, it’s time at last, to get boxing for August! As ever, we’re at prudenceandthecrow.com if you want to purchase yourselves, or friends, a box, and recurring subscriptions will open up once more around the 13th of August, if you prefer that. Should you have any customer queries, once more I ask, please, please use our Contact Us form at the website, for it is the only way we provide individual assistance. Otherwise, we’re herethere and everywhere, and you’re always welcome to come and tell us what you’re reading (or writing!), what we should or could be reading, if you’re coming to IGGPPC camp, how the weather is, and what drinks go with which books (a forthcoming conversation!).

Happy August!

~P (and the C).

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Despatches from the Land of Nearly Christmas!

Goodness, what an extremely long time it is since I updated this blog! Prudence here, surrounded by no fewer than three kinds of tea and two cups of coffee. I trust you’re all keeping well?  I thought it was time to do a little update and let you know how everything’s going!

We have been wonderfully, incredibly busy here at PatC HQ since my last update. We’re thrilled by how many wonderful customers and subscribers we’ve got, and sorry to have sold out of subscriptions for the time being, but we do plan to open them up for limited periods again in the future – do keep an eye out in January!

We’ve learnt a lot about what we do and who we’re doing it for – every month we pick up on something new we can do to make things work better – and we’ll be improving things significantly in the months to come, from introducing a new box style that will a) get to us on time and b) get to you on time whilst c) being made in the UK from good quantities of recycled paper, and from restructuring how we do things around the month. We’re also trying to be good and be more strict with our ‘office hours’ – no good comes of 3am customer service, a rule we’ve learnt so often, but always struggle over, because, well, in the middle of the night, you see a query, you want to help! But we must be strong; it’s not always helpful, and it’s easy to end up talking rhubarb when you do this. So, if you don’t get an immediate reply to a query – don’t panic! We’ll be there as soon as we can, we promise. We aim to answer all correspondence within 72 hours.

The other thing we’d like you to know is, we remain just the two of us! We’re not a large subscription box company with a warehouse of books, we’re not backed by financial groups or sponsored by, well, anyone at all. At this point, PatC makes no revenue through anything other than sales of our boxes. We’re two young women who’ve been doing online business for fifteen years, and this is a venture we created from scratch without capital, with only our knowledge and experience. It’s growing beautifully, and we’re so proud of what we do and thrilled by the responses we get every day.

Every box is folded and stamped by Prudence, every single thing in your box is put there by Prudence; every box is wrapped and stickered by the Crow. The Crow does all our photography and coding. Prudence does the Twitter and Facebook; the Crow does Instagram and Pinterest (Prudence is really bad at Pinterest…). Prudence does the post side of things. We share handwriting, cutting-out, book-choosing, gift-making and stock-organising duties, and both do customer service. The only thing we’ve sometimes ‘outsourced’ is the bookbags – Prudence’s mum has done some quite heroic sewing over the last month for us in order to have everything ready for your December boxes!

Also, apart from our little ad with the wonderful IGGPPC, we haven’t advertised externally at all – everything comes from word of mouth, and the loveliest thing of all is to see the groups of friends and family we send to, and to see more and more addresses cropping up in the same student halls, office blocks, streets, schools, cities, towns and villages. Know that we really, really appreciate your conversations in the coffee break, your photos and shares, blogs and unboxing videos!

We really, really love what we do. There’ve been some (extremely!) long nights and some rather heated arguments (“But I just don’t think they’ll like Book X as much as Book Y!” “I think they will!”) but we wouldn’t change a shred of it. Here’s to many more boxes, and, best of all, many more books!

From the picture at the top, you can see this was meant to be more about our Christmas bundle, but I got all excited writing the catchup here! But don’t let me forget – until 10pm GMT on 5th December, you can buy a random vintage book and have it beautifully and seasonally wrapped and sent straight to you, or your loved one, or a vague acquaintance, for just £6 in the UK. To do this, head here immediately! Quantities are limited; some genres more than others, so we’d advise not leaving it too long! Meanwhile, happy December!

Cats and Wizards oh my!

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The joint #1 loves of our subscribers, that is, and that makes us ever so happy. Also, thrillingly, during one our busiest signup day ever last week (who knows why? We’re just so glad you’re all here!) we had TWO instances of my favourite thing – two apparently unconnected people signing up one after the other, one stating Book X as their favourite book, and the next subscriber choosing that very same book, out of all the books in the world, as their least favourite! The joy of the perfect coincidence? I can’t imagine it’s anything else, but it’s such a satisfactory amusement to me!

A well-filled-out questionnaire does help us considerably with the selection process, and, whilst the whole thing is very much the Secret Ingredient situation one might find with a famous, delicious fast-food company, most of it is simply Prudence and the Crow sitting there wielding one book or another, shouting things like “THIS HAS THE BEST CAT IN IT THOUGH” and the other countering with “THE PLOT OF THIS ONE IS SO MUCH MORE EXCITING THOUGH”, and mostly we have a really awesome time fighting that situation out, over and over again. Obviously, there are a great number of subscriptions where, either we’re super fortunate and able to fulfil a request directly, or there’s such a clear choice that we both chorus a title, as we read the subscription email. Sometimes we’re not super certain, or the recipient seems genuinely to want something random, and that’s a diferent kettle of fish – occasionally Prudence does a bit of detective work and decides whether random might really mean ~random, and that’s when, say, with the sci-fi category, the super-weird stuff might come out, or we might go the other way and opt for a real classic that’s just so beautiful, no-one could be sad to have it!

We have some stock favourites that we’ll send any time we get the chance and feel they’re a good match, and those are the ones that are often the most ‘loved’ books we’ll post out…to me, a pristine book is a gorgeous thing, of course it is, but we love the books that have been thoroughly enjoyed too, the ones with the notes and creases and folds and scuffs, the ones that you could drop in the bath but that you’d promptly scoop out and take emergency measures with. Although – rest assured – we wouldn’t send any that had actually been dropped in the bath, not even if they were the best! It’s mostly that there are some reads we’d bet anyone would want to read over, and over, and over, and how lovely to be able to give someone that handbag copy, the one you can slip into a suitcase for a beach holiday ‘just in case’, or the one you’ll take for a long tube journey because you can bend the pages around without fear, and grasp it in a grimy London paw without fearing for the smearing, or the one you’ll have on a bedside table and read, squinting by the light of a streetlamp sneaking through the curtains, when you can’t sleep and are wondering whether or not those little noises are the sound of a tiny mouse…

…you get the picture! So, thanks for all your many questionnaires, and remember that you’re always welcome to update your answers as your subscription continues – if you’ve lost the link, just pop by our ‘Contact Us’ form at http://www.prudenceandthecrow.com and use the email you signed up with, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

And for the record, the current #1 Favourite Book of Prudence and the Crow subscribers is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (about which we’re thrilled, for it’s a favourite for us both, too – especially the magnificent audiobook edition), and the most mentioned requests are, as I say, ‘cats’ and ‘wizards’ – although ‘wizards’ are also one of the most mentioned dislikes, surpassed only by ‘romance’ 🙂

We’re thrilled to have you all on board, whatever you enjoy, and hope April has ticked along pleasantly for you! Roll on May, though, for these boxes are shaping up even more beautifully than ever thus far!