Comic books and illustrated novels have reached a wide audience, and many enthusiasts have taken the heroic leap into the retailing side. For a comic book store, however, you need capital as well as passion for the medium. For years, the independent bricks-and-mortar bookselling business has been under pressure from chain retailers as well as Internet sites, so a successful new store needs customer-centric innovation as well as ample financing.
Find your space. You don't need a lot of square footage. Keep the overhead -- rent and utilities -- to a minimum. Comic book stores are generally low-tech, down to earth establishments that don't need a lot of visibility in a high-traffic storefront but can be in a less expensive location, such as an out-of-the-way strip mall, since they are a destination that dedicated comic book aficionados will seek out.
Contact distributors and publishers that have comic books, illustrated novels and manga for sale. The King Kong in this field is Diamond Book Distributors, an outfit that handles all major publishers, including Marvel, Dark Horse and DC Comics, exclusively. This means you'll have to acquire the majority of your inventory through Diamond, although a few publishers will be willing to deal directly with stores and offer large discounts on wholesale orders.
Set up a website dedicated to comics and illustrated novels. Include information and updates on the store, new releases, sales and discounts, as well as comics news, reviews and blogs. Contact comic book reviewers in local media, including newspapers, weeklies, public access cable and radio, and let them know about your new store. Develop an e-mail list from signups in the store and from the website and send out a regular newsletter with store announcements and other information. Attend comics conventions to chat with collectors or set up your own booth announcing your presence and offering your wares.
Diversify your product line. Check into paperback books, baseball cards, collectible action figures, and any product that is ancillary to the comics trade and that will be of interest to your customers. Consider alternative media such as CDs, video games, puzzles, board games and e-books. Set up a gaming zone to bring in new customers on a regular basis -- Saturday mornings are always good -- or hold a tournament. Get your name out there with social media and YouTube, and update regularly with new books and new products.