A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Will You Open A Bookstore?
decades ago, independent bookstores felt under siege from chain
bookstores. A decade ago, they felt
under attack from Amazon. But indies
have survived mail-order catalogs, online bookstores, and e-books. Still, it is a challenging thing to open and
successfully run an independent bookstore these days. Amazingly, hundreds of new stores have opened
in recent years and the indie bookstore once again flourishes.
you ever consider opening a bookstore?
surprised that book publishers don’t own and run a certain number of
bookstores. Amazon, which is now a book
publisher and retailer, has slowly opened bookstores in some cities and could
expand further, making it the rare publisher-retailer.
came across a book, originally written in 1969 and then updated. I hold in my hands, courtesy of Strand
Bookstore, for five bucks, a 1987 copy of A Manual on Bookselling: How to Open and Run a Bookstore, Fourth Edition.
foreword, by Bernard E. Rath, noted one interesting thing about who owns and
runs bookstores. Is it a lover of books
who tries to make a living from her passion or a businessman seeking to make
money by treating books as a mere commodity?
bookselling allows a person to make a statement while also making a living – if
the bookstore is cause-oriented,” writes Robert D. Hule in the preface. “Maybe it’s because it’s a great way to meet
interesting people-not just the well educated and affluent, but people of all
backgrounds with every type of need.”
he cautions; “Loving books is not sufficient justification for becoming a
bookseller, though it’s a vital ingredient.
Along with that love must go dedication and energy and patience and
fortitude and all the other good things we were brought up to admire. While we are having fun and being stimulated
and enriched, nor must, also pay strict attention to sound business practices.”
the Successful Bookshop by Frederick G. Melcher, in 1926, the author said:
“To be a successful bookseller, one needs an innate, fondness for books, an
infinite capacity for pains in handling details, a certain poise and
self-confidence which is the basis of selling ability. Beyond these one must cultivate business
ability, for successful bookstore management is based fundamentally on the same
principles as any other retail business:
aggressive merchandising and sound financial control.”
is a bookstore like any other business?
Yes and no.
regardless of what’s sold or what mission a store owner may be on, a store
adheres to certain metrics of finance.
It needs to be profitable. It’s
not a charity. A bookstore’s mission may
exceed that of making money, but in order to serve that mission, it will need
to focus on making a profit, one that doesn’t get ignored to the point a store
loses money and can no longer serve its town well.
what must a store owner consider when opening a bookstore?
1.Location. Can you get the foot traffic of those who
have the finances, education, and interest/need to buy books?
2.Specialty. Will you focus on a specialty, such as
novels, children’s, or rare? Will you
serve the general public in a certain way?
3.Inventory Management. Can you buy books cheaply via fire sales,
wholesalers, etc.? Can you return stock
without suffering major expenses?
4.Extras. What else will you sell, aside from
5.Competition. Are you far enough away from other bookstores
– or different from their offerings? How
will you keep up with online retailers or other non-bookstores that sell some
6.Lease or Own. Can you get favorable terms to rent or own a
7.Loans. Do you have access to a reasonable credit
line – for either expansion or to handle the bad times?
8.Partner/Employees. Do you want or need them? What should you look for in either one?
9.Town Perks. Are there any tax breaks or partnerships from
the town that could help you?
10.Accounting. You need to keep the books while selling
books. This means you need to be organized in your record-keeping, budgeting,
bill-paying, receiving of orders and shipments, etc.
You must also be knowledgeable about:
relations and selling
marketing, and publicity.
hot, new, or unique in books today.
to buy books – new, used, or rare -- from others.
bookstore can be enlisted to inform, change, and inspire a new generation of
readers. But A Manual on Bookselling
warned, even back in 1987, against the twin menaces – illiteracy and aliteracy. It said:
technologies are new allies in our national effort to inform and educate
Americans. We must enlist the new
technologies with cautious enthusiasm.
The threat to a knowledgeable citizenry is not from new technology. But there is a threat from our hasty
readiness to exaggerate or misconceive the promise of new technologies, which
carries the assumption that the culture of the book is a thing of the
past. Today we are failing to do all we
should do to qualify young Americans to read and so draw on the main storehouse
of our civilization. We are failing to provide
enough access to books. And we can do
much more to increase the motivation to read.
must face and defeat the twin menaces of illiteracy and aliteracy – the
inability to read and lack of the will to read – if our citizens are to remain
free and qualified to govern themselves.
We must aim to abolish illiteracy in the United States before the end of
you want – and be able to – open and run a bookstore? For some it can be a risky, time-consuming
passion project, profit be damned. For
others it’s a business first or only.
Whatever one’s motivation, I’d hope to see more bookstores open up
across the country and to bring to the masses the majestic beauty of the
written and illustrated word. Books are
something beautiful, something to be used and lived, something to lead us into
the light of knowledge and truth.
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