The Secret Sister Project: FAQs


Hello! Like our new graphic? THANKS! When I created The Secret Sister Project I was in such a funk and needed some cheer. I cannot believe that years later we are still here spreading joy everywhere! So without further ado, here is your updated FAQs post.

We do ask that you read this post thoroughly, and refer back to it PRIOR to reaching out to us with questions during the project. In addition, keep in mind that the hashtag #otspsecretsister is ALWAYS a fantastic resource for information needed, odds are that someone participating knows the answer to your inquiry!

The Basics:

The What:

The Secret Sister project is essentially a cheer club. Think Secret Santa but all year round (in 6 month intervals) with less emphasis on big presents, and more thoughtful notes, cards, small somethings sent just to let your secret sister know that you are thinking about them!

The When:

  • We will announce each round of signups at least a week prior to the sign up post going live
  • Each round runs for 6 months so sign ups are generally in February and August

The Who:

You! But there are some conditions that must be met prior to signing up, we are going to outline those below under “The Rules.”

The How:

We will be posting questionnaires on our blogs for you to fill out. In addition to the questionnaire, you will also be asked to answer a few questions for a Google form. PLEASE NOTE: If you do not fill out BOTH of these things in full, then you will NOT be paired.


What will I have to do if I sign up to be a secret sister?

This is a commitment, we can’t lie to you. By signing up to be a secret sister you are promising to send at least one small card AND/OR gift to your secret sister a month depending on the “monetary group” for which you sign up. It is very important that you don’t sign up for this unless you are willing to follow through. Please think of how sad (and unfair) it would be for someone to be working hard to make their secret sister feel special and not receive anything themselves!

Do I have to send presents?

Yes, unless you are signing up for the pen pal group you are expected to send a little something on top of a card or letter. Keep in mind that this really is meant to be more of a cheering up sort of club, so though you must abide by the price guidelines you should also be sending letters and cards to keep communication open.

Look at how extravagant that package is! I don’t have that kind of money…

Neither do I! This is why we have different price ranges, one of which is strictly pen pals – that means NO trinkets, etc! You should never, ever feel as if your package is inadequate as long as you are meeting your price range “standards.” Trust me, it is much more meaningful if you stay within your price range, send things on time, and then send an extra letter or card just to check in that month! Anyone who is getting caught up on the size of the gifts is missing the entire point of the project and will be dealt with accordingly.

Do we have to remain secret?

No, though that is part of the fun! Just leave your name off of the card or box you are sending if you want to remain secret, and reveal yourself whenever you wish! Some have used the same sending and return address, which is sneaky and perfect. It is entirely up to you!

Do I have to be a blogger to join?

Technically, no. We do hope that you are bookish, however. We are book people over here! You should also be on social media, we are big on Twitter with chats and the hashtag. You will thank your (anonymous) sister by using the hashtag!

Is this project international?

It has been in the past, but lately we haven’t had enough people sign up to make it happen. We will have to answer that once sign-ups are over.

Why are you using the word “sister?” Isn’t that hindering some from joining

We totally get it. When I created this project years ago I used the “secret sister” idea that I had learned about in my small town community growing up. Everyone is welcome. We do not discriminate!

What are the price ranges, and can we have some examples of what a package would look like for each range?

  • Pen pals: That’s right, this is strictly letters and cards. No trinkets, no extras, nothing. If you want to send ANYTHING more than a letter or a card every month then we ask that you sign up for one of the higher monetary tiers.
  • $5-$10: Send a heartfelt letter to catch your sister up on how things are going that month and then send an e-book, baked goods, homemade bookmark or other DIY project, or how about a movie night box with a DVD (thanks to the $5 bin at Walmart) and some candy for a movie night!
  • $15-$20 Any of the possibilities listed above and perhaps a paperback from your sister’s wish-list, some fun socks, fandom tshirt, themed box, get creative!!
  • $25+ The sky is the limit here, we just ask that you remember to reign it in a bit and remember the goal of this project is for cheer, and joy and forging positive relationships, not excessive gifts. Send those heartfelt letters!!

