Author Topic: Bookstore  (Read 11049 times)

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #50 on: March 05, 2020, 02:41:39 PM »
Oh, and I mentioned my dream book store Readers' Advisory service earlier.  Here's the link.  They call it a book spa and given that it's book 6 months in advance, it seems to be doing well.  Again, this would require a certain level of expertise (and/or paid subscriptions to Novelist and probably a couple other similar services is you are relying on mostly that to generate recommendations), but given that "I don't know what to read" is a common reason people give for not reading, it might generate a lot of business.  And if you can make an an experience, that's all the more true and you can make money on it beyond just the sales of recommnended books. 

I do really like the readers' advisory service idea. Thanks!

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #51 on: March 05, 2020, 02:44:21 PM »
The ABA probably has more info on that stuff - I understand they are a super resource for booksellers, well worth the membership.

I'm going to join, but I've been debating when (I'm at least a couple of years off from having a store).

Missy B

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #52 on: March 05, 2020, 11:18:28 PM »
The ABA probably has more info on that stuff - I understand they are a super resource for booksellers, well worth the membership.

I'm going to join, but I've been debating when (I'm at least a couple of years off from having a store).
Interestingly, they have a provisional membership for people planning to open a bookstore, which at $350 is $150 more than their regular membership. https://www.bookweb.org/membership

I think I'd want it at least a year and a half before I planned to open - even before the physical location was acquired. Looks like they have a lot of useful stuff to know while you're planning.

lhamo

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #53 on: March 06, 2020, 08:36:35 AM »
Thought:  If you do end up following this plan, maybe there are ways to reduce the cost of outfitting the store.  Are there any architectural salvage places near you?  Anybody who wants/needs to tear down an old barn that still has usable wood in places that you could salvage for floors/bookcases?  Could you have the shop class at the local high school put together some rustic shelve or tables for you?  Something that ties your store into the local history/economy could be a way of distinguishing yourself, and a way to draw people from the community in.

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #54 on: March 06, 2020, 09:37:15 AM »
Thought:  If you do end up following this plan, maybe there are ways to reduce the cost of outfitting the store.  Are there any architectural salvage places near you?  Anybody who wants/needs to tear down an old barn that still has usable wood in places that you could salvage for floors/bookcases?  Could you have the shop class at the local high school put together some rustic shelve or tables for you?  Something that ties your store into the local history/economy could be a way of distinguishing yourself, and a way to draw people from the community in.

Yes--if I do this, I'd want to use everything I've learned from this community to avoid unnecessary expenses. At the beginning of this thread I threw out start-up costs of roughly $200k - $500k. $500k is a very conservative number assuming an expensive building and an expense retrofit, which seems unlikely. If I can make it happen for $200k, that's obviously much lower risk.

Luckily this town has quite a few architectural salvage places, and many local carpenters and craftspeople.

calimom

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #55 on: March 06, 2020, 10:13:09 AM »
An author I like lot, Ann Patchett, co-owns a bookstore in her city of Nashville. She saw the need and filled it.  Regarding bookshelves, the store came into being about the time the Borders bookstores were closing and they ended  up with a a store full of shelving for free, or close to it.
I hope to visit the Nashville, and her shop one day. It looks like a thriving operation with many ways to serve the community (and revenue streams)
Oh, and every bookstore needs a shop cat or dog.

www.parnassusbooks.net

robartsd

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #56 on: March 09, 2020, 10:22:00 AM »
Interestingly, they have a provisional membership for people planning to open a bookstore, which at $350 is $150 more than their regular membership. https://www.bookweb.org/membership
The regular membership is $199 for the first year, but based on gross sales in subsequent years. I'm guessing that the average membership fee for North American stores selling new books is at least as much as the $350 provisional and international memberships.

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #57 on: October 24, 2023, 02:38:28 PM »
I thought it would be good to provide an update on this thread, nearly four years after I started it and six months after the store had its soft opening.

In short--it has been everything I'd hoped it would be. Running the bookstore has been one of the most joyful and fulfilling things I've ever done. I've made amazing new friends, feel like I've made a positive impact on my community, and have enjoyed pretty much every minute of the process.

Financially it has started about where I'd hoped, which is to say it has been profitable, but certainly not an optimized use of the money.

I bought a building for 300k (and which makes 2500k a month in rent from other tenants) and spent just less than 100k on buildout and inventory. I'm open 24 hours a week and do all of the bookstore related work in that time, and am trending towards 30k+ annual profit after all expenses (including rent but no labor costs--i don't pay myself hourly).

