Lee Mallon
Lee Mallon

Lee Mallon

Remote Book Club

Remote Book Club

Lee Mallon's photo
Lee Mallon
·Feb 19, 2021·

5 min read

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The Problem

During the pandemic people have been working from home (you may have seen), this has created two new situations. People have more time due to the of a commute, however, people have been seeing less of their co-workers for water cooler type chat and socialising.

This change has resulted in a growth in online communties and engagement numbers are through the roof. Many of these online groups have started to create events around a "thing", one area is book clubs that are held of services like Zoom. The problem is these book clubs are hard to organise, selecting the book (ensuring there is a written and audio version), allowing people to vote on the next book selection, arranging a time to host the video book club event and follow ups to improve book recommendations.

The Solution

What if you could organise a virtual book club in your online community group with ease. A place where your members can vote on books they want to read, those votes could be managed and reported on with the organisation and logistics of hosting a virtual event all taken care of.

The Visuals and Tech

So how could it work, watch below to see a visual and technology approach sketched out.

The Business

There were 5 million book club members in the USA in 2009, with the majority of clubs having over 10 members. In 2013 it was claimed there were over 50,000 book clubs in the UK alone.

So what is the business, there are a few options but they split into two main camps, charging subscriptions and/or affiliate fees.

Book affiliate fee's to Amazon are 5% so a £10 book is going to net you £0.50 if an online book club has an average of 20 people, you may get 50% purchasing the book via your platform then your netting £0.50 * 10 = £5 per book club reading. If a book club runs each month then you are on affiliate revenue of £60 per year. Host 2,000 bookclubs (a low number considering the UK club footprint alone) = £120,000 a year in affiliate fees alone, this would likely be much more if you then didn't charge club owners to manage the sceduling and setup of the club so it wouldn't be absurd to make £250,000 a year on this service with little overhead once the core service has been built.

What about charging the club owners or their members? Let's say a member would pay £20 per month but that includes the cost of the book to read/listen too. Average book is £10 - £0.50 = £9.50 (affiliate discount) so your netting £10.50 per user/per month. If you have 20 users per club = £210 per club per month, 2,000 clubs (globally) may now be achievable but with a higher CPA since your charging. A single club now generates you £2,520 per year, so £520 on CPA (which is very high) would leave you with £2,000 per club. Though your customers are gonna expect a fuller system with built-in "Zoom" like features for a £20 monthly fee, off the shelf type tech costs for operating this works out at 4 hour per month (1 hour weekly meeting) of video service * 20 people = £48 (via Twilio video system), so £576 a year, lets round that to £600. That would mean £1,400 per club x 2,000 clubs = £2,800,000.

(* Bear in mind these are all back of napkin calculations but it provides you a ballpark start to see if an idea is worth going after).

The Marketing

So what experiments can you run to get your service in front of people? I would focus on Slack, Discord and Facebook groups.

In the business section we discussed the two revenue streams, though spending £520 to acquire a customer is good, we want to remove barriers so I would launch the free version (remember your still earning via your affiliate fees) and then have the Pro account at £20 a month that people/clubs can scale up too. That means you can capture the market and to the groups (Slack/Discord/Facebook) the below email/DM is where I would start, this example uses Facebook groups.

Dear X (community organiser),

In the last 3 weeks, 14 books have been recommended or spoken about in your Facebook group. Do you think part of your community would be excited to come together for a virtual book club? [BookClubOnline] is a 100% free virtual book club for Facebook groups. It takes less than 3 minutes to start, you can host a one-off event to see if members enjoy. Interested?

Any questions let me know or feel free to try [BookClubOnline] here.

Once you start to generate revenue (remember our £2.8 million ARR) you can start to host authors to create their own book clubs that they run and do a revenue share with. What better marketing campaign could there be than saying join X book club with author Y and get their books for free. .

So.... remotebookclubs.com is available :)

P.S - I thought I would add a section that explains how this idea came about

The Origin Story

I joined a Slack community of tech people and within that group, a book club channel was formed by the community organisers.

During a week, people would throw in book recommendations and then vote on their fav over a few days. The slack channel would then be used as a playground for people to share thoughts of the book but once a week a zoom call would take place where the topics of the book would get discussed.

Due to this being a USA group I joined I didn't notice the book club was at 2 am, for two weeks I stayed up to join but that was all I could take. Then because I stopped attending the 2 am Zoon I wasn't monitoring the slack channel for updates I missed the next book suggestion and book club time had changed. I then tried to search for an online book club with others in tech but nothing appeared (I am sure there is something out there somewhere but it suggest to be an interesting bussiness idea).

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