I want to own a bookstore. Put more accurately: I want to own a bookstore and so does my girlfriend. She’s currently in grad school so I have two years to prepare before we begin. Right now my preparation is mostly in reading about how to set up a small business and to read about the experiences of those who have gone before. That’s how I found this site.
If there’s anything I’ve learned so far in my time that I’ve been reading The Bookshop Blog, it seems that I’m not the only one who wants to get into this industry. Everyone has a different take on how they want to work in the book industry, though. There are the people that sell the occasional book online to supplement their income, there is the professional online bookseller, there is the used bookstore owner, and there is the new bookstore owner. Not everyone fits into just one of the categories. Some, in fact, most, fit into two, three, or even all four of the categories.
I’ve never been a fan of jumping into something feet first. I hate surprises (just ask my girlfriend. Just about any time we watch a movie I always want to know the ending half an hour in.) I need experience. I can learn a lot from reading, but I can learn even more by doing. To this end I have a few ideas for how to gain experience. First, I’m going to get into online bookselling, but even that I’m going to start slowly. Before I set up my own personal web presence on my own page I’m going to work through online marketplaces. First, I’ll start easy in the Amazon marketplace. Then, I’ll move onto Abebooks and other similar sites. At the same time, if I’m going to operate a bookstore, I need to know how a bookstore operates.
I know that I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to have false starts and ideas that go nowhere. I’ll hit dead ends and maybe even get hit. (I’ve heard that things can sometimes get heated at flea markets…) As I go, I’m going to write about what I’m doing, how it’s working out for me, and any tips that I come across that will help others to avoid the mistakes that I’ve been making.
To that end: here’s the first step. It may not be the first step others take, but my girlfriend and I both thought that it was important: having a name. A name is what you create your brand with. The brand is who you are. Naming something makes it real. By putting a name to our proposed store it went from being “our proposed store” to “NAME OF STORE!” The store’s name needs to embody the vision that you have for your store: what you want to do and what kind of image you project. We went out to a bar one night and just sat there with a pen, paper, and my iphone. We ordered our first pitcher and started throwing out ideas. Each idea was examined based on criteria that we made up as we went along: it had to be unique, it had to be easy to remember, it had to be imaginative, it had to not be a pun (which was hard for me…I love puns at all times, but mostly make them after drinking. I came up with some stinkers that night. I’m really lucky I’m not single now, really).
Eventually we hit on one: a bookstore name that we couldn’t find any other store with an internet presence using, one that sounded good to us and gave the air of sophistication but friendliness that we wanted to give to our customers. For now, we’re keeping the name close to our chests. Someday, though, it’ll be a big name. And you’ll all be able to say you heard about it first.
[editor’s note: aw….come on Matt, we won’t tell anybody…I hope our regular readers will tell us what one of their first orders of business was.]