Laura Elizabeth’s new cozy mystery selected for a themed “book box” with a taste of tea

Here is how Cynthia Wasco is displaying Laura Elizabeth’s novel in her online shop, which is called The Cozy Thrill Gift Box, hosted within Etsy. If you click on this photo, you will visit the Etsy web page that displays all of Cynthia’s current listings of cozy-mystery-themed boxes. Look below in this column for a more detailed explanation of the “extras” Laura chose to package with Laura’s book, including the two brightly colored book-lover stickers she has laid on the cover of the mystery. And, no, they’re not stuck to Laura’s cover. (Cynthia provided us these photos.)

Mystery-author Laura Elizabeth is part of a hot-and-flavorful bookselling trend.

Book boxes are so popular, these days, that the century-old Book of the Month Club (founded in 1926) now is branding itself “The Original Book Box” and its advertisements now proclaim: “Books Are Cool Again!” Book of the Month Club executives credit this revamped marketing for a dramatic turn around in recent years that has shifted its readership primarily to millennial women.

Book boxes are, indeed, cool!

Cynthia Wasco

That’s why our publishing house is thrilled that Laura Elizabeth’s debut cozy mystery, All Is Now Lost, was chosen long before its official launch in September 2023 for inclusion in a book box program curated by Cynthia Wasco, who is based in Tucson, Arizona.

Early in the pre-sale period of Laura’s book, she met Cynthia online. They Zoomed and the two women hit it off immediately.

To begin with: Both are entrepreneurs. Cynthia is proudly developing her own minority-owned business, The Cozy Thrill. Her parents were born in Haiti and she describes herself as Black French-Carribean. Minority-owned businesses are relatively rare in bookselling and many readers want to support such endeavors. Meanwhile, Laura is a graduate of Babson College. Her alma mater has been the U.S. News’s choice as the No. 1-ranked school for entrepreneurial studies in the U.S.

Also: Both women care deeply about helping their communities. Cynthia works full time as a grant writer and fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Laura (who goes by the pen name Laura Elizabeth and whose real name is Laura Smith) was recently featured in a Babson College news story about her many years of community-based volunteerism on her beloved island to help save one of its central landmarks.

When Laura sent Cynthia an advance copy of her book, Cynthia was hooked!

She posted an online review giving All Is Now Lost 5 out of 5 stars. Cynthia wrote:

I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of Book 1 of this new series and having a few Zoom chats with the author. All Is Now Lost by Laura Elizabeth is a delightful read. Her island sounds like a wonderful place to live and visit. A beachy vibe with southern hospitality and charm. The mystery, wrapped with a little local history, kept me on my toes til the end! Amateur sleuth, Carr Jepson, is quick, inquisitive, and has a sleuthing-sense like no other. She also runs the island’s only bookstore and tea shop, Books & Brew. I can’t wait for more stories from The Island Mysteries.

Lessons learned about marketing book boxes

Cynthia never creates a book box without first reading a prospective book, determining whether she can fully recommend that particular mystery—and then determining if there are popular “extras” she can add to the box.

“So this was an easy choice for me,” she said. “I really, really enjoyed Laura’s book. And I know that boxes with tea in them sell well. A lot of cozy readers are tea lovers, too. So, this was a perfect fit. This got even better when Laura agreed to sign the books that go out in my boxes.”

As an entrepreneur, Cynthia carefully studied the book box market before dipping her toes into the business. Her business plan rests on three advantages:

  1. Unlike some book box subscriptions, readers can select the specific cozy mystery they prefer from her array of current choices. Some other companies simply mail out books that may hit or miss with readers.
  2. Unlike subscriptions, Cynthia’s customers can choose to order as many book boxes as they want anytime. For example, this autumn they can go holiday shopping in her Etsy-based shop and send a different box to each mystery lover on their shopping list.
  3. And, so far, all books continue to be available. Unlike subscription services where books come—and then are no longer available—someone could order Laura’s Tea Lover box for personal enjoyment, then go back a couple of months later and send out two of the same boxes to someone for the holidays. Availability does depend on how fast Cynthia’s stock moves, at any given time, but her goal is to give her readers the maximum flexibility in what to order and when to order.
Contents of “The Tea Lover Gift Box” Click on this image from Cynthia Wasco’s shop to visit the specific Etsy page for her box of fun stuff that she ships with Laura’s novel.

Cynthia spent a long time in research and preparation, then launched her business about a year ago. So far, it’s successful and Cynthia loves her interaction with readers.

“For now, I don’t have an overall website, because I’m still developing how I want to present everything online,” Cynthia said. “For now, I’ve set up a ‘link tree’ if people want to go one place online to find all of the areas where I’m posting things. That link tree starts with a link to my gift boxes, then a link to my email updates and then a link to my book reviews. At the bottom of that link tree, you can find my social media and email links. Instagram is a good place to connect with me.”

Within her first year, Cynthia already has learned a lot.

“Right now, I’m designing new boxes I will use for mailing. I have been using white boxes with tape that has my logo on it. Now, I’m designing a printed box.”

Cynthia also learned that mailing candles from Tucson isn’t a good idea in the summer.

“I love to light a candle when I read in the evening and I know a lot of readers who love candles,” Cynthia said. “But I didn’t consider how they would ship during some of the heat waves we’ve had. I got a report of a candle that melted in a box and, of course, I responded with something to replace that—but it made me realize that mailing candles from Arizona in the middle of the summer may not be the best idea. I still love candles and may continue to include them, perhaps in cooler seasons. But that’s one thing I learned.”

But, whether or not candles are available is not slowing down her business, Cynthia said. “I have no shortage of fun things to put in these boxes: stickers, bookmarks, tea, hair clips, decorative socks, hand-made coasters, hand-knitted coffee sleeves—the list keeps growing.”

So, how about it? Care to support Laura? Care to support Cynthia?

Our publishing house team sends a big “Thank you!” to Cynthia and home-based small business. Of course, we urge readers every day to visit Amazon to learn about—and order copies—of Laura’s new mystery All Is Now Lostbut we also would love to see some gift-giving readers order from Cynthia’s Etsy shop as well.

About David Crumm

David Crumm is founding Editor of Front Edge Publishing. Nationally, he is known as a veteran journalist—a top writer and editor—with experience both in the U.S. and overseas. He is based in Canton, Michigan, where he also serves as Editor of Read the Spirit online magazine. His columns on trends in media appear twice a month on our Front Edge Publishing website.

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