online book store business model

Bookstore Business Plan Template

Written by Dave Lavinsky Bookstore Business Plan Template

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 5,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their bookstores. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a bookstore business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.

Download our Bookstore Business Plan Template here >

What Is a Business Plan?

bookstore storefront

Why You Need a Business Plan

If you’re looking to start a bookstore or grow your existing bookstore you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your bookstore in order to improve your chances of success. Your bookstore business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.

Source of Funding for Bookstores

With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a bookstore are bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.

The second most common form of funding for a bookstore is angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan.

Your business plan should include 10 sections as follows:

Executive Summary

bookstore customer

The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of bookstore business you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a bookstore that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of bookstores.

Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the bookstore industry. Discuss the type of bookstore you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your financial plan.

Company Analysis

In your company analysis, you will detail the type of bookstore you are operating.

For example, you might operate one of the following types:

  • Traditional bookstore : the traditional bookstore maintains a broad inventory of books in a variety of genres and subjects.
  • Religious bookstore : this type of bookstore stocks primarily religious books and accessories.
  • Used bookstore : this type of bookstore sells books that have been previously owned.
  • Specialty bookstore : this type of bookstore stocks books for a particular niche audience (i.e. New Age, Comic Books, etc.).

In addition to explaining the type of bookstore you operate, the Company Analysis section of your business plan needs to provide background on the business.

Include answers to question such as:

  • When and why did you start the business?
  • What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include sales goals you’ve reached, new store openings, etc.
  • Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.

Industry Analysis

bookstore storage

While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.

First, researching the bookstore industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.

Secondly, market research can improve your strategy particularly if your research identifies market trends. For example, if there was a trend towards cookbook consumption, it would be helpful to ensure your plan calls for a substantial cooking section.

The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.

The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your bookstore business plan:

  • How big is the bookstore business (in dollars)?
  • Is the market declining or increasing?
  • Who are the key competitors in the market?
  • Who are the key suppliers in the market?
  • What trends are affecting the industry?
  • What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
  • What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your bookstore. You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.

Customer Analysis

The customer analysis section of your bookstore business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.

The following are examples of customer segments: college students, sports enthusiasts, soccer moms, techies, teens, baby boomers, etc.

As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of bookstore you operate. Clearly baby boomers would want a different atmosphere, pricing and product options, and would respond to different marketing promotions than teens.

Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. Because most bookstores primarily serve customers living in their same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.

Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.

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Bookstore Competitive Analysis

bookstore floor plan

Direct competitors are other local bookstores.

Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t direct competitors. This includes online bookstores, ebooks, libraries, etc. You need to mention such competition to show you understand that not everyone who reads frequents a bookstore each day.

With regards to direct competition, you want to detail the other bookstores with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be bookstores located very close to your location.

For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:

  • What types of customers do they serve?
  • What products do they offer?
  • What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
  • What are they good at?
  • What are their weaknesses?

With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to stand outside your competitors’ locations and ask customers as they leave what they like most and least about them.

The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:

  • Will you provide superior products?
  • Will you provide products that your competitors don’t offer?
  • Will you make it easier or faster for customers to acquire your products?
  • Will you provide better customer service?
  • Will you offer better pricing?

Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.

Marketing Plan

bookstore corner

Product : in the product section you should reiterate the type of bookstore that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products you will be offering. For example, in addition to books, will your bookstore include a cafe, where it will offer items such as coffee, espresso, bakery items, etc.?

Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the items you offer and their prices.

Place : Place refers to the location of your bookstore. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your bookstore located next to a heavily populated office building, or gym, etc. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers.

Promotions : the final part of your bookstore marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:

  • Making your storefront extra appealing to attract passing customers
  • Advertising in local papers and magazines
  • Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
  • Social media advertising
  • Local radio advertising
  • Banner ads at local venues

Operations Plan

While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.

Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your bookstore such as serving customers, procuring new books, keeping the store clean, etc.

Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 5,000th customer, or when you hope to reach $X in sales. It could also be when you expect to hire your Xth employee or launch a new location.

Management Team

bookstore shop owner

Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in the bookstore business. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.

If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act like mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in bookstores and/or successfully running retail and small businesses.

Financial Plan

Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.

Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.

In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you serve 20 customers per day or 100? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.

Balance Sheets : While balance sheets include much information, to simplify them to the key items you need to know about, balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. For instance, if you spend $100,000 on building out your bookstore, that will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $100.000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.

Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt.

In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a bookstore:

  • Location build-out including design fees, construction, etc.
  • Cost of fixtures like shelving, seating, and cafe fixtures like grinders, espresso machines, blenders, refrigerators
  • Cost of acquiring and maintaining an adequate inventory
  • Payroll or salaries paid to staff
  • Business insurance
  • Taxes and permits
  • Legal expenses

Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your store design blueprint or location lease.

Bookstore Business Plan Summary

Putting together a business plan for your bookstore or an online bookstore business plan is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the bookstore business, your competition and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful bookstore.

