How to Start a Book Business

POSTED ON Mar 20, 2023

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

Home > Blog > Business, Learning, Publishing > How to Start a Book Business

Are you looking to make money from something you’re passionate about?

For many of us, making a living related to books is truly the dream life. 

Too many people have a disconnect between the things they care about most and how they make enough money to get by. When you stop and think about how much of our limited time in this world is spent working, wouldn’t it be nice to work on something that maters to you?

One viable choice is learning how to start a book business. There are many different paths to take depending on your strengths and interests. 

If you’re ready to say goodbye to your mundane working life and build your own book business, read on! We’ll explain exactly how it’s done. 


This guide to how to start a book business covers:

  1. What is a book business?
  2. What type of book business should I start?
  3. Benefits of starting a book business
  4. Things to consider before you start your book business
  5. Are you ready to build your dream book business

Let’s get to it!

What is a book business?

When you think of a book business, what springs to mind?

Perhaps it’s your favorite local bookstore where you can always find a like minded soul to recommend the latest reads to hit the shelves. 

Or maybe you picture someone bringing together the writers in their community to share their love of books at a cozy event.

Of course, let’s not forget a major part of any book business – the authors and producers responsible for creating the books people love!

The fact of the matter is that almost anything related to books can be turned into a viable small business for you to build to a suitable scale. 

What type of book business should I start?

Maybe you already have an idea of what your dream book business would look like?

If not, let’s consider some book business ideas in the following four categories:

Creating

We live in a golden age for reading and writing. 

Technology has given more people than ever before the ability to write and release books. 

Traditional publishing is still a path for some authors, although many are waking up to the fact that they can make more money while enjoying greater creative freedom by opting for the independent publishing pathway. 

The huge growth of indie writers of all types means there’s more demand than ever for people to help with book creation. 

If you consider yourself a creative, why not consider building a small business based around:

  • Writing books
  • Proofreading
  • Editing 
  • Designing book covers
  • Formatting books 
  • Sensitivity reading

You could opt for the freelance route or choose to build a small service agency based around any of the above ideas. 

Selling

When we consider a bookselling business, it’s easy to dismiss it out of hand thanks to the dominance of Amazon. 

However, although Amazon is undoubtedly a powerful choice for authors and readers alike, it’s by no means the only one. 

If you want to consider alternative bookselling businesses than major online retail, take the time to ponder: 

  • Niche book website. While Amazon will probably be the dominant force in online bookselling for the foreseeable future, it’s by no means the only game in town. Plenty of people have ethical issues with Amazon and prefer to take their business elsewhere. If you’re passionate about a niche subset of books, why not turn that passion into a small website? You can create a community and also make money while supporting independent authors at the same time. 
  • Small independent bookshop. Online book buying offers amazing levels of convenience and choice, but books will always have people that prefer to shop for them in person. Just picture your average airport or busy bookstore if in doubt. Starting a small independent bookstore in your community is worth exploring if you’re passionate about creating a real-world hub for readers to come and find their next favorite read. 
  • Vintage book sales. There’s something special about the aesthetic of a vintage book. The aging of the paper and the design choices of a bygone era give it a vibe that modern books often can’t match. If you love the books of yesteryear, why not explore vintage book sales as a business? This could involve tracking down rare reads and reselling them for a profit. 
  • Import and export book sales. The most devoted fans of certain authors will go out of their way to obtain their rare releases. Books released for foreign markets are a prime example. Often, different markets will have unique book cover designs. The most devoted fans even collect books in languages they can’t read! Why not consider helping people at home or abroad access books they can’t easily get a hold of your path to business success?

These are just some of the many bookselling business pathways that prove Amazon is by no means a monopoly. 

Promotion

With the vast amount of books on offer in today’s market, people find it tough to discover the ones they would love the most. 

Because of this, book promotion is more needed than ever before. 

One of the best options is to create a dedicated promotion website for a subgenre you truly love. The more niche, the better! You can become the absolute go-to place for indie authors and readers alike to connect and share. 

As well as making money through this subgenre promotion business, you’ll be able to form connections with up and coming stars in your genre. That’s more rewarding than the average business. 

Events

Now that the world has opened back up after Covid, people are eager to make up for lost time and get together in person.

Readers and authors are no exception. Events that bring book-lovers and creators together are a great way to make money through your love of literature. 

Running an event might seem intimidating, but it’s easier than you might imagine. 

One proven method is to simply search the type of book events taking place in a city or town of a similar size to yours. Are there some good events that aren’t available in your community? Well guess what – you just discovered a tried and tested book event business!

In a lot of cases you’ll be able to negotiate deals with small event spaces that allow you to back out within a certain time period if you’re unable to generate enough interest. So don’t be put off by a perception of risk. You can manage your potential liability to whatever level you’re comfortable with. 

Benefits of starting a book business 

So now you know some book business to consider starting, what are some of the benefits of doing so? 

What’s so worthwhile about making it happen?

In our opinion, the four biggest benefits of starting a book business include:

  1. Evergreen industry

Books aren’t going anywhere. 

At one time, people predicted that books would lose popularity due to all the other entertainment options out there. 

In spite of the doom and gloom, book sales actually grew by over a third between 2012 and 2022. 

You don’t have to worry about if your book business is a fad. Of all the businesses you could start, one based around books will always have potential customers.

  1. Can be run from home/remote

If you want to run a bricks and mortar book retailer, live events, or a small market bookstand, those are all viable options.

But you don’t have to!

There are plenty of book businesses you can run on a remote basis. Your book business can operate at a time that suits you from anywhere in the world with wifi or 4G.

  1. Working with something you’re passionate about 

If you’re a true book lover, the chance to make books a major part of your day-to-day life is invaluable. You don’t need to surrender your working life to something you don’t care about. You can be around your true love for every hour of the working day. 

  1. Not much start up investment required 

One of the major reasons people are scared to start businesses is the fear of getting into debt and then seeing their business fold before it gets going. 

A lot of book businesses are totally free of that type of risk. Often, if you already own a phone or a computer, you have everything you need to get started. You can test your idea and see if it generates income before deciding to invest any more of your time or financial resources into keeping it going. 

Things to consider before you start your book business 

Perhaps you now see that starting a book business is a low-risk way to make a living from something you love? 

If that sounds about right, take just a few more moments to consider the following three points. Don’t sabotage your business before it even begins!

Legal side 

Different states and countries have their own rules and regulations regarding starting a business. We are by no means legal advisers so we advise you to check out the practical implications of starting a business in your location. It’s usually very straightforward and you can always hire a professional to handle any aspects you’re uncomfortable with. 

Business plan 

Before you jump headfirst into your new book business idea, take a moment to sketch out at least a basic business plan.

You want to consider how much money you are looking to generate and what your costs will be. 

To use a really simple example, imagine you want to start a steampunk book promotion and community website. You want to generate $20,000 in profit your first year from this. 

How would you make it happen? For example, you could charge 1000 people $20 a year to subscribe. 

But what costs would you incur? Perhaps just web hosting and a domain name? If so, signing up as few as 1002 people could be enough to hit your profit target. 

The specifics will be entirely down to you and the type of business you have in mind as well as your ambitions. 

But be sure to see if your book business seems viable before you take the time to get it going.

Are you ready to build your dream book business?

Hopefully you now have the inspiration and belief you need to turn your dream of running a book business into a reality. 

Strike a balance between learning more about your future business and taking the first steps to get it started. It’s better to learn on the go than to spend endless time in analysis paralysis. 

The world definitely needs more book businesses, so we wish you every success with yours. 


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