How To Open A Bookstore

If you’re a bibliophile, chances are that at one point or another, you’ve wondered what it might be like to have your very own bookstore. But while many us dream of this, not nearly as many of us actually know how to open a bookstore.

As dreamy as the idea may be, it’s still the process of opening a business. This means there are a lot of factors to consider. If you’re one of the people who goes beyond dreaming, and actually decides to open a business, then I’ve got some information to help you along.

How to Open a Bookstore

First of all, take a moment to realize that if you don’t actually like the business or financial end of things, you’re going to need to find a way to embrace it. Or, you’ll need someone you work well with that can handle those aspects. Your bookstore will not only be your bookish ideal, but it will be a business.

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) has resources for those who are thinking of opening their own bookstore. If you go to their website and send in a request for information, they will send you an email with basic information for getting started.

I contacted them to see what they sent prospective booksellers. The e-mail I got from them included:

  • A link to a Provisional Membership
  • Links to more information about Paz & Associates (the bookstore training group)
  • A link to the Small Business Administration
  • A link to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which connects entrepreneurs to experienced business mentors
  • An option to sign up for the weekly ABA newsletter

Each of these resources offers help in a different way to people who are starting out with the idea of starting their own store. I particularly like that they have ways of connecting new entrepreneurs with people who have done this, and can help guide them.

They also mention signing up for a course for entrepreneurs. They have a link to one by Paz & Associates on the ABA website. If that doesn’t work for you, look into local classes for small business owners. A local college, or possibly community centers, may host classes about running your own business. Getting more information about the business side of things is crucial.

Then, a business plan is going to be a must. That can sound terrifying to some people, but if you’re opening a business, you’ll need a plan. The ABA, and various other resources (including books you can check out from your local library) can walk you through the process of building a solid plan. Even started from scratch, there are thankfully a lot of resources available now for people trying to work for themselves.

Excited yet?

I know, the details and planning that go into creating a business can be a lot. It can be intimidating, and less than thrilling. But this is what it takes to make something that you’ve dreamed of into a reality. It’s hard work, and anyone that’s ever started any type of business will tell you that.

But the great part is you’re working to make something you’ve dreamed about really happen. Once you can get the facts and figures formed out, then you can get to the creative bits. The name of your store (always a tough one for me, but also so fun). Logo, marketing, design stuff. All the more creative parts of the process are also a part of the process of opening a bookstore.

The most important part of opening your own bookstore seems to be having the spirit to see it through. It will be hard work, it will no doubt be frustrating, but if you are really passionate about being a bookseller, don’t let that stop you.

FInd a community

When you’re working to open a bookstore, it helps to have other people around who have done it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other booksellers. You can go through the American Booksellers Association, or you can look up independent bookstores on your own and reach out to the owners. Indie Bound is one site you can use to connect to independent booksellers.

It can be really terrifying to reach out to someone for help or advice. But generally, most people are open to helping a little. Usually because they remember their own anxiety. Plus, it can be flattering to be asked for advice on something. Worst case scenario: they’re not open to talking. That’s okay. Don’t take it personally. Keep reaching out to others. Persistence is key.

By talking to actual booksellers, especially booksellers of stores you love, you’re going to get a more realistic view of what you’re in for. There’s nothing quite like talking to someone who does this every day to help understand that life.

don’t get too jaded

You are definitely going to get advice you don’t want. You might be told you’re going to fail, or that bookstores are obsolete. That happens to most people trying to start businesses. It happens to people who work in other book related fields (trust me, I work in a library). Take the advice that is useful, and let the rest go. Try not to get worn down. This is another reason having a community or support system is really helpful during this process.

Be realistic, but don’t stop being hopeful.

Remember, you’re working to fulfill a bibliophile dream. Don’t give up on your own story.

Also, if you’re not ready to own a bookstore yet, you can always work at one. Here’s some tips for getting hired at one.

What other advice do you have for how to open a bookstore? 

As part of Season 2 of our podcast series Annotated, we are giving away 10 of the best books about books of 2017. Go here to enter for a chance to win, or just click the image below:
Yaika Sabat: Yaika Sabat spends her days as a library assistant in Texas. Raised by Puerto Ricans and German Shepherds, her background is as diverse as her writing. Her favorite things include comics, books, challenging the idea that comics are an inherently male space, Doctor Who, her cats, and puns. When she's not contributing to Book Riot, you can catch her at her blog, Glasses Attached. Twitter: @yikesyaika