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3/11/2019 4 Ways to Start a Bookstore - wikiHow

How to Start a Bookstore

Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Reader-Approved | 23 References

If you love books, you may have thought of opening your own bookstore. Successfully
Explore this Article
operating a bookstore takes more than just a love of the written word. To start a
bookstore requires knowledge and understanding of business operations, Narrowing Your Focus
Organizing Your Business
management, and the retail industry. The bookstore sector is a challenging industry
Setting Up Shop
with low-profit margins, but with passion and commitment, your bookstore will thrive.
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Article Summary
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Narrowing Your Focus

1 Identify your niche. General-interest bookstores are a dime a dozen. Focusing on a particular genre or
type of book will help you thrive as a smaller independent bookstore. Think about your own interests as
well as the interests in the community at large. Your niche should be an area you know something about and
have passion for.[1]
For example, you might start a feminist bookstore, with fiction and nonfiction books focused on equality
and women's rights.
You might want to be genre specific, such as starting a bookstore devoted to comics and graphic novels,
or a bookstore focused on children's books.

2 Find the right neighborhood. When you're narrowing down a location, look for an area with other thriving
independent businesses and a lot of foot traffic. An area near a college or a university often is a good
choice for a bookstore.[2]
If you live in a small town, look at the downtown or town square area. Courthouses and government
offices also generate a lot of foot traffic, as well as people waiting for appointments who might pop in to
kill some time.

3 Draft a business plan. Your business plan will help you determine how much money you need to raise to
start up your business. Financial projections will give you a good idea of how long it will be before your
bookstore will be profitable.[3]

You'll need to show banks or other investors your business plan to get the funding necessary to get your
bookstore off the ground.
If you've never drafted a business plan before, that's okay! There are references online that you can
use. For example, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) has free online resources to help you.
You might also consider taking a class on small business operations, either online or through a nearby
community college.

4 Build an online presence. Even before you open your doors, you can still set up your website and social
media accounts to get people in the neighborhood excited about your bookstore.[4]

For example, you can start a business page on Facebook and invite all your existing friends to "like" the
page and share it with others. Use the page to provide news about the planning and opening of the
You don't need to hire a web developer to build your website. Use a simple program, such as Wix, to
build a basic site that's easy to navigate. Add pages for announcements, special events, and store
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5 Choose your space. You can find commercial space available online, or you may want to hire a real
estate agent to work with you. If you've already drafted your business plan, you have a budget in mind.[5]
It will likely be 4 to 6 months before your bookstore starts turning a profit. Make sure you can afford the
lease on the property in the meantime.
Another possibility is to start small with just a few shelves in an existing business. You also could buy or
rent a truck or van and have a mobile store for a while.

Organizing Your Business

1 Choose your business structure. The business structure you choose can impact your business's growth
as well as your ability to raise start-up funds. Evaluate your options carefully. Consult a business attorney if
you need help deciding which structure is best for your bookstore.[6]
Typically if you don't choose a specific business structure, you'll be considered a sole proprietorship by
default. The biggest danger with a sole proprietorship is that your business is not considered separate
from your personal finances, and you can be held personally liable for all business debts.
An LLC has few formalities but will shield you from personal liability. You don't need any partners to form
an LLC. While there are some legal requirements and fees, they are relatively minimal.
A corporation would provide you with the most protection, but these are fairly complicated to set up and
maintain. You'll have regular reports to file and need several business partners to form a corporate

2 Register your business name. You don't necessarily have to trademark your bookstore's name, which
can be a complex and expensive endeavor. However, registering your bookstore's name with your state
government protects it from being used by others.[7]
Depending on the business structure you chose, your state or federal government may require you to
register your business name.
Brainstorm to come up with a good name, and check trademark and business name databases to make
sure it's unique. You can get a small business advisor or attorney to help you with this.