DeepEllumStache

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #58 on: October 25, 2023, 08:08:01 AM »
Congratulations, that sounds like an awesome setup for 24 hours a week! Did you go into a niche type store, used books, community center, new books, or a combination?

Adventine

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #59 on: October 25, 2023, 08:34:02 AM »
Nice! Congratulations.

Smokystache

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #60 on: October 25, 2023, 09:39:52 AM »
.... Running the bookstore has been one of the most joyful and fulfilling things I've ever done. I've made amazing new friends, feel like I've made a positive impact on my community, and have enjoyed pretty much every minute of the process....

I think on these forums we can often forget that in our race to optimize, optimize, optimize, that money is always a secondary reinforcer to be traded in for what we really want and need (security, food, housing, & a meaningful life).

StarBright

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #61 on: October 25, 2023, 10:59:30 AM »
I started reading the thread without realizing it was several years old, and as soon as I realized I skipped to the end to see if you opened!

This thread is the best thing I've read today! I am so happy for you!! What an awesome example of having a dream and making it happen.

Metalcat

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #62 on: October 25, 2023, 11:53:05 AM »
Obviously based on my previous posts in this thread, that's not the update I expected, but good for you for making it work for you, figuring out what would really make you happy and getting it done!

We get a lot of people with romanticized notions of things like this around here and no real understanding of what it's like, so if you had asked me to bet for or against someone loving running a bookshop, I obviously would have bet against.

But I'm thrilled to be proven wrong. Amazing update, thank you.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #63 on: October 25, 2023, 12:33:59 PM »
Congratulations. Our ecommerce business sells some books but we've definitely cut down how many we offer. The margins are pretty bad (typically 40% discount of MSRP), there's almost infinite competition, and while shipping media mail is cost effective, that doesn't work if someone buys a book and some other non-media items. All of the sudden we might spend $12 to ship a book that has $5 of gross profit margin. Not to mention it's easy to have a less popular book sit on the shelf for a year or two (or more) which is just tying up a lot of cash.

Glad to hear you're making it work. 

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #64 on: October 25, 2023, 02:52:29 PM »
Congratulations, that sounds like an awesome setup for 24 hours a week! Did you go into a niche type store, used books, community center, new books, or a combination?

New and used books, and pretty much no sidelines (e.g. no stickers, t-shirts, food & drinks, etc). We're a general book store but do have a few areas of focus: cookbooks, sci fi & fantasy fiction, and Asian American writers.

I think on these forums we can often forget that in our race to optimize, optimize, optimize, that money is always a secondary reinforcer to be traded in for what we really want and need (security, food, housing, & a meaningful life).

Obviously based on my previous posts in this thread, that's not the update I expected, but good for you for making it work for you, figuring out what would really make you happy and getting it done!

We get a lot of people with romanticized notions of things like this around here and no real understanding of what it's like, so if you had asked me to bet for or against someone loving running a bookshop, I obviously would have bet against.

But I'm thrilled to be proven wrong. Amazing update, thank you.

Congratulations. Our ecommerce business sells some books but we've definitely cut down how many we offer. The margins are pretty bad (typically 40% discount of MSRP), there's almost infinite competition, and while shipping media mail is cost effective, that doesn't work if someone buys a book and some other non-media items. All of the sudden we might spend $12 to ship a book that has $5 of gross profit margin. Not to mention it's easy to have a less popular book sit on the shelf for a year or two (or more) which is just tying up a lot of cash.

Glad to hear you're making it work. 

All the concerns and warnings I got on this thread and others were completely sensible and mostly correct. New books, in particular, are a low margin business-- used books play an important role in boosting that  for us (our gross margin is running around 55%). Sidelines would too, if I went that route. If I was trying to create a wealth generating business, running this store would be a poor use of my time. If you look at it from a purely accounting point of view, I've tied more than a hundred thousand dollars up in a business to buy myself a $20-25/hr job.

But the fact is, I don't need more. I don't even need that money, so I can focus on the intangibles more: the enjoyment I get from recommending books, the cool people I get to meet, the space I get to create. I had a teenager (child of a friend) who said to me "I love that you have so many LGBT books prominently displayed. This feels like a space meant for me." and, honestly, that felt like enough to justify the whole thing.

evme

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #65 on: October 26, 2023, 01:02:29 AM »
Congrats @Watchmaker on the successful launch of your bookstore. I've read about the resurgence of independent bookstores in recent years and couldn't be happier for you all!

I've been to some amazing indie bookshops in recent years, from Back of Beyond Books in Moab, Utah, to Peregrine Book Company in Prescott, AZ. They are so much fun to visit, and it sure sounds like your shop would be as well!