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You can download our bookstore plan PDF here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

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Bookstore Business Plan FAQs

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You can download our bookstore business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide for Small Businesses

How To Start an Online Bookstore That Makes a Profit in 2023

If you’re passionate about books and want to start a business selling them, an online bookstore is a great option. Not only can you reach a wider audience than a brick-and-mortar store, but you’ll also have lower running costs.

The net revenue of the book publishing industry is sitting at $25.71 billion in the United States in 2020. This figure is likely to be similar in other regions and has remained stable over the past several years, making it a reliable market for newcomers.

With that said, starting an online bookstore is not a quick or easy process.

There’s a lot of competition out there, and you need to stand out from the crowd. You’ll also need to make sure your bookstore is properly set up for success, with a well-thought-out business plan.

Perhaps most important of all – you’ll need a website that does a lot of heavy-lifting!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to start an online bookstore that succeeds in 2023.

By the end, you’ll have a clear idea of what it takes to get your bookselling business off the ground and how to make it thrive in the years to come.

Why you should sell books online

There are several reasons why selling books online is a great business idea.

1. Stable industry

As we mentioned already, books are a stable industry. While bookstores are traditionally the most popular place to buy books, online book sales are increasing all the time.

In fact, according to the Association of American Publishers , online sales made up 50% of all revenue in 2020, which was a near 7% increase from the previous year.

This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including the increasing popularity of eBooks and audiobooks, as well as the ease and convenience of buying books online.

We can’t discount the role of the pandemic in all this, but as more and more people shop online for other items, it’s likely that book sales will continue to grow.

2. Larger market

Another reason to sell books online is that you’ll have a larger potential market than if you were selling through brick-and-mortar stores.

While there are many physical book stores still operating, there are millions of people shopping online. If you sell internationally, your potential market is even bigger!

3. Cost-Effective

Selling books online can be less expensive than opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

You won’t have the same overheads, such as rent, utilities, and employees. If you sell eBooks or audiobooks, there are no production or shipping costs.

This doesn’t mean that starting an online bookstore is free. But it does mean that you can get started with a lower budget than you would need for a traditional bookstore.

What makes WordPress the best platform for an online bookstore?

When you’re starting an online bookstore, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is what platform to use to sell your books.

There are a number of different options available, but we believe that WordPress is the best platform for selling books online.

Here’s why:

  • WordPress is easy to use and set up. Unlike some other eCommerce platforms , you don’t need any technical expertise to set up a WordPress website.
  • WordPress is affordable. If you’re on a tight budget, WordPress is a great option because it’s free to use. You’ll just need to pay for web hosting, with shared plans starting at around $5 per month.
  • WordPress is flexible. With WordPress, you can sell any type of book, including eBooks, audiobooks, and physical books. You can also sell other items on your website, such as book-related merchandise. You can even add additional features later as your business grows like a forum, live chat, or galleries.
  • WordPress has a large community. If you ever need help with your WordPress website, you can find support from the large WordPress community that exists online. From the WordPress Codex to the official support forums to the abundance of tutorials, videos, and Facebook groups on the subject, your questions will be answered.
  • WordPress has bookstore-specific themes and plugins available. While other eCommerce platforms might have some book-related features, WordPress has everything you need to sell books online. There are plenty of themes and plugins available centered around book selling businesses.

Now that you know why WordPress is the best platform for your online bookstore, let’s take a look at the categories your shop could fall into.

Types of online bookstores

There are three types of online bookstores, generally speaking: new, used, and eBook. Let’s explore each of these types in more detail.

  • New bookstores. A new bookstore specializes in selling new books that are currently in print. Because you’ll be dealing with publishers, you’ll need to establish relationships and set up accounts with them. You’ll also need to invest in inventory upfront, which can be costly.
  • Used bookstores. A used bookstore specializes in selling used books. These books can be sourced from a number of places, such as estate sales, book fairs, and online marketplaces. Because you won’t be dealing with publishers, you won’t need to establish relationships or set up accounts with them. Because you’ll be selling used books, you won’t need to invest in inventory upfront.
  • eBook bookstores. This bookstore specializes in selling eBooks. These books are digital files that can be downloaded and read on a variety of devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. As you’ll be selling digital products, you won’t need to invest much in inventory upfront.

What you need to start selling books

With the type of online bookstore you want to create in mind, it’s time to start thinking about the practicalities of setting up.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

A solid brand

When you’re thinking about starting an online bookstore, it’s important to choose a niche. There are a number of different book niches you could focus on, and each has its own benefits.

Here are some of the most popular book categories:

  • Children’s books: Children’s books are always in demand, and make up a large portion of the book market. If you sell children’s books, you’ll have a built-in audience of parents and grandparents who are looking for gift ideas.
  • General fiction: Fiction is one of the most popular book types, and includes everything from romance novels to thrillers. If you sell all types of fiction books, you’ll be able to appeal to a wide range of readers.
  • Genre fiction: Genre fiction is a catch-all term for books that don’t fit into the other major book categories. This includes everything from science fiction to horror. If you sell genre fiction, you’ll be able to cater to niche audiences like those who love to read cozy mysteries or those who prefer to dive into a sprawling romance.
  • Non-fiction: Non-fiction covers a wide range of topics from history to self-help. If you sell non-fiction books, you’ll be able to attract readers who are looking to learn more about the world around them.

