I am so excited guys! This is my first featured interview on my blog and I couldn’t have been more happy for it to be with the owner of The Dragon’s Hoard Box, Joyce. The Dragon’s Hoard box is a monthly subscription book box that launched in June 2016. To see what was in last months box check out my SEPTEMBER UNBOXING.
I really enjoyed reading Joyce’s answers and I feel like I know a bit more about what happens behind the scene of the subscription box world. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Joyce was also kind enough to give us 10 underrated book recommendations *ADDS THEM ALL* Yes, my TBR is that much bigger, but I couldn’t not add them all? They all sound AHMAZING.
Also just some heads up:
- Click on the photos to be taken to mysterious interweb places (and by that I mainly mean goodreads)
- Green writing is my commentary on a question
10 questions with Joyce- The woman behind the box
Why did you start your box? What was the deciding factor that just made you go for it?
My answer to this is a complex one, because there were a few things that really fed into this. Here’s a bit of context. I come from a background as primarily a fantasy and sci fi reader (I’ll actually read just about anything, but SFF is my personal preference). One of the things that really struck me about the existing book boxes was that they were mainly YA focused, and that there was such a lack of book subscription boxes that focus on SFF books in general, not even just in Australia.
So that was my starting point, a box that was more SFF focused but was hopefully still accessible to the YA readers who were looking to put a bit more fantasy and science fiction into their reading diet.
And yes, I was also very keenly aware of the shipping costs that get tacked onto any box I ordered because I was in Australia and it bothered me a bit. Plus, exchange rate. And I thought I couldn’t be the only one in Australia or even in our part of the world who feels this way while also wanting a bit more SFF in my books without drifting too far from the YA, and still getting fun bookish stuff. So I started the box to be another option for people who felt the same way I did.
The deciding factor was the realisation that there was only one Australian subscription box at the time. I did my research, like anyone with an idea, and spoke to a handful of Aussie bookstagrammers I was following (or who followed me) to see if there was a market for it. I got a strong enough response back to make me think there was, but also that my idea wasn’t new and I really needed to get a move on! So I did 🙂
What is your wish for The Dragon’s Hoard box? (Promote authors, become a well known name, spread out into other areas of business and go world wide?)
All of the above? Haha. My vision for what The Dragon’s Hoard is has probably changed since I started it. My original vision is what you saw in the previous question. The underrated books thing that TDH has become is actually something that evolved along the way but that’s definitely become a part of my wish for TDH in the long term.
So in answer to the question, my wish is 3 things:
- I want to bring lesser known, but still amazing, books to the attention of as many people as I can. Whether they’re from big publishing houses or indie authors, doesn’t matter, I want to get the word out there more.
- I’d like The Dragon’s Hoard to be a bit of a bookstgrammer go-to. People who track us know that we’re gradually integrating things that are common in the bookstagram community. We have a monthly book challenge/giveaway, we promote nice-looking bookstagram accounts through that as well, we feature Australian businesses in our boxes, we’ve got a readalong starting up. I’m also probably going to start doing Goodreads reviews. And I’d like to start involving our followers and subscribers a bit more into what we do and where this goes. The people’s box? ;]
- I’d like to hit breakeven in the next 6-9 months. Constantly sinking money into the business isn’t fun.
What is the most stressful thing about getting a box ready for delivery?
I wouldn’t say there’s much stressful about getting the box itself ready for delivery. Once you have all the components, it’s really straightforward to put them together and get them sorted for shipping. And really, sourcing items for the box itself is reasonably straightforward as well, once you get your vision clear for each month’s box.
More than anything, it’s just a time commitment because unfortunately, sometimes things get cut very fine with the items arriving in time and the boxes need to go out next day or something. I made a commitment to myself that boxes would always ship before the next month’s theme is announced, which sounds reasonable until you do the time frame mapping on it. Subscriptions close on the 10th of every month and existing subscriptions renew on the 20th of every month. Again, that sounds reasonable except that items don’t always arrive until after the 10th, for various reasons, which can dramatically affect when I can put boxes together.
I stagger when I send boxes out, so that adds more complicating factors. I like to give the international boxes a head start because it takes a longer time for those to travel, my domestic shipping provider usually delivers within 1-2 days. I also like to give the Perth subscribers who want personal delivery a bit of an earlier go, too. So the time thing can get stressful in that respect, because it sometimes involves moving very quickly. I usually have 2-3 late nights/early starts on a monthly basis because of this. Also, I always worry people won’t like the box. But that’s not really getting ready for delivery…
Australia is quite limited compared to the US when it comes to book boxes and book merchandise has this affected you at all?
