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How to Open an Independent Bookstore Business

A bookstore is one of the most enduring and traditional types of business you could open. Despite this, there have been plenty of challenges to the bookstore model over the last few years, with the increase in ecommerce, the rise of Amazon and the move toward ebooks.

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    Validating Your Bookstore Idea

    Remember, the ideas above are just a starting point. You can define and tweak exactly how you’re going to run your bookstore business through conducting your own research.

    Identify your bookstore business’ unique selling points (USPs)

    Marketing will be crucial to your success, and that means identifying the unique things your bookstore does well and promoting those into your local community..

    Look at who your competitors are in the space

    Look at what your competitors are doing and think of a way to set your bookstore apart. Don’t try to compete with online businesses — you’re offering a different kind of service, so play to those strengths.

    Understand your market

    Clearly identify exactly who your customers are likely to be, where they hang out and how you’re going to reach them. Although you can rely on some local footfall, if you can learn who is interested in your bookselling niche, you’re more likely to be a success.

    Talk to customers

    Speak with potential customers to understand what they want from your bookstore. Try, tweak and test what you’re selling to see what does well.

    The thing to learn here is that it’s okay to say “no” to your first, second or third bookstore business ideas. Very few entrepreneurs get it right first time. In fact, getting it wrong is often a badge of honor!

    Still, you don’t want to waste too much time, energy or money on the wrong initiatives, so ask and answer these questions honestly to find the right way forward.

    Your Bookstore Needs a Business Plan

    You will need to clearly define how you’re going to run your bookstore business, market yourself, get sales, make a profit and grow. This can only come about through creating a watertight business plan. It will help you get your thinking in order and show your commitment to your bookstore business.

    You will also need to look at financial projections for your bookstore business.

    What are your expected sales and revenues? What is your profitability? How much money will you keep in the business to grow it? How much will you pay yourself and others?

    Business plans do vary slightly, but they should all cover the following areas:


    An executive summary with the most important points from your business plan


    A market analysis and likely demand


    How you will market and sell your offerings


    Your goals and what you hope to achieve with your bookstore business


    An overview of how your bookstore business is structured


    Financial projections, revenue and profitability


    A description of your bookstore business, background information and context


    Your business model



    We’ve got the perfect guide to writing your business plan.




    Setting up Your Bookstore Business Operations

    Once you've legally created your bookstore business, you’ll need to get some other things in place.

    Location of Your Bookstore

    The location of your bookstore will be vital. You’ll need somewhere that has good passing traffic with enough space so you can display a decent selection of books. You’ll also need storage space for your inventory. Talk to other local business owners to establish the best places in your city and inquire with commercial real estate agents so you can figure your lease and rental costs into your business plan.

    Marketing Your Bookstore

    Marketing will be a huge part of your bookstore business. Naturally, you will need an awesome website, but you'll also need to get branding, newsletters, digital ads, social media accounts and other channels in place. You should leverage your local community offerings in your marketing to make your bookstore attractive to your niche customers.


    You may not need employees to begin with, especially if you’re operating on a low budget. As your bookstore expands and becomes more popular, consider taking on some part-time help to cover busy periods. You may also hire temporary employees during busy times of year like the holidays.

    Finances and Taxes

    You will need a separate business bank account for your bookstore business. You might also want to consider a business credit card. Additionally, you will also need to keep careful bookkeeping records and file business and personal taxes. Here at Bizee we can even help you file your taxes.

    Stock and Equipment for Bookstores

    You will need a fair amount of fixtures, fittings, equipment and inventory to get going. You’ll need to furnish your store, including bookshelves and displays. You’ll also need a cash register and a counter for taking payment. You may need to carpet and paint the space, and you will also need a good stock of books.

    Software and Processes

    Bookstore entrepreneurs make extensive use of software; see our great list of the top apps at the end of this guide.

    The Complete "Start Your Business" Checklist

    A Clear and Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Business the Right Way

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    Business Checklist

    Rules, Regulations and Taxes for Your Bookstore

    Your bookstore business will need to be compliant with licenses, permits and regulations. You will need to explore local, state and federal licenses and permits, and we can also help out with researching your business licensing needs


    Taxes are a fact of life if you’re in business, and there are various ways you will need to file and pay them. This can include self-employment tax, state income tax and federal income tax. It’s also likely that your book sales will be subject to sales and use tax.

    As a rule of thumb, we recommend holding back around a third of your earnings to pay your taxes. We can also prepare and file your tax returns for you.

    Insurance for Your Bookstore

    Most bookstore businesses should have comprehensive business insurance. There are various types.

    Workers Compensation Insurance

    Workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for job-related illnesses, disabilities or injuries that affect employees. Regulations for this insurance vary from state to state. It typically covers areas like medical costs, loss of earnings, compensation and retraining.

    General Liability Insurance for Your Bookstore

    This insurance protects your bookstore business from claims due to being sued. This may include injury to members of the public, property damage, personal liabilities, legal defense and more. It can help protect your business from financial penalties and bankruptcy. This type of insurance could be essential to your bookstore business, since you have customers on the premises and will want to be insured against possible injuries.

    Home and Auto Insurance for Your Bookstore Business

    If you are working from home on the administration of your bookstore business or driving a vehicle for work, check whether your existing home and auto policies cover you for work use of your home or car. If not, you should either expand your policy so you’re covered or get dedicated business insurance.

    Maintaining Your Bookstore Business

    There are certain forms and legalities you need to follow to keep your bookstore business in good standing.


    File an Annual Report

    Most states require all businesses to file a report once a year. This report has details of any major changes to who owns a business and other major impacts on a business’ legal status. We can file your Annual Report on your behalf.


    Pay estimated taxes

    You will be expected to pay estimated taxes on what you plan to earn in the current business year. Typically, you will need to pay estimated taxes in April, June, September and January (of the following year).


    Renew Business Permits and Licenses

    Your business will probably have several licenses, permits and other regulations. These typically need to be renewed every year.


    Prepare Your Taxes

    You will need to work with your accountant to prepare all the taxes you need to pay.


    File your taxes

    You will need to file your taxes once a year.


    Pay payroll and sales taxes

    If applicable, you will need to make payroll and sales tax payments on a regular basis.

    Useful Online Tools for Your Bookstore Business

    The right software and apps will make it much easier to run your bookstore business. Here are our recommendations for some of the best tools out there to make business operations a breeze.

    Project Management


    Marketing Automation

    Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

    Customer Support

    Human Resources

    Website Development

    Please note: This page contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links.


    With the right approach and customer relationships, your bookstore could be a huge success. Identify your niche, build your community, provide an excellent service and get your marketing right - that way you’ll get noticed and can share your love of books with everyone. Good luck