Warlord1986

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #66 on: November 05, 2023, 01:43:03 PM »
This is wonderful! I'm blessed to live in a city with a bookstore right downtown (and also, I work in a building full of free books), and the closest cities to me also have fabulous bookstores.

Have you considered partnering with www.bookshop.org ? They're pretty great.

Local bookstores are gems. Bless you for creating one. :3

Kwill

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #67 on: November 05, 2023, 04:25:20 PM »
I also started reading this thread without realizing it was an older one. I was surprised and delighted to hear the bookstore is going well. Congratulations!

I read a lot, but most of what I read is from libraries. I was going to say I've only bought one new book in the past year, but then I went back and looked at my Amazon orders and remembered a few other things. Over the past 12 months, I bought ten new books: two night sky almanacs for Christmas gifts, two religious books for friends' children, one random non-fiction book on clearance that I got to support a new bookshop, a drawing book for my godson's birthday, a city travel guide, a music book to go with an instrument, a book for a group study, and a textbook for my Bible study group. I also bought a used book about getting organized and a bulk box of 12 old Reader's Digest books to have things to read on the train while waiting for my books to arrive after moving overseas. I guess it's mostly fiction and cookbooks that I get from libraries. If I'm going to read something once and read it quickly or just browse it idly, there's no point in having it take up space at home, but it's hard to resist pretty books that would make nice gifts or that seem like they will help in some specific way.

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #68 on: November 20, 2023, 11:29:54 AM »
This is wonderful! I'm blessed to live in a city with a bookstore right downtown (and also, I work in a building full of free books), and the closest cities to me also have fabulous bookstores.

Have you considered partnering with www.bookshop.org ? They're pretty great.

Local bookstores are gems. Bless you for creating one. :3

I also started reading this thread without realizing it was an older one. I was surprised and delighted to hear the bookstore is going well. Congratulations!

I read a lot, but most of what I read is from libraries. I was going to say I've only bought one new book in the past year, but then I went back and looked at my Amazon orders and remembered a few other things. Over the past 12 months, I bought ten new books: two night sky almanacs for Christmas gifts, two religious books for friends' children, one random non-fiction book on clearance that I got to support a new bookshop, a drawing book for my godson's birthday, a city travel guide, a music book to go with an instrument, a book for a group study, and a textbook for my Bible study group. I also bought a used book about getting organized and a bulk box of 12 old Reader's Digest books to have things to read on the train while waiting for my books to arrive after moving overseas. I guess it's mostly fiction and cookbooks that I get from libraries. If I'm going to read something once and read it quickly or just browse it idly, there's no point in having it take up space at home, but it's hard to resist pretty books that would make nice gifts or that seem like they will help in some specific way.

I love libraries as well (we are three buildings down from our town's library and we already have worked together on a few things). Anything that promotes reading is good in my book (pun intended), and if we have a reading culture I'm confident book independent bookstores will survive.

I used to say "I don't even view Amazon as our competition, we are doing totally different things" but as I learn more about how their business practices effect the market I am understanding that's not really the case-- they are doing a bunch of things designed to raise costs for publishers and independent booksellers. I still don't know enough about it to have a strong opinion on what (if anything) I think the government should be doing about it, but it's been interesting to learn more about how it all works.

And yes, we are a Bookshop.org affiliate, and it's worked well for us so far.

calimom

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #69 on: November 21, 2023, 08:42:35 PM »
I started reading the thread without realizing it was several years old, and as soon as I realized I skipped to the end to see if you opened!

This thread is the best thing I've read today! I am so happy for you!! What an awesome example of having a dream and making it happen.

I got a notification because I'd posted a few years ago, and agree that this made my day to read! It's wonderful when people can realize a dream in a very meaningful way. @Watchmaker do you have a space where visiting artists and authors can stay, as was an original plan? Also, what has made you the happiest with this venture? What have been the biggest challenges?

halfling

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #70 on: November 25, 2023, 07:44:17 PM »
@Watchmaker Would you share a little of what you've learned about how Amazon is "doing a bunch of things designed to raise costs for publishers and independent booksellers"?

I can recommend a bookstore that I visited exactly once on vacation and was totally mesmerized by... Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Café in Steamboat Springs, CO. Best ham and swiss croissant of my life. I've been chasing that high ever since. They also had a clever "staff picks mystery book" shelf in the used book section - the books were wrapped in brown paper, organized by genre, and all sold for the same price. I bought a couple.

