How to Start Your Own Bookstore Business

Bookstore businesses are fairly easy to set up. The most involved part of the process is finding the right location for your new business. A store in a large city may attract the most traffic, but your rent and utilities costs will be higher than in a small town. Your bookstore business may thrive in a small town if you can pinpoint a lucrative target market in the area.

Find an optimal location for your new bookstore. You want a store that is: 1) near a shopping center; 2) in a relatively safe, burgeoning area rife with potential book lovers; and 3) large enough for bookshelves and display units to make book-shopping comfortable and simple for your customers. The easiest method is to find a bookstore that has closed, and reopen it under new management. (Keep in mind, however, that you must find out why the bookstore closed--for instance, a problem with the location or customer traffic.)

Learn the demographics of your chosen bookstore location to determine which titles are most likely to sell quickly there. For example, if your area has a high concentration of families with young children, you should keep a large section of popular kids' titles in your store. The U.S. Census Bureau offers a fact finder tool (see "Resources"). You'll find information about the book-buying habits of specific demographics at "Publishers Weekly" and other sites that cater to those in the bookstore business.

Sign up for a purchaser account with Baker and Taylor, Ingram and other small book wholesalers and distributors who sell the books you will order on a regular basis. You likely will have to pay the wholesalers 60 to 70 percent of the retail price, which leaves you with a profit of about 30 to 40 percent.

Purchase the following items for your new bookstore business: bookshelves; book-display units; cash register; and surveillance cameras (to reduce shrinkage). You also may need to have counter space built for your register area. You also need to open a merchant account.

Organize a book-signing event for your store on the day that it will open. Invite local authors to sell their books.


  • You also can establish an online book business, for which you will need a hosting account, domain name, shopping cart and virtual merchant account. Many website hosts offer complete packages to meet these needs.