Running a successful used bookstore

In this article I will show from experience the top ten rules of running a successful bookstore.

1. Greet every customer with a smile and a hello. Sounds simple enough, but surprisingly this does not happen in most bookstores. I can’t tell you how many bookstores in the United States I have been to that do not even acknowledge most of the customers that walk through the door. Treat your customer like how you want to be treated sums it up.

2. Carry The New York time’s top ten bestsellers. People want to read what’s hot. Keep in it stock! Disappointed customers may never

3. Keep the aisles clean. Too many used bookstores have piles of books on the floor, stacks leaning against a shelf. This not only presents an unorganized view of your store but can also be a danger to others. Appearance is everything.

4. Quality stock. Books that are falling apart, library discards, books with excessive tanning, extremely creased spines are just some examples. Poor looking books will not keep you in business if it looks like your competing with a local thrift store.

5. Keep at least three copies of all the classics. Steinbeck, Fleming, Thompson, Fitzgerald, Salinger among others. Little house on the prairie, Anne of Greene Gables are among many sets that customers will always want.

6. Do not carry out of style books that are no longer relevant. This can include exercise books from the 70s and 80s.How to file your tax return 1995 and travel and or motel guides that are more than three years from the print date. Relevant and current content is a must.

7. Cull or weed out your stock every 2 years. If a book has sat there for more than two years its time to say goodbye to it. Mark down the price by half and have a bargain shelf or cart for old stock. Keep it there no longer than a month then donate the rest to a local charity or nursing home.

8. If your store is themed around particular subjects, such as religion or metaphysical, then invite local authors who write on those subjects to host a book signing or talk about that subject. This will increase interest in your store and bring in new customer.

9. Be involved with your local chamber of commerce. You are part of the small business community so you should meet with other owners, share ideas and grow together. This is one important rule so many small business owners overlook.

10. People do not have to buy from you. I know many old bookstore owners that still feel they are the only place in town for people to come and buy from. Since the mega stores such as Barnes and Nobles and Borders have come to town and the advent of the internet, people have more choices than ever. Make your shop the place to go.

Running your own bookstore can be a fun and even profitable way to live. Follow the ten rules above and you will find success.

John Hedges is a used book dealer in Denver Colorado. For the last five years he has helped run and advised bookstores in Boulder, Ft Collins and Denver Colorado.
Many free articles on the book trade are located on his website at


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