How DO you open a bookstore?November 13, 2022 2022-11-13 12:26
How DO you open a bookstore?
How DO you open a bookstore?
You would have thought, having spent much of the last decade writing books, that I might have some idea about how you go about selling them. But no, welcome to this secret, seemingly impenetrable world of bookselling.
Where was I to start? How did this idea even come to me? Well, in practical terms it all started a couple of months ago as I was passing an empty let in a parade of shops near my home. ‘Wouldn’t that make a perfect bookshop?,’ I thought wandering on, and as I have done many times over the years.
But that thought needled away at me… wouldn’t it, shouldn’t it…. could it?
I rang the estate agent to ask for a viewing with nothing more than a silly fantasy in my head. But, it was already let and with solicitors. I called them the next week, just in case. Nope, still proceeding. Damn.
But as we all know, life rarely takes a straight line to a destination, and I wondered whether this thought, this empty shop, might just be a stepping stone to a dream, rather than the dream itself. So I thought some more, I started researching… how do you even go about opening a bookstore?
The Booksellers’ Association sounded like a good place to start. Not only had it published a book on opening a bookstore (I mean, of course it had!), but it ran a one-day course twice a year and the next course was happening… two weeks later. It was a sign!
So a few weeks ago, I spent a day sitting at my kitchen table and attending an online course on opening a bookstore. This resource is absolutely invaluable to a would-be bookshop owner for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s a very honest digest of all the wonderful things about running a bookshop, and secondly, because it’s a very honest digest of all the absolutely terrifying things about running a bookshop. You can be guaranteed after attending this course, you will either have run for the hills, or dug your heels in further and rolled up your sleeves – you can probably guess which one was me.
There was just so much to learn: business plans; costings; supply chain; leaseholds; payment systems; stockturn… I could go on.
It made an impossible dream feel even more impossible, and yet… it was also completely inspiring. The people running it, Kate Gunning from the Booksellers’ Association and Patrick Neale and Polly Jaffé from Jaffé and Neale Bookshop in Chipping Norton, were so open to any and all questions from the 39 other attendees. It felt like there was nothing us newbies couldn’t ask and by the end of the day my notebook was full. And fascinating it was for me, as an author, to see the other end of the production line!
So I now had an overview of what I needed to do to start putting things in place, but there were still big questions: Where would I sell? How would I sell? Who would I buy from? Who would buy from me?!
All these things, I would need to fathom… more soon.