Once you’ve decided on a niche, it’s time to start thinking about your branding. Your branding should reflect the type of books you sell and should be memorable and recognizable.

To come up with a strong brand for your online bookstore, start by brainstorming a list of potential names.

You can use a random name generator like Namelix to get your creativity flowing. Once you have a few ideas, run them by family and friends to see what they think.

If you’re struggling to come up with the look for your brand, a color palette generator can be helpful, too. Coolors is a great choice in this regard.

A source of books

Of course, you’ll need a source of books to sell in your online bookstore. There are a few different options available when it comes to sourcing books.

Let’s explore a few of them now.

Buy books from a wholesaler

Wholesalers sell large quantities of books at a discounted price. Purchasing the books you wish to sell from a wholesaler is the most common method of stocking a bookstore. Brick and mortar businesses use this option frequently.

While this is a viable choice, unless you have a lot of inventory space and plan to move large quantities of books, purchasing from a wholesaler may not be the most cost-effective (or practical) option.

Buy books from an online retailer

Online retailers sell books at a higher price than wholesalers, but usually have a wider selection of titles available.

This is often a preferred choice for those looking to start a niche bookstore that offers a very specific set of titles. The more narrow your focus, the more likely it is you’ll need to get creative in how you stock your store.

Buy books from an individual seller

Individual sellers are people who sell books they already own. The used book market always has people looking to get rid of their book collections to make some extra cash.

To find individual sellers, start by checking out online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Buy books directly from publishers and distributors

Publishers and distributors sell books at a higher price than wholesalers, but they usually have a wider selection of titles available.

A simple online search should yield results for publishers and distributors in your niche. Once you’ve found a few potential sources, reach out to them and see if they’re interested in working with you.

A book inventory system

Once you have a source of books, you’ll need a way to keep track of your inventory.

A book inventory system will help you keep track of the titles you have in stock, as well as the prices you’re selling them for.

There are a few different book inventory systems available, including BookTrakker but most often your eCommerce platform (which we’ll discuss in a bit) will handle your inventory sufficiently.

A business plan

Last but not least, you’ll need a business plan. Your business plan should lay out your goals for your online bookstore, as well as your strategies for achieving those goals.

The structure of a business plan for an online bookstore should include:

  • An executive summary: This is a brief overview of your business plan. It should include your business goals, as well as an overview of your strategies for achieving those goals.
  • A description of your business: This section of your business plan should provide more detail about your online bookstore. Describe the type of books you sell, as well as your target market.
  • Your marketing plan: In this section of your business plan, outline your plans for marketing your online bookstore. Include a discussion of your branding strategy, as well as your plans for promoting your business online and offline.
  • Your financial plan: This section of your business plan should include a discussion of your start-up costs, as well as your plans for generating revenue. Include a projected income statement and balance sheet for your business.

Of course, there’s more to creating a business plan than just these sections. But the above will hopefully give you a starting point to begin to think about what you’d like to accomplish with your bookstore.

With a business plan in hand, it’s essential to properly register your online bookstore with the appropriate authorities.

Once your business is registered, you can start working on setting up your website and promoting your bookselling business.

How to set up an online bookstore

We’ve reviewed the startup basics for how to start an online bookstore. Now it’s time to actually get started!

Read on as we explore 6 key steps you’ll need to take to get your business up and running online.

Step 1: Web hosting, domain and WordPress setup

To create a professional website for your online bookstore, you’ll need to set up web hosting and install WordPress.

Securing web hosting and a domain name is fairly straightforward. Typically, we recommend SiteGround for top-tier web hosting services.

To get started on that platform, you’ll need to pick the appropriate hosting plan.

Be certain to select a plan that supports eCommerce services, as that will be essential for getting your store up and running.

As for your domain name, try to choose something that’s easy to remember and relevant to your bookselling business.

Once you’ve settled on a domain name, you can purchase it through a reputable domain registrar on its own, but most hosting plans include domain registration with the plan as a package deal.

Once you’ve paid for hosting and configured your domain name, you can move on to the actual site-building.

Your first order of business here is installing WordPress .

Most web hosting providers offer a one-click install solution for WordPress that works precisely how it sounds. Click a single button, input your site details, voila — WordPress is installed on your server automatically.

Step 2: Install a theme

After you have WordPress set up and running on your domain, it’s time to start building out the actual website. You’ll need to choose a WordPress theme that best represents your online bookstore.

Your theme will determine the overall look and feel of your website, so it’s important to choose one that’s well-designed and stylish.

It’s also important to make sure that your theme is responsive (meaning it will look good on mobile devices), and that it includes the eCommerce functionality you need to sell books online.

There are tons of great bookstore WordPress themes out there, both free and premium. We recommend going with a premium theme, if you can afford it.

