Actress and Hello Sunshine founder Reese Witherspoon is seeking to broaden the reach of her popular book club, built largely on Instagram, with a new mobile app that will allow in-app purchases of books and exclusive merchandise.
“We got asked two things all the time. One, how do I join Reese’s Book Club? And we said, follow us on Instagram,” Sarah Harden, Hello Sunshine CEO, tells Fast Company. “The other question was, can you send books to me every month?”
The free app, which launches today, addresses both issues. Hello Sunshine can forge a deep relationship with readers via the app, and through the platform users will be able to search for Witherspoon’s recommendations, more easily buy books from their favorite retailers, and, eventually, purchase exclusive items. (All Hello Sunshine profits from sales will support The Readership, a new company initiative that aims to promote literacy and diverse authors.)
The app also will host virtual events and book talks. Harden says that during the pandemic Hello Sunshine has offered everything from 90-minute book club meetings on weekends to 5- or 10-minute events. “Reese drops in to a lot of these, and people freak out when she does,” Harden says.
Reese’s Book Club will continue to maintain a page on Instagram, says Erica Green, senior vice president and executive creative director of Hello Sunshine. “That’s where the community really started, and we see it as a place for us to continue conversation,” she says. “But we’re going to encourage people to download the app. It’s a place for us to go deeper with a community that we know is craving even more ways to engage with us.” Reese’s Book Club has nearly 2 million followers on Instagram.
Witherspoon, who founded media company Hello Sunshine in 2016 to tell stories with female protagonists, has become a force in the book publishing industry. Thirty-eight Reese’s Book Club picks have made the New York Times bestseller list. She has produced several hit films and television series based on novels and memoirs by female authors, including Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. “When we pick books [members] know we’re putting women at the center,” Harden says. “They love the books, and they know they they can feel good about them.”