To run a small retail business successfully, it is essential to make sound financial decisions, train your employees well and have consistent business policies. Running a successful used bookstore requires attention to a few more features that are unique to the used bookstore business.
Clean All Incoming Books
Cleaning all of the used books coming into your used bookstore removes undesirable odors. Cleaning the books includes removing all stickers on the cover, erasing pencil marks inside the front cover and wiping down front and rear covers.
Organize Books Well
A key ingredient to running a successful used bookstore is as simple as having good lighting, labeled book sections and the books arranged alphabetically by author for fiction and by subject for non-fiction. As much as possible, try to avoid storing books in boxes or on the floor. Not only are they more likely to be damaged this way, it is also much for difficult for bookstore customers to find what they're looking for.
Be Selective In the Books That Your Bookstore Carries
Focus on stocking current books in great condition in your used bookstore. For book condition, avoid books with missing dust jackets, water damage, highlighting and underlining, torn or missing pages, heavily creased spines and odors from smoke or pets.
Subject-wise, you will learn what sells in your community and what doesn't, but be careful of outdated health, diet, business, real estate and politics. Be wary of hardback fiction unless it's classic fiction. It's a good idea to have a wide range of fiction paperbacks in great condition. People often look for authors they read long ago or titles they missed, but try to avoid having too many duplicates of older titles.
Document the Book Trade-In Policy
Whatever your book trade-in policy is, document it for your customers. If there is anything your bookstore will not carry, such as magazines or textbooks, include that information on your book trade-in policy. Include the percentage of the book price that you offer in book trade credit. Do you pay cash? If so, include the percentage of the original book price that you pay in cash.
Offering cash for used books might sound like a risky option, but if it's clear to customers that they can choose a book trade-in credit value or a lower cash value, then they have a choice and both parties benefit; the customer gets cash and the bookstore pays a lower percentage of the original price for the book that they will resell for half of the cover price. The important thing here is to only take in books that you know will sell, but this is true for all books you accept to sell in the store, even the ones where you're giving trade-in credit.
Don't Sell Anything Other Than Books
If you want to have bookmarks or book covers on hand for your customers, those items might work well in a bookstore, but try to avoid the temptation to sell non-book items such as beaded earrings, candles or dog treats (unless your bookstore stocks pet and animal books exclusively) or the like. Selling any of those other items take up valuable book space and distracts from the focus of your store.
As far as advertising goes, there are two types of nearly-free advertising and they work the best: word of mouth (happy customers love telling friends and family about their favorite used bookstore) and free bookmarks from your bookstore that are appealing and give important information such as your phone number, email, hours and location.