Astra is a well-rounded and lightweight WordPress theme that takes customization and speed optimization seriously.

It works with all your favorite page builder plugins and you can pair it with hundreds of website templates that aim to help you get a website off the ground in just a few clicks.

Recommended Astra’s templates:

  • Bookstore website templates and designs
  • Author website templates

The Book Store Starter Template is a great choice for selling books from home.

This Starter Template offers prominent sections to promote the works of individual authors as well as highlight featured titles in your inventory.

Step 3: Set up an eCommerce platform

With your WordPress website up and running with a book theme, it’s time to start setting up your eCommerce platform.

An eCommerce platform is the software that will power your online book sales, from processing payments to managing inventory.

While there are many great options out there, WooCommerce is the logical choice for WordPress.

This WordPress plugin turns your site into a fully functioning online store , complete with all the features and functionality you need to sell books from home.

Best of all, it’s free to use. Though you will need to pay for some premium addons to get the most out of it.

To get started with WooCommerce, all you need to do is install the plugin on your WordPress site.

You can do this directly from your WordPress dashboard by going to Plugins > Add New and searching for WooCommerce.

Once you’ve found the WooCommerce plugin, click Install Now and then Activate once the installation is complete.

WooCommerce will then prompt you to run through a quick setup wizard to setting up your store . This will help you get your bookselling business off on the right foot by allowing you to choose the location of your store, set up taxes, choose your preferred currency, and more.

Once you’ve gone through the setup wizard, you’re ready to start adding products to your online bookstore.

When selling eBooks only

If you only plan on selling eBooks and no tangible goods, a plugin dedicated to digital products might be better suited for your situation.

Easy Digital Downloads is a popular WordPress plugin that allows you to sell digital products from your website. It’s easy to use and comes with all the features you need to manage your inventory and process payments.

Like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads is a free plugin. It does offer a few premium addons that you can purchase to add more functionality to your bookstore though.

To get started with Easy Digital Downloads, install and activate the plugin on your WordPress site.

Once activated, you’ll need to go through the initial setup wizard to choose your preferred settings.

After that, you can start adding products to your book store. Easy Digital Downloads makes it easy to add digital products, and offer discounts and create coupon codes for your customers.

Step 4: Install variation swatches

If you’re using WooCommerce, you’ll definitely want to install Variation Swatches next.

This plugin allows you to customize the swatches for product variations, making it easier for customers to see what options are available.

For example, if you stock books in a variety of formats, you can use variation swatches to allow customers to choose the hardback, paperback, audio book or digital versions of a book.

Product variation swatches are especially important when selling books because customers need to be able to choose between different book formats.

This plugin allows you to change up the borders, backgrounds, and images associated with your swatches. It even lets you add tooltips to each variation.

To get started with Variation Swatches, install and activate the plugin on your WordPress site.

Once activated, you’ll need to go to Products > Attributes to configure the attributes that you will later assign to individual products (as the variation options).

For each attribute you want to use as a swatch (like book format), you’ll need to add it as a new attribute first.

Then, you can add the available options for that attribute as swatches.

Once you’ve configured your attributes and swatches, they will automatically be displayed on your book store pages.

Learn more about variation swatches here .

Step 5: Install recommended bookstore plugins

Now you have your book store up and running, there are a few essential WordPress plugins you can install to take things to the next level.

Here are our top recommendations for bookstores:

WordPress books showcase plugin

This plugin allows you to create beautiful book showcase pages on your WordPress website. It’s perfect for creating book lists, staff picks, and more.

Recencio book reviews

This book review plugin allows you to collect book reviews from customers and display them on your site. It’s a great way to increase customer trust and boost sales. Plus, you can use it to showcase staff-written reviews as well, which can make for a compelling promotional tool.

Mooberry book manager

If you plan on selling a lot of books from your WordPress book store, you’ll need a powerful book management plugin to help you keep things organized. Mooberry Book Manager is a great option that allows you to list book titles on your website.

Of course, these aren’t including other plugins you may need as well for managing more general aspects of your website like SEO , performance, and layout.

You can find essential WooCommerce plugins here.

Step 6: Promote your bookstore

Now your bookstore is up and running, it’s time to start promoting it to book lovers everywhere.

There are a number of different ways you can do this, but some of the most effective include:

Set up social media profiles

Creating social media profiles for your book store is a great way to connect with potential customers and promote your latest books.

Be sure to post engaging content and use relevant hashtags to reach book-lovers in your target market.

Launch a blog

If you don’t already have one, launching a blog is a great way to promote your book store and attract new visitors. Write book-related articles, book reviews, and more to get people interested in what you have to offer.

You can also use paid advertising to promote your book store online. Google Ads is a great option for reaching potential customers who are already interested in buying books.

Get involved in online reader communities

There are lots of book-related communities online that you can get involved in to promote your book store.

For example, you could participate in book club discussions, join book-related forums, and more.

Start a newsletter

Starting a newsletter is a great way to keep book-lovers up-to-date on the latest arrivals. Be sure to include book recommendations or exclusive discounts to encourage people to sign up.