3 Get tax identification numbers. You'll have to pay income taxes for your business, as well as sales tax on
the books and other products you sell to the public. Tax identification numbers also are necessary to open
a bank account and order books.[8]
For example, if you have a U.S. bookstore you can get an employer identification number (EIN) quickly
and easily on the IRS's website. You just have to provide some basic information about yourself and
your business.

4 Open a business bank account. Once you have a tax identification number for your business, you can
open a bank account and set up your bookstore's finances. Even if you're running your bookstore as a sole
proprietorship, keep your business finances separate from your personal finances.[9]

5 Apply for all necessary licenses and permits. The licenses and permits you need to open your
bookstore may vary depending on your location. A simple bookstore may not need any more than a local
retail permit and business license.[10]
If you plan to have a café in your bookstore, you'll need health and sanitation inspections. You may need
additional permits if you plan to host live music or other events.
Check with your local small business center or chamber of commerce to find out what licenses and
permits are required.

6 Get business insurance. Business insurance protects you and your business from accidents, natural
disasters, and lawsuits. If you're leasing a storefront, your landlord may require minimum levels of liability

7 Raise start-up funds. It may cost upwards of $50,000 to start a bookstore and keep your doors open for
the first lean months. Unless you have substantial savings, you may need a combination of loans and 2/7
3/11/2019 4 Ways to Start a Bookstore - wikiHow

investments from public and private sources.[12]

If you don't have a background as a successful small business owner, you may have difficulty getting
funding from traditional sources, such as banks.
Credit cards and personal loans are an option, but be careful about starting your business with too much
Crowdfunding on websites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter can be a way to not only raise funds but
also build support in your community. Someone who invests even a small amount of money to open
your store will be likely to shop there.

8 Join professional associations. A professional association gives you the opportunity to network with
publishers and other booksellers. You'll also have access to resources and the opportunity to attend
conventions and trade shows.[13]
For example, in the U.S. you can join the American Booksellers Association (ABA) as a provisional
member before your bookstore even opens. The ABA has a digital kit with information on how to open a

Setting Up Shop

1 Buy furniture and fixtures. If you're going to sell books, you need somewhere to display them. This
means you'll need to buy plenty of bookshelves, unless you were able to find a space that already had
shelving available.[14]
If it's in your budget, consider hiring a local carpenter or craftsman to custom build your shelves and
fixtures. Potential customers will appreciate that you provided work to local professionals, and your
fixtures will be of consistent quality.
You may want to work with a professional retail designer to create a style and vision for your store. Even
if you're on a shoestring budget, your store should be a welcoming and comfortable place for customers
to visit.

2 Set up your point-of-sale and inventory management systems. A bookstore is first and foremost a
retail business. Think beyond hand-counting inventory and ancient cash registers. A single, cloud-based
system that runs through tablets may be your most efficient option.[15]
Talk to other small business owners, especially booksellers, and find out what system they use. Ask
them what they like and don't like about their system, and whether they would recommend it.

3 Hire employees. Even with the smallest bookstore, it's unlikely you'll be able to do everything yourself.
Start with a few part-time employees who are well-read and passionate about books and literature.[16]
Find people who have retail experience and will provide good customer service. Knowledgeable,
conscientious employees will set your store apart and keep readers coming back.

4 Order books. How you build your initial inventory will depend to some extent on the niche you've chosen.
You may contact independent publishers directly, or contract through a large wholesaler, such as Ingram or
Baker & Taylor.[17]
Typically you will have to pay up-front for your initial inventory. You don't want to start with a lot of back
stock since you can't predict what will sell.