Yes and no. It’s like anything, once you get used to something, you just work with it and build in that extra into what you do. So I’m sort of getting used to it, even if it’s frustrating at times.
Where I really feel the pinch is the pricing for everything. Prices for books in Australia are higher than they are for most other boxes and the countries they’re based in, which means that even just sourcing the book can eat away really quickly at the amount of money I have available to spend on the other stuff. Then you add on that if I want items from any overseas shops, I’ll have to cover the shipping cost and currency exchange rates and it can get ugly really quickly.
The Dragon’s Hoard is quite unique as it features books with under 3000 ratings on goodreads, do you read the books before you feature them to make sure they are good?
Yes, always. Every book featured in the box is one I’ve read myself and have greatly enjoyed or straight up loved, and thought appropriate for the box (not everything I love would be right for The Dragon’s Hoard and what I believe the majority of subscribers would go for). I actually re-read them a second time for book challenge purposes, too.
I get asked this question a surprising amount. Am I doing something wrong? Haha. Note to Joyce, The books I have read form your box (All the Birds in the Sky and The just city) have both been so fantastic! I loved them so please don’t change your process one bit!
How do you find inspiration for themes of every box?
THE BOOK! always the book. It’s funny, this is another question that gets asked a lot, and not just of me, I’ve seen it in some other interviews with book box curators. I actually can’t imagine doing it another way because when I read the books, it sort of just jumps out at me. Finding items to fit the themes, well, sometimes that can get tricky haha, but I think it’d be easier to do the book first, personally, rather than the other way around.
A piece of advice you wish you had before starting this book box?
I’ll give you 2. I actually have heaps I’ve learned that would’ve helped me to know in advance haha. I think this could be retitled as “Things Joyce Really Should Have Known/Believed Before Starting” and I could add another, like, 10 things. You think I’m kidding? Anyway, the top 2:
1) Don’t expect it to be an overnight sensation. No Joyce, you don’t have the secret sauce, it doesn’t exist. It will take time; it’s better for your sanity that you accept that now. Stop it Joyce, you really don’t have the secret sauce. The secret sauce is a lie.
2) Be prepared for it to be a moneysink for the first few months. Expect to lock in thousands of dollars and not get it back for a very very long time, with the possibility of putting in more on an as needed basis. I am not joking. No Joyce, moneysink means moneysink.
How do you choose what people/products you work with each month?
A mix of things. Shops approach me, but I also do a lot of hunting myself via bookstagram. I also try to find at least one Australian shop every month if I can manage it, if not more. Beyond that, it’s a mix of what might fit the theme
and what people might actually want.
I also quite like partnering with people who are an absolute pleasure to work with and whose work I love. I partner with Create Explore Read a lot(nearly every box, I think). Emilie’s designs are always amazing and she’s so lovely and enthusiastic all the time, so working with her to come up with designs is a no brainer for me. Another is Aenteereads she’s been doing the beautiful designs for the past few information cards and I’m definitely planning on involving her in future boxes.
Also I know you are all already following Aentee
and if your not WHY? Sometimes I’ll just stare at her blog and designs with literal heart eyes seriously her graphics are amazing and just goals + shes a pretty awesome person in general. I loved the book plates that come with The Dragon’s Hoard box but I never new Aentee was designing them!
Are you subscribed to any other subscription boxes? Were any of these an inspiration to you?
Yes and yes! OwlCrate’s the only “traditional” book box I’m currently subscribed to, in the sense that it’s book and items around a theme. I’m also subscribed to The Book(ish) Box, which is just items around a theme, and Yureka Books which sends you books based on your tastes, plus maybe a couple bookplates and a magnetic bookmark.
OwlCrate is pretty obviously the box that all boxes aspire to (well, maybe Fairy Loot, too). More than anything, it gives me an idea of what the standard is and sometimes I get ideas for other things I can include that I hadn’t thought of previously. It also gives me ideas about what not to do. Like I said before, most book boxes are YA-targeted and OwlCrate is the exemplar for that. So my reaction to what shows up in my OwlCrate sometimes help me think through what will and won’t work for who I’m targeting with The Dragon’s Hoard because the target audience isn’t 100% the same.
The Book(ish) Box is mainly good for the item ideas, which you can never have too many of as far as I’m concerned.
Since your box features underrated books (under 3000 rating on goodreads) What is an underrated book you think deserves more recognition?