Optimize for SEO

Don’t forget to optimize your book store website for SEO. This will help you attract organic traffic from search engines like Google.

Be sure to use relevant keywords and write compelling meta descriptions .

Reach out to readers

Connecting with book enthusiasts and book bloggers is still another effective way to promote your store. Ask them to write reviews, share your content, and review books on occasion.

But don’t limit yourself to just working with the book blog folks.

You should connect with people on BookTok (that’s the book community on TikTok) as well as BookTubers (book-loving YouTubers) to ensure your book store is in front of as many people as possible.

Attend/Host events

Attending book-related events is a great way to connect with potential customers and promote your store.

You could set up a booth at a book fair, participate in author signings, or host your own event to get the word out about your store.

Word of mouth

Last but not least, don’t forget the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Be sure to give your customers a great experience so they’re likely to recommend your book store to their friends and family.

By following these tips, you can get your book store off to a great start.

Frequently asked questions on starting a bookstore

If you’re still curious about some of the finer details about the book selling business, we’ve put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions on the subject.

Is there a demand for online bookstores?

Yes, there is a consistent demand for bookstores – especially those that sell online. Now is a great time to start an online book store.

What are the benefits of starting an online book store?

There are a number of benefits that come with starting an online book store. For one, it’s a relatively low-cost business to start. You also have the freedom to work from home and set your own hours. Plus, you can reach a global audience of book-lovers with an online book store.

What are the challenges of starting an online book store?

Like any business, there are a few challenges you’ll need to be aware of when starting an online book store. For one, you’ll need to invest time and effort into marketing your store. You’ll also need to stay up-to-date on the latest releases to ensure your store is stocked with the titles your customers want.

How much does it cost to start an online book store?

The cost of starting an online book store can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the platform you use to build your store and the inventory you carry. Expect to spend anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to get your bookstore up and running.

Can I start an online book store with no money?

It is possible to start an online book store with little to no money, although it will likely take longer to get your business off the ground. One way to do this is to find a book supplier that offers terms like consignment, which allows you to sell books without having to pay for them upfront.

Another option is to use a platform like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to self-publish eBooks and sell them on Amazon . This can be a great way to get your book store started with little to no money.

What are some tips for marketing an online book store?

There are a number of effective marketing strategies you can use to promote your online bookstore. One is to invest time in SEO to help you attract organic traffic from search engines. Be sure to use relevant keywords throughout your website, from your titles and descriptions to your blog posts and book reviews.

You should also focus on building relationships with book bloggers and other book-related social media influencers. These relationships can help you get your books featured on popular websites and blogs, as well as give you a boost on social media.

Conclusion: will you sell books from home?

Now you know how to start an online book store, the next step is to put your plan into action.

By following these tips, you can get your book store up and running in no time. And who knows? With a little hard work and dedication, you could be selling books from home full-time in no time!

Remember, if you’re on the hunt for an open-and-go solution for getting started, the Book Store Starter Template for Astra is a great way to get your book shop launched and live quickly and easily.

Do you have any insights into how to start a book selling business online? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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September 20, 2023

How to start an online bookstore business

Table of Contents

Planning your online bookstore business 

Market research , knowledge and skills , bookstore format , supplies , business plan , setting up your online bookstore , registration , taxes , insurance , organising your online bookstore business , daily operations , financial organisation , business current account , accounting software, marketing your online bookstore to attract customers , website , social media , paid advertising , simplify your new business finances with countingup.

Considering starting an online bookstore business? You may be on to something. Today, book sales take up a £6.4 billion market in the UK, with about £3 billion of those sales being digital. Selling books online makes them more accessible and convenient. So, this kind of business can be profitable if you know where to focus your efforts. But, if you wonder how to start an online bookstore business, we can help.

This guide will cover how to start an online bookstore business, including: 

  • Planning 
  • Setting up 
  • Organising 
  • Marketing 

If you want to know how to start an online bookstore business, you’ll need a plan before setting up. Having a strong idea for your business will help you make the right choices and pursue them with a clear head. We’ll cover the essentials of planning for your business. 

The first step in planning a new business is conducting market research . This research will help you understand the market by studying stats, trends, and demand. These factors will guide your pricing and sales goals. In addition, the sales numbers and interaction will allow you to define your target audience , or the people most interested in your products. 

Market research will inform you on significant competitors, such as Waterstones and Kindle. Plus, you can uncover similar small businesses. These businesses might be a good place to pull ideas from or show you an opportunity or market gap you could enter. 

With a clear idea of what you’re up against, you can determine what unique approach or specialisation will help you stand out. For example, took on the challenges of the pandemic by supporting local bookshops. You might choose to focus on a specific genre of books, support underrepresented groups, or curate rare finds. 

Once you understand the online bookstore market, consider the skills necessary to succeed in this market. You likely already have a passion for literature and reading, which will be important for bookselling. If you want to sell books, you’ll need to believe in them. 