The Rules:

    • You must “know” the hosts in order to join! The hosts are myself, (@withthebanned), Amy (@trippingbooks). What does “knowing” us entail? First and foremost, you should be following both of us on Twitter, you should know our names, and if one of us reaches out to you, you should know who we are. It is embarrassing (for you) when we reach out to you and you do not know that we are the creators of the project to which you belong. (This has happened!) We are all pretty active on Twitter and really like chatting. I understand that some of you have anxieties about this and I want to just reassure you and tell you that you shouldn’t be worried. The sole reason we do this is just to see if someone is serious about the project because in the past people have viewed it as a way to get gifts. If you go to the hashtag and interact with people a few times, that should be fine!
    • You must be 18 or older to participate in The Secret Sister Project. 
    • You must actively use the hashtag #OTSPSecretSister to thank your sister during your time participating in The Secret Sister Project. We get TONS of emails asking things like “It says my sister’s package was delivered last week but I never heard anything?” We can avoid that all by doing the right thing and thanking your sister as soon as receiving your package!
    • If we have to reach out to you more than once to ask why your sister hasn’t yet received anything then you will be asked to cease in participating. If you are going to be late, tell us. You will not be in “trouble” if life gets in the way and you let us know. We know things happen!
    • If you have not received anything by the end of the month then YOU must contact US. We have had some who have reached out to us at the end of a round to say they hadn’t been receiving. Please don’t do this. We need this information to help you and ensure that no one suffers in the same way in future rounds. We are not going to be checking in with all of you throughout the month so it is imperative that you let us know if you are not receiving! Please do NOT ever feel uncomfortable reaching out to us to say that you didn’t receive something. We WANT to help you with this, you DESERVE to get cheer as you are sending cheer!!
    • If for any reason you find that you have to drop out of this project, please email us immediately. We will not judge. We will not ask why. We will simply thank you for informing us and then pair your sister off to someone else so she isn’t missing out. Seriously, we get it.
    • You will be asked to provide the name and contact info (email addresses, please) of a “buddy” who will be willing to answer questions put forth by your sister. We are asking that you keep this to someone who is in the community and therefore will be easy to contact. Husbands/moms/sisters are not easy or comfortable to contact.
      • Your sister will contact this person to ask things such as “Can you ask Sally if she likes citrus or flowery smelling candles better?” This person can also say things to your sister such as “Hello Joan, Sally ended up buying a copy of “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type” off of her wishlist so please do not purchase it.
  • You will be asked to provide a Goodreads or Amazon wish list that is specific to The Secret Sister Project, start working on this now!
      • The wishlist must have 20 or more books on it and must contain new and older titles – SOME ARCs are fine but keep in mind your sister may not have access to these.
      • This list MUST contain books that you (or someone else) are not going to purchase for yourself. IF you simply cannot resist a title here or there then please let your “buddy” (see above)  know prior to buying so that they can tell your sister – but try to refrain from buying from this list if you can.
      • If your Goodreads profile is private, your sister cannot view your wishlist.
      • If you do not wish to make your Goodreads profile public then you may use another format for your wishlist such as, Amazon, or by providing a list in the sign-up email.
  • You must answer ALL of the questions put forth in the sign-up email as well as be detailed and thorough.
  • We are urging you you to put a little more emphasis on the “pen pal” aspect.
      • This means if you have signed up for one of the higher price ranges, you should still send a letters to your sister. This is one of the things people have been asking for, so please don’t forget.
  • Do not tweet negativity while using the hashtag.
    • Things such as “Wow, I wish I knew if my sister got her package” or “I wish my sister would use the hashtag more” are statements that promote negative communication. If you have issues like this, reach out to the person your sister designated as her “buddy” or to your point person and we will do our best to solve any issues.
  • ARCs do not count toward the monetary limit.
  • Do not send packages straight from Amazon. We had some people who completely forgot about their sister and then sent things directly from Amazon to try and make up for it. The emphasis should be on the cheer and the thought that you are putting into your sister and her happiness.
  • Please refrain from sending “swag.” Unless you KNOW that this is something your sister would love.

Anything else I should know?

Use the hashtag and interact with one another! The whole point is to bring positive feelings into the our community. Be as thorough as you can when answering the questions. There is no “writing too much” when answering these questions! Remember that this project is. The best advice I can give you is to be creative and keep in mind the entire reason for the project is NOT about gifts, but fostering a positive environment. If you are looking for ideas, chat us up, we would love to help! Or ask your fellow sisters!


We can’t say this enough…please PLEASE only sign up if you are willing to send something monthly and give 100% to this project. Please recognize that this is a commitment and that there is someone out there relying on you to follow through. That being said, we promise we are relaxed if you are honest with us. We know things come up, they come up for us too! Just let us know and we can work together to ensure everything runs smoothly for everyone.

So how do I sign up?

The sign-up post with all questions that need to be answered will be posted on our blogs and promoted via Twitter starting in February or August. Sign-ups run for two weeks until each round so you will have plenty of time.

I hope that this post has been helpful to you, friends! If you still have any questions then please reach out on Twitter. If you are new to the project then I encourage you to use the hashtag to talk to your fellow sisters as they may have the answers you are looking for! Thanks for sticking with us and being so generous and kind! 

Post edited 2/11/2020

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