Oh, so many! Anything featured in previous and future boxes, of course. I assume we’re sticking roughly to YA/SFF just because otherwise we might be here forever haha. Here’s 10, and why I liked them. I extended the maximum rating to 10,000 for the purpose of this list, too, because some of these have more than 3,000 but I rarely see them on bookstagram so they obviously need more recognition. Make sure to look at them on Goodreads, too! I obviously don’t plan on including them in future boxes (although looking at it, I really could for a few of them if I wanted to, couldn’t I?).Also this is just me rambling incoherently about these books and why I love them to see the full summary click the photo to go to the books goodreads page.
Dreamsnake was published in 1978. It won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award for that year. And yet, hardly anyone’s heard about it. Seriously, my mind boggled when I found out. It’s a thin book, but I loved how accessible and modern it felt, even after all this time. Vonda was way ahead of her time.
Ehnnnnn, this book. Genderswapped Dr Jekyll Mr Hyde, except not really. Spoiler, she’s the original guy’s daughter. I’m not a great lover of steampunk for steampunk’s sake, but regardless, this book does crazy beautiful awesome things with its characters’ voices. Plus, mystery, a lady doctor playing detective and a mechanical frog sidekick! I’m not coherent about this book because I kinda love it too much. Go read it.
I left this out of box consideration purely because it felt slightly too gritty and dark for subscribers. However, its premise and the execution of that premise are really excellent. Androids can self-replicate. The humans would be more scared if it wasn’t for the failsafe. Except that Amy’s doesn’t seem to be working. I mean, she ate her grandmother when granny attacked Amy’s mother. Now everyone wants to find out more about anomalous Amy.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
Post apocalyptic Paris, angels fallen to earth, sometimes tapped for their magic. They build Houses around themselves and like any good House system, wage war with each other. And a mysterious other possibly magical being in their midst may help to change all of that. Yeah. What’s not to love?
Paradox trilogy by Rachel Bach
Not quite space opera, not quite romance, this series is highly accessible to people who aren’t into hard sci fi. Devi is seriously the most kickass character I think I’ve ever come across, male or female. She’s also incredibly headstrong and cocky and good at her job. Oh, that job is as a mercenary who’s just signed on to guard a ship reputed to draw bad luck to it like moths to a flame. At least that’s where we start off…
Seriously epic fantasy, in the tradition of GRRM, but it draws on ancient Asian history as its starting point in governing systems and geography and tradition rather than the stock standard Eurocentric medieval times stuff that’s the norm. It’s a massive book, and it’s scope is really impressive. I loved the uniqueness of it and how its characters were very human, flaws and all. No shining heroes on a hill for this one, but lots of understanding and growth and passion. And the gods and their relationship to their people’s a bit odd and interesting, too.
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Steampunk urban fantasy adventuring librarians, all for the sake of books and knowledge. This was such a fast read for me (1 day, about 3 hours), and it was a hell of a ride the whole way through. Highly recommend reading it quickly, much more conducive to that than stretching it out.
Song of the Beast by Carol Berg
In a lot of ways, this hits the old tropes. Bard, dragon, barbarians. But somehow it manages to add something new and incredible at the same time. And the writing is straightforward, yet evocative and beautiful. Aidan was once the most famed and celebrated musicians of his time. Then he was locked away for an unknown crime, and it broke him. Now he’s released and he wants to know why.
There’s magic and gods, but it’s a bureaucratic kind of magic that practitioners study and work to learn and use, and the gods just aren’t what they used to be. I’ve only read the first in this one, but I desperately want to buy/read the rest. The series just recently completed. It doesn’t always follow the same characters, but there’s a lot of overlap. Also, one of the most seriously complex and kickass female characters that crops up.
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
This awesome fantasy series draws on the era of Mongolian domination of Asia and maps on a very similar looking piece of land. It’s beautifully written and fascinating. No wilting violets here, male or female.
To everyone that has read this monster of a post THANK YOU! This is my first interview I’ve hosted on here and Joyce is such a joy to talk to, and put so much effort into answering all my questions. THANK YOU JOYCE! May you only have 5 star reads from now until forever!
Have you read any of these under rated books? Did you enjoy the interview? Its something different that I may make a monthly feature but I’m still playing around with the idea.
Also what book boxes are your favorite? I’d love to know so I can check them out!
I’ve only ever had OwlCrate, The YA Chronicles, and The Dragon’s Hoard Box.
*Disclaimer* This is NOT a sponsered post I just love this book box a whole lot.