In addition, you could take a course or read a few books on the bookselling and publishing industry. Understanding the workings of the industry will prepare you for this business. You’ll also need to have strong marketing skills to make your business shine in the crowded digital space. 

To stay updated with news and trends in the literary community, you might want to join the Booksellers Association . Plus, subscribe to relevant magazines, trade journals, and follow literary-community social media accounts and groups. From book reviewers to publishers and sellers, staying on top of everything will help you stay informed.  

Next, to start an online bookstore business, you’ll need to decide it’s format. Will you sell and ship physical books online, focus only on ebook sales, or do both? Through what platform will you sell these books? For example, you could design an online store or use an established platform like Amazon. Using an existing platform might help you access their audience, but having your own store will allow you to keep more of the money you earn. 

Whichever platform you choose to sell on, you’ll need to plan how to accept payments . 

After deciding your bookstore format, you’ll need the right supplies to get your business running. Supplies, of course, include books, so find a wholesale supplier for the format your plan to sell. How you stock your shop may depend on your approach or specialisation. For example, if you plan only to sell self-published books, you might track down and reach out directly to authors. 

When selling books, you must be aware of and ensure you have the proper selling rights, so you don’t break copyright law. You can read more about UK copyright law here . 

On top of books, you’ll also need a place to sell them, such as a website or online shop. If you plan to ship physical books, you’ll need packaging materials and postage. 

Now that you have outlined your business, you can put it together in a business plan . A business plan summarises your purpose and products while outlining goals and objectives. This document helps guide you through starting your business, and it’s a great way to measure progress. Plus, if you need to secure funding for your business by either finding an investor or applying for a loan, you’ll need to show them your business plan. 

Another significant aspect of your business plan is the budget . A budget helps you plan for and stick to how much you spend on your business. It’s crucial when starting your company because you’ll have to consider startup costs.  

Once you plan your online bookstore, you can set the business up legally. There’s a few key steps to turning your business idea into a legal entity. 

First, register your business, and it’s name with the UK government. You can register as either a sole trader or a limited company . Sole traders are personally liable for their business, while limited companies are separate legal entities from their directors. Though being a sole trader might put you at more of a financial risk, you’ll need to maintain fewer records and pay fewer taxes.

When starting an online bookstore business, you may not have major operational costs or earnings from the start. Unless you plan to grow rapidly, you might prefer to start as a sole trader.  

Once you register your business, you’ll need to pay taxes for it. In other words, you’ll maintain financial records and report your income to the HMRC. If you’re self-employed and receive variable income, you’ll likely have to submit a Self Assessment tax return . 

If you register as a limited company, you’ll pay corporation tax in addition to income or dividend tax and national insurance. Plus, if you estimate earnings over £85,000 annually, you’ll need to register for VAT . VAT registered businesses must comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD) , a governmental initiative to digitise and simplify the tax process. Soon MTD will expand to cover most businesses, so it’s essential to be conscious of. 

Insurance is another essential step to setting up your business as it protects you from financial risk. If your business is entirely digital, you may not need public liability insurance , or insurance that protects you from damage or injury your business is at fault for. Still, it’s worth considering. Regardless, you might want to insure your book stock or digital data as these things can hurt you financially if they’re lost or damaged. 

After setting up, another essential part of knowing how to start an online bookstore business is organising it well. With the right organisation, you can stay on top of your operations and track your performance. 

First, you’ll need to think about how you’ll organise your business day-to-day. Keeping organised with a calendar, timetable, and to-do list will help you manage your operations. Consider using a business management tool like Google Workspace or Microsoft Office , which allow you to keep your calendar, communications, and documents in one place. 

Apart from that, you may want to use a tool like monday or Trello to coordinate your tasks and projects. For example, if you plan to design a website and create a list of books to order, you can make tasks for these projects. Then, add subtasks for each to break them up and make them more manageable.  

But organising your daily operations isn’t enough. You also need to organise your finances well. Businesses are required to do financial accounting, or the record-keeping of financial transactions. The HMRC actually expects you to store these records for about six years. But to stay on top of it all, you’ll need a little help.

First, separate your business finances from your personal ones by opening a business current account . By having a bank account specifically for your business, you can avoid digging through your bank statements to find business expenses. It will also prevent you from mixing up personal transactions with business ones. As a result, you’ll maintain more accurate records. 

But to stay on top of your bookkeeping and understand your business performance, you’ll need modern accounting software, like Countingup . Unlike most accounting tools, Countingup is a business current account with built-in accounting software that helps you organise your business finances in one place. 

To help you manage your business expenses, the Countingup app offers automatic expense categorisation. This tool instantly labels your transactions with HMRC approved categories so you can more easily find them. Plus, the app has a receipt capture tool that reminds you to snap a picture of your receipt when you pay for something with your Countingup card. 

Countingup also simplifies taxes with year-round tax estimates so you won’t be surprised by these expenses. Plus, the app is MTD-compliant, allowing you to easily share your financial data with your accountant without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies.

