Owning a bookstore is one of the biggest booklover fantasies around, but it’s not just about selling books and spending all day reading them. Aside from the obvious extra expenses of rent, utilities, insurance, taxes, and so on, you also must consider salaries (if you have employees), fixtures, and general maintenance. But if you still feel the need to sell books as a side gig, ponder an online bookstore. Here’s how to start a used bookstore online.
Make a Plan
Before you start a business, make sure you can support it. Fortunately, online book sales don’t require much overhead. If you have the funds to buy used books and a place to store them, you’re on your way. Still, assess how deeply you want to get into the business of bookselling. Check your current funds and expenses then draft a business plan. The plan should feature a summary of your goals, the company’s name and description, the sort of books you plan to sell, and your business and marketing strategy—specifically, how you intend to do business and promote it. Set a goal for where you’d like to be in six months, one year, and beyond.
Go Book Hunting
There’s an endless supply of books out there, and plenty of places where you can buy them on the cheap. Thrift stores, library sales, garage and estate sales, and so many other places sell books by the ton. That doesn’t mean you’re getting a great deal by backing up your car and filling it with random books. As mentioned above, you need to get a feeling for what sells. Most successful booksellers specialize. Think about the kind of books you prefer to read, ones that cover your favorite subjects, and buy used books accordingly. Sports lover? Sell only sports books. Prefer to collect books on fine photography? Love old comic books? You’re not alone. Build your client base accordingly.
Learn the Bookselling Terms
If you don’t know the difference between foxing and a damp stain, learn quickly. Part of your job as a bookseller will be to properly describe and grade your stock, and there’s a slew of terms connected with the field. Since you’re selling online, your buyers won’t see the books firsthand. Provide thorough descriptions of the condition of the books. Get good at it. If your description is inadequate and the buyer receives a book not in the condition promised, you’ll hear about it.
When considering how to start a used bookstore online, after you set up your storefront on Amazon or eBay, keep track of your stock. You can sort your books by author, subject, publisher, or what have you in your garage or wherever, but back it up with a computer record. Eventually, if business is brisk, a simple Excel file won’t do the trick. You’ll need to invest in order management software, which allows you to keep stock of inventory while also handling order fulfillment.