Chris Pascale

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #71 on: November 28, 2023, 01:15:08 PM »
At the risk of exposing your real-life ID, can we send any books your way to sell?

If so, what kinds of books do you want?

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #72 on: November 28, 2023, 07:42:10 PM »
I got a notification because I'd posted a few years ago, and agree that this made my day to read! It's wonderful when people can realize a dream in a very meaningful way. @Watchmaker do you have a space where visiting artists and authors can stay, as was an original plan? Also, what has made you the happiest with this venture? What have been the biggest challenges?

Regarding the space--yes, with caveats. There was an empty apartment in the building when we bought it (the previous owners home) and we've been renting it out to short term residents (three people who were in the area for seasonal work and one couple that was waiting to close on their new house) with gaps in between where it was available to use for visiting artists and authors. In practice, we haven't organized many bookstore events at this point, and none of them so far has required us to put someone up for the night. We have had a handful of musicians stay there that were doing things in my SO's studio.

We're going to continue to have a space available, but we're going to rent out that apartment and modify the space behind SO's studio to be able to hosts guests there. That space otherwise is difficult to utilize, and the rent we'll get from the apartment makes this a better deal.

It's hard to pick a favorite aspect of having the store, but I love that we get a lot of teenagers coming in and often hanging out for quite a while. I grew up in bookstores, and it makes me happy to provide that kind of space to others. I love talking about/recommending books to people, and I really love it when they come back and say they enjoyed my suggestion. And buying new books for the store is super fun.


@Watchmaker Would you share a little of what you've learned about how Amazon is "doing a bunch of things designed to raise costs for publishers and independent booksellers"?

Sure, with the caveat that I am not a lawyer, and I'm not claiming these things are necessarily illegal, they may be just business practices I dislike.

The first thing is that Amazon works to prevent third-party sellers from offering products cheaper on other marketplaces. They enforce this by trolling the internet for Amazon sellers selling on other websites, and punishing the ones who have lower prices elsewhere (punishment is usually in the form of showing up lower in the Amazon results). Because Amazon's marketplace is one of the more expensive places to sell third-party (between all the fees, Amazon is often taking >50% of the sales) a third party seller usually *could*
offer a product cheaper elsewhere, but they are disincentivized from doing so. An example (with made up numbers):

Seller BooksRUs sells a book for $10 on Amazon. Because of Walmart's lower fees, they could sell the same book for $9 on that marketplace and make the same money. But if they do so, Amazon will push them down the results page and they'll lose tons of sales, so they instead price the Walmart book at $10 as well. Higher prices for consumers.

Another thing that Amazon has done is use their dominant market position to force contracts on the big publishers that give Amazon steeper wholesale discounts than the publishers can really afford. The only way the publishers can make their numbers work is to raise retail prices. Amazon doesn't care because they are already getting deep discounts, but those higher retail prices result in higher costs for all the independent bookstores that don't have the clout to negotiate like Amazon. So effectively, Amazon negotiated not for a price decrease for themselves, but a price increase for their competition (me). In the past, it has been alleged that this is a hub-and-spoke conspiracy between Amazon and the publishers, but no court has found that to be the case (yet), largely due to lack of evidence of "rim"  deals between the publishers on the spoke. It goes without saying that Amazon have excellent lawyers who may have designed a system that stays just on the side of what the law says is allowable.

Of course, there's the whole issue of Amazon being the dominant supplier and dominant marketplace for many things online (including books) which gives them a lot of power to manipulate the marketplace.

The last thing I'll add is pretty clearly not an illegal business practice, but it's one I don't like, and that's Amazon's willingness to take a loss on a segment, or entire business, to drive all their competition out of business and eventually reap the rewards of a dominant market share. It's right out of the Walmart playbook, and it's very different to how independent bookstores operate (I don't want to drive anyone out of business, even Amazon).

There's an ongoing lawsuit that covers some of these issues (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/09/ftc-sues-amazon-illegally-maintaining-monopoly-power), we'll have to see where that goes. Other countries (especially France) have created laws that try to level the playing field (or protect small bookstores, depending on your viewpoint), but those seem unlikely to gain traction in the States.

Watchmaker

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Re: Bookstore
« Reply #73 on: November 28, 2023, 07:48:41 PM »
At the risk of exposing your real-life ID, can we send any books your way to sell?

If so, what kinds of books do you want?

I appreciate the offer, but I'm trying to hold on to what little privacy I've left myself with the details I've shared. I'm not overly concerned about being identified, but it would probably be pretty trivial to do at this point. If any forum members are in the area though, feel free to PM me if you'd like to visit.