Once you know how to start an online bookstore business, you can market it to customers. Marketing is essential to growing your audience and finding customers for your bookstore. 

Since this is an online business, you likely already considered designing a website . But your website can be more than just an online shop. It’s also a great place to market your business by explaining who you are and what you offer. 

When designing your site, consider your business’s brand , or tone and design that represents it to the public. You can use this to design a logo and pick a colour scheme that stands out. Also, be sure to make the site easily navigable and mobile-friendly. 

On top of the bookstore, be sure to include an about page, contact information, and links to other places people can find your business, such as social media channels. 

You may also want to incorporate a blog to your website to take advantage of content marketing. Content marketing is less promotional-focused material that can draw in an audience. For example, you could write book reviews, interview writers, or write about news in the literary community. 

Regularly updating your site will help it look more professional and credible. Also, incorporate SEO tactics that will help your blog post rank higher on Google search results. This exposure will direct traffic to your website and draw in more book customers. 

Social media marketing is another way to grow an audience when starting an online bookstore business. Consider establishing a presence on social channels like Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram. You can post book-related content and share photos of the products you sell. TikTok and Goodreads are also platforms that will help you access a literary audience.  

Paid advertising can also help you earn customers for your online bookstore. You may want to invest in Google Ads or Facebook Ads to reach a targeted audience that would be interested in buying your books. Though this costs more than running your own social accounts, it can reach more people with less effort. With these strategies, you can start earning money from your bookstore in no time. 

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you start a business. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. It can help you set up and manage your bookstore business as it grows. 

The Countingup app does more than separate your business finances and helps you stay on top of your transactions. It also generates cash flow insights, helping you analyse what you earn and spend and track your business performance. As a result, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are and make better business decisions. 

Start your three-month free trial today. 

Find out more here .


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online book store business model

How to Sell Books Online Through Your Own Digital Bookstore

We’ve all heard stories about how Amazon and other major retailers have “killed the bookstore” as we know it. But these tales are nothing more than fiction.

It’s true that these mega-brands have changed the game—in all forms of consumerism, not just books. But it’s also true that tons of niche bookstores, brands, and resellers have been able to carve themselves a special slice of the pie.

These are the ones who realized that this market is massive and flexible. They’ve also realized that book lovers are even willing to pay extra when these stores offer a special customer experience or unique personality flair.

In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of how to sell books online. From opening an independent bookstore to reselling to self-publishing your own work, we’ve got you covered on your path to delivering good reads to the masses.

online book store business model

Start selling online now with Shopify

online book store business model

How to start an online bookselling business

1. decide on a business idea.

There are a dozen ways to launch a business in the book space. You can start with the traditional bookstore model, which covers many genres to attract a wider base of booklovers. Another way is to focus on a niche genre (e.g., action-adventure, fantasy), building a business around that specific theme. Here are a few more book selling business ideas:

  • Write and self-publish your own book, selling to customers directly.
  • Offer a specific type of books (e.g., coloring books, textbooks, comics).
  • Sell used, out-of-print, rare, or vintage books IRL or online. 
  • Cater to a niche audience (e.g., women, LGBTQ+, children). 
  • Launch a book-themed subscription bundle or box.
  • Sell audiobooks or ebooks online via digital delivery.
  • Start a book adjacent business (e.g., paper and book cleaner, book stands)

how to sell books online

2. Get familiar with trade terms

As a budding bookseller, it helps to get familiar with the terms frequently used in the book industry. Some key ones to learn include:

International Standard Book Number (ISBN): A numerical code used to identify a book. Libraries, publishers, retailers, and other businesses along the book supply chain use this unique number for ordering and stock control. All books published after 2006 have a 13-digit ISBN, while books published before that period have a 10-digit ISBN.

First edition: The first printed and commercially distributed copy of a book. 

Advance reading copy (ARC): A pre-published, almost-complete copy of a book close to being released. ARCs are circulated to book buyers, reviewers, and influencers to build early buzz around a title.

Backlist: A publisher’s list of older books that are still in print and once enjoyed being on the front shelves of bookstores.

Out of print (OP): A book title that is no longer being printed or reprinted by the publisher.

Book wholesaler: A company that buys large quantities of books from publishers and sells them to retailers, libraries, and institutes. Wholesalers usually get volume discounts from publishers and can sell at a lower price without hurting their margins. 

Book distributor: A business that warehouses and sells books to retailers, libraries, and sometimes wholesalers on behalf of publishers.

Trade bookseller:  Another name for a retail bookseller or retail bookstore. Trade booksellers sell to the general public, and include online stores, large retail chains, and independent bookstores.

List price: The retail price or cover price of a book, often printed on the back cover or sleeve. 

3.  Choose your business model

Aspiring booksellers have a number of business models available at their disposal. However, they’ll select one of these two options: self-publishing, to sell their own books; or selling used and vintage books. 

Self-publishing is a lot easier these days, thanks to a host of tools available online to assist you. Once you write a book and get it edited and formatted, you can take it to a book publishing platform, such as those run by Amazon or Apple , to create your new ebook, hardcover, paperback, or audiobook. You can also bypass traditional distribution channels and sell books through print on demand or by using your own website in digital formats.

