Fame, Fortune & The Independent Bookseller
If owning a bookstore is a long held dream, and you believe t
hat book selling is a simple activity that offers perks, such as
leisure time to sit and read great books….read on, “Why are
independent booksellers not implementing a publishing arm,
curating or offering services to customers who want to publish
This was a question asked by John Ingram, Chairman & CEO,
Ingram Content Group at the 2014 Book Expo America: Panel
Discussion, “The Future of Bricks and Mortar Retailers.”
And he further stated: “If I were running an independent bookstore,
I would have a publishing arm…” He acknowledged that some indies
were doing so but that it’s still a great untapped path.
Ingram’s observation is rooted in historical precedent.
The early origins of booksellers contain takeaway lessons in today’s world.
Colonial New England booksellers originally published material they sold in
their shops. In 17th century America, with printing presses owned
by a few, and with limited working capital, books were viewed as costly and risky.
So production of low-cost newspapers, pamphlets and almanacs were the focus. As was importing books from England and reprinting books, and retailing stationery products. Traveling book peddlers performed a valuable function and were considered important enough to warrant exclusion from an anti-hawking law in Mass, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
But Industrialization changed and shaped the role of book selling then as it continues to do now. And it is survival of those who can evaluate the marketplace efficiently.
Whether the dream is to open a bookselling business like the cozy warmth of a rural bookstore or the grandeur of El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, the love of books is not enough to succeed as a seller or publisher as industry members, such as Bookhouse owner Susan Novotny, have pointed out in the past. And CEO John Ingram has a degree in business administration and English from Princeton, so what he would do…and successfully isn’t what many small indies might be equipped to do…with or without similar education.
Many of the issues facing booksellers today have been around for more than 100 years, note industry historians.
Selected Book Sellers Who Publish
Today, those who both sell and publish successfully are in specialized niches within the book trade. For instance, Oak Knoll Books in Delaware specializes in rare and out of print literature about the bookselling industry. Mysterious Press in New York with its catalog of mystery, suspense, crime espionage titles, written by the best authors in the genre, and produced using top artists skilled in book cover design.
Booksellers using innovation, foresight, business acumen and strong community ties and relationships will carve out market share by rethinking the traditional model of a bookstore. For instance, Bus Boy’s and Poets, Little-Bookstore-Big-Stone-Gap are examples of community focus with a restaurant in the equation. Barter Books in the United Kingdom, is a used bookstore with an array of offerings. Note Barter Books does not publish, but they offer a unique twist in the marketplace.
And there is Singularity & Co. Think of the owners of this shop as rescue time travelers. A collaborative concern, they track down classic or little known out of print science fiction titles and reprint in digital formats. But it’s a simple idea that isn’t so simple. Ever try to track down the rights to previously published material? It can be a challenging lengthy endeavor, according to the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Set aside the assumption that bookselling is a simple business. Nothing could be further from the truth.
An aspiring entrepreneur with a burning desire to open a bookstore would do well to get a skilled mentor for starters, and using the principles of repurposing, and creative financing would arguably give the beginner a fighting chance.
CEO John Ingram BookTv.org
Little Bookstore Big Stone Gap
Summary: How a couple fled corporate life
and opened a bookstore i n a small rural town
Book chronicling Little Bookstore…
Brian Cassidy,net Mistakes Were Made
Summary: The veteran bookseller’s 64-page e-catalog
illustrates selected rare book offerings and mistakes made
in offering the titles for sale.
Tip: Scroll to the last page for Glossary of Regrets. http://www.briancassidy.net/mistakes-were-made.pdf
Barter Books.Co UK http://www.barterbooks.co.uk/html/About%20Us/The%20Bookshop.php
Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (AABA)
ABAA.org Blog What My Friends Think I Do…
Summary: Antiquarian bookseller, Lorne Blair,
discusses how and why he continues to issues
a print catalog in the Internet age.
The Domino Project The End of the Independent bookstore and A new Golden Age for books
Bus Boys & Poets
Note: a workers cooperative with skillful mastery
of the concept of marketing
Times Union.com Women at Work
Summary: BookHouse owner Susan Novotny
on her life selling books http://tinyurl.com/mx8jvqx
YouTube BookHouse/Albany Tour
History of the Book Vol. 1 Google Books
Publishing Perspectives.com Why Don’t More Bookstores Stock Self-publishes Titles http://tinyurl.com/lnk22as
Ben Franklin Publishing and Selling Entrepreneurial Exploits http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/printing-and-publishing-to-1950/
Readers Unbound.com History of Books and distribution Part 1 http://tinyurl.com/ockd2el
Wikipedia.org Discusses Early Book Sellers
Abebooks.com The Legacy of Victor Gollancz: Publishing Pioneer
Note: A former teacher, Gollanez was noted for introducing innovative marketing methods, such as bold yellow book covers
Gollancz Bio Amazon.com
Seth Godin/Typepad,om How to Be a Book Packager
American Book Producers Association
Green Workplace Mnn.com Photos 17 Extraordinary Bookstores http://tinyurl.com/q7uxvvd
How to Make Big Profits Publishing City & Regional Books: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, Writers and Publishers, Marilyn & Tom Ross, 1986.
Bringing Books Back, Part 1, 2, 3, Vol. 31-33,
Linda Carlson, January,February, March 2014
Summary: Great article series for potential entrepreneurs considering entry into the author-publishing industry: Tracking down permission to reprint old books may sometimes be difficult; when authors want to reacquire their books and republish their own books, and how some authors transition into the publishing industry.
Note: IBPA Independent is available by subscription from IBPA or through two California libraries, [three according to World Cat, but that information is not accurate].