How to Start a Small Bookstore

by Carl Carabelli; Updated September 26, 2017
A bookstore is a great small business to consider.

Starting a small bookstore seems like the perfect opportunity for an avid reader. While that may very well be true, there is more to it than simply stocking bookshelves and exchanging novels for cash. A bookstore, small or otherwise, is a business like any other and starting a small bookstore requires the same amount of preparation and dedication.

Items you will need

  • Location
  • Books
Step 1

Scout a potential location. You want to set up your store in an area where it can be easily located and accessible to customers. Shopping centers and other high-commerce areas are good bets. Be aware of your competition, however, as your small bookstore may not be able to compete when lodged between a Borders and Barnes and Noble.

Step 2

Write a business plan. You will want to outline the time frame for opening your store, your advertising strategy, your method to restock inventory and your financial projections for at least three years.

Step 3

Obtain financing. The amount needed to start your bookstore can vary. For a smaller shop, you may need between $50,000 and $100,000. You can obtain financing several ways. If you do not have the funds yourself, you can borrow from friends and family if they are willing, or you can attempt to obtain a small business loan through a bank. Just be sure that the bank offers loans to start-ups as many do not due to the higher risk involved.

Step 4

Register your business. You can obtain the proper forms by contacting your state’s secretary of state. Depending on the size of your store, you need to determine if you want to register as an LLC or a corporation. An LLC will allow you to pass the profits directly to yourself while still providing you protection as an individual from liabilities incurred by the company (lawsuits, harassment claims, damages, etc.). A corporation affords you the same protection, but the income is taxed separately from your personal income, making it necessary to pay more taxes. You can always switch to a different type of entity later if you achieve success.

Step 5

Fit out your location. You will need to obtain shelves, counters and display cases at the minimum. The amount of work you are able to do will depend on whether you buy or lease the location. If the store is leased, check with the landlord to ascertain exactly what kind of improvements you can make.

Step 6

Stock your store with books. If you are going to be selling used books, you can obtain them from anywhere you want. Examples could be your own collection, friends’ collections, donations, etc. If you are going to be selling primarily new books, you will need to go through a book distributor. You can find listings online by searching “wholesale book distributors” or, ironically, picking up a listing at your local bookstore. Contact several to see who offers the best combination of selection, price and shipping.

Step 7

Advertise your business. Use whatever means are at your disposal. An ad in the paper is a good way to start. You can also start a website for a relatively small amount of money. Finally, if you have a bit of extra money, you can invest in a television commercial, which is usually the quickest way to get people to patronize your small bookstore.

About the Author

Carl Carabelli has been writing in various capacities for more than 15 years. He has utilized his creative writing skills to enhance his other ventures such as financial analysis, copywriting and contributing various articles and opinion pieces. Carabelli earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Seton Hall and has worked in banking, notably commercial lending, since 2001.

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