But if you’re looking to open an independent bookstore, selling used and vintage books will give you a larger variety to work with. You can appeal to a specific niche by seeking out and selling books from a certain time period or genre, or simply sell a range of books from various sources, like thrift stores, garage sales, and library clearance sales. Other potential sources of inventory include:

  • Online marketplaces like eBay
  • Local buy-and-sell listings
  • Used bookstores

Unless your used books are particularly rare, you’ll usually sell them for less than the standard list price. This means you’ll need to be selective about the books you carry, as low-priced books may be difficult to profit from, particularly after shipping and other fees.

online book store business model

4. Learn the sourcing process

If you’re opening a bookstore and planning to sell different books, you’ll need to find a supplier. You may choose to buy books from a distributor or wholesaler or work directly with a range of publishers. In either scenario, you’ll want to build a strong relationship with the vendor, as this can lead to discounts and deals over time. 

While you may find that, as a new entrant in the books market, it’s easier to work with one wholesaler, the fact is it’s simple to set up accounts with publishers directly. Sure, some publishers have minimums, but many allow booksellers to order as little as one copy of a book. Publishers may also offer you little extras, like letters from authors and signed bookplates, as your relationship strengthens.

5. Set up your online bookstore

Now that you’ve chosen your business model and honed in on your supplier, you can set up your online store using an ecommerce platform such as Shopify .

Shopify has a number of preset themes that are suitable for bookstores. You can plug your copy, logo, and visual assets into a theme like Minimal or Label to create your store’s design. Many themes are fully customizable, allowing you to choose page elements and colors to suit your layout.  

Shopify also provides useful add-ons and apps to make running a bookselling business easier. Here are a few worth checking:

  • Easy Digital Products  is ideal for bookstores looking to sell digital formats like PDFs, ebooks, and audiobooks.
  • Kodbar: Barcodes & Labels  can generate a variety of bar codes for different products, including ISBNs for books.
  • Lulu Direct  is a print-on-demand service for books.
  • GoodreadR Book Reviews imports reviews from GoodReads and showcases them on the product page of each book.

While it’s possible to skip developing your online store and sell simply through marketplaces and social media groups, having your own website is more lucrative in the long term. Your store will help you form long-standing connections and improve how customers perceive your book brand.

6. Expand to other channels

Outside of your own online store, you can sell your books through channels like:

  • Online marketplaces. Etsy is a great platform for booksellers with rare and vintage books, while eBay is ideal for selling all kinds of used and new books. You can also sell on the Facebook Marketplace , allowing people in your locality to buy your books.
  • Bulk sales. This can be a profitable choice for nonfiction writers who sell books in bulk to bookstores and institutes. Medical book writers could sell to hospitals, while legal writers might make more money selling in bulk to law firms, for instance.
  • Crowdfunding sites. Sites like Kickstarter and Unbound allow authors to sell books directly, basically helping to raise money for a print run.
  • Offline selling. If you usually sell exclusively online, opening your own brick-and-mortar, pop-up, or farmers market shop can be a great way to increase your sales. Start with something small, like a pop-up in your neighborhood, to see if offline selling is worth the effort.

where to sell books: offline markets

Selling books online is more attainable than you might think

While it may seem like the old-fashioned bookstore is gone, you still have a world of opportunity to bring your bookselling dreams to life.

It’s important to understand your unique place in the market, how you’ll be able to find and tap into the right audience, and how you can do so while still being able to turn a profit.

All it takes is some solid research, an eye for detail, and your imagination.

How to sell books online FAQ

Where can i sell books online.

The best place to sell books online is your own ecommerce website, as it lets you create an independent brand that helps build customer recognition and trust. However, you might also consider selling books through other channels to expand your reach. 

AbeBooks is a site that allows independent bookstores to sell globally; social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are ideal for self-published books; and vintage booksellers may find success on marketplaces where people shop for antique and rare titles.

Where can I sell used books online?

You can sell used books through your own website, online marketplaces, social media channels, and in-person events. You can also tap into the vintage books market by selling rare, antique, and out-of-print books through platforms like Etsy. 

As a merchant selling used books, you can set parameters for the types of audience you’ll target so you can build a loyal customer base for specific genres or niches.

How do I sell books on Amazon?

You can start your Amazon bookselling journey by registering as an individual or professional seller on Amazon’s website. To list a book for sale, go to its product listing page and click the Sell on Amazon button. 

Amazon makes it easy to find product pages for the books you want to sell: simply type the book’s ISBN into the search bar and Amazon will present you with its listing page.  

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    Written by Dave Lavinsky Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 5,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their bookstores. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning.

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    Here are a few: Write and self-publish your own book, selling to your fans directly. Sell used, vintage, rare, or out-of-print books online. Offer a specific type of books (e.g., text books, comic books, coloring books). Build a business around a specific theme (e.g., food, sea life, outdoor living). Sell ebooks or audiobooks online as

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