5 Arrange for ancillary products. Books have a low-profit margin, but the customers who come to a small
independent bookstore aren't necessarily looking for a bargain. Provide your customers with an
experience, and offer other products to reinforce that experience.[18]
For example, you might add a small café or wine bar. Food and drink typically has a higher profit margin
and will help support your operation.
Selling branded coffee mugs, t-shirts, and hoodies can help you make money as well as promote your
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Reaching Local Readers

1 Have a grand opening. A strong grand opening event is a great way to get positive local media coverage
for your new bookstore. Arrange for free food and drinks, contests, and prizes to stimulate enthusiastic
Start planning your grand opening 2 to 3 months before the date so everything will run smoothly.
Send out press releases to local newspapers and TV news outlets. You also want to send invitations to
any influential book bloggers based nearby.
If there are any relatively well-known authors nearby, invite them to the grand opening or arrange for a
book signing.

2 Connect with local artists and craftsmen. If you have blank walls or spaces in your bookstore, network
with local artists and lease them space to sell their creations. You might also consider inviting local bands
to play.[20]
Open mics and writer nights are another good way to build community support for your store.

3 Sponsor local events. Partnering up with other small business owners or your local library is a good way
to attract new readers as well as establishing your bookstore as an active part of the neighborhood.[21]
Schools offer another opportunity for partnership. For example, you might partner with a local school
and provide a discount for parents who buy books at your bookstore to fulfill their child's summer
reading requirements.
Provide gift cards as an incentive for events and charity drives.

4 Stay active on social media. Maintain a quick response time to any comments on your social media
pages, and use them to keep your readers informed on new releases and upcoming events.[22]
Keep your main website up-to-date. Whenever you have events or host an author, take plenty of
pictures and post them on your website as well as social media.
Encourage regular customers to contribute book reviews and recommendations.

5 Give back to the community. Charity drives and book giveaways create a good impression of your
business among locals and help you establish deep roots relatively quickly. People will be more likely to
patronize your store if you show that you care about your neighborhood and the people around you.[23]
For example, you may run a promotion where the store donates a book to needy children for every
purchase in your store above a certain amount.
Provide opportunities and encourage your employees to volunteer for local charity events and
nonprofits. You may even be able to tie this into your niche. For example, if you've opened a feminist
bookstore, you could coordinate efforts with a women's rights organization.

Community Q&A


Where do I purchase books for my book store?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

You have to contact book publishers or distributor and tell them that you want to be a reseller. They will give you
commission, possibly 30% to 35% per sales.


Which books do I have to buy for a book shop?

wikiHow Contributor 4/7
3/11/2019 4 Ways to Start a Bookstore - wikiHow
Community Answer

You can choose to buy whatever books match your niche. Your niche is whatever type of "thing" you decide to sell. If
your niche is business for example, then you would want to sell books in the field of business such as "Think and
Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. Be sure to choose books that are currently popular, so that people can get what
they're looking for.


What other little businesses can I combine with a new bookstore for sales?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

Coffee shops are often paired with bookstores with great success. This allows people to stayin your shop longer and
may increase chances of a purchase. Games and small electronics also pair nicely with books.


What do we need to start our bookstore?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

You need books, a quiet environment, and attractive decor. Decorate the store to catch people's eyes. No one will
notice your store if it is like every other bookstore! Make it unique!


What do l do with the unsold books?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

You could put them on sale so that it sparks more interest or maybe put them in a part of the bookstore that gets
more attention (a display by the entrance, for example). You could also make them a part of a promotion (if they're
part of a series or something). If they still don't sell, the publisher generally has a return policy. You may not get all of
your money back, but you'll get something.


How do I get in touch with publishers?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

Email them. Every publisher will have a contact email address listed on their website.


Where would I find bookshelves and other items for a store?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer 5/7
3/11/2019 4 Ways to Start a Bookstore - wikiHow

You may find bookshelves at a local furniture store or outlet.


I am a child, so how can I start a bookstore as a beginner?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

It will be difficult, since children cannot sign legal contracts. Instead, work part-time in a bookstore until you reach


How much money is needed to start a book shop?

wikiHow Contributor
Community Answer

Taking everything into account (rent, payroll, insurance, utilities, internet/telephone, inventory system, stock,
freight/postage, operating costs), your monthly expenses would be about $56,000.


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