Does it pay to be a bookseller?
It’s a bit like asking if it pays to be a songwriter. The answer is, “it depends.”
It certainly doesn’t pay to be a songwriter who only makes money producing their own music and selling through CDBaby or Tunecore. It pays a bit more if you also do wedding gigs.
But it certainly pays to be Bono.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell books. The books are an excuse to turn your hobby into a business, but they’re not a business in themselves. You have to add something else.
I have found other ways to make money that go along with books. Most corner bookshops are struggling and going out of business. But there are other ways.
Ask me if book selling pays and I’ll say Jeff Bezos started as a book seller and became the third-richest man in the world. He adopted book selling as a platform to build something even greater.
Book selling attracts great customers who also happen to be well off and educated so it’s a nice way to work with nice people who also have some money and other things they need to buy.
It’s also a fun side hustle. That’s what Book Driver has to sell actually and we have a handful of people here in Denver using our platform to make way more per hour of work than driving for Uber. For Book Driver we combined book selling with panning for gold. Yes two fun things that create an uber-fun hobby business.
Some people start it as a side hustle and have a bigger idea such as my friend, Caleb who liked book selling so much he developed a software to value books, and buy and sell under priced books on Amazon.
What doesn’t pay is renting a storefront, getting shelves, putting out some books and hoping for the best. You will close the store in a year.
Large bookstores such as Powell’s in Oregon and the Last Bookstore in LA all have an edge in real estate costs. The main problem is the rent cost. They have an edge, by that I mean an angle. The Last Bookstore has a sweetheart lease from the downtown partnership of LA. Powell’s does over $3 million of it’s estimated $43 million online and although a small portion of total sales, I’m sure it makes up a big parts of the profit and value of the business.
For a small-scale bookstore, controlling real estate costs is the big problem so the solution is to use your real estate to create several lines of income. Or to set it up from home.
Part two is a list of ways it pays to be bookseller. Some are measured in cash money, some are measured by opportunity, some are measured by love and joy.