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How to Set Up an Online Bookstore

How to Set Up an Online Bookstore

Online bookstores have gained tremendous popularity during the past few years. They have also helped bring books under the umbrella of e-commerce. This BusinessZeal article will tell you how to set up an online bookstore.
Madhushree Kelkar
Become a member of The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) for availing several benefits, which will help propel your business towards success.
If you are planning to start the next for books, you should conduct a thorough business viability research and have a business plan in place, which will help you plan your business strategies. Today, Internet-savvy readers prefer to ditch the queue and time involved in getting to a bookstore. Instead, they shop for books at the click of a button from the very comfort of their homes. Apart from actual books, many people today own devices like iPads, tablets, Kindle, e-book readers, mobile phones, etc., which read e-books in various formats. However, paper books have a huge fan following. Hence, e-books will not replace their popularity among the readers. So, if you are planning to set up your own online bookstore, which offers electronic as well as paper books, it can turn out to be a very lucrative venture. However, you should know how to conduct the business properly in order to make it successful. Here are few tips that will aid you in this regard.
Website to Sell Books
You have an option of either paying for your domain name and starting your own website, or having an account on websites like eBay and Amazon that host accounts of booksellers. While going for well-known websites like eBay and Amazon is cost-effective, they may not deliver books all over the world. However, you will certainly save on a lot of cost if you opt for this option.
If you plan to develop your own website, remember the following:

✦ Have a trendy domain name based on your business name.
✦ Have it search engine optimized.
✦ Give it an interactive and user-friendly interface.
✦ List it on various directories.

Tip: If you are a small business, opt for selling books through other websites, and then go on to have your own website.
Details on the Web Page
Your web page should make a positive impact on the user. He should get all the information about the book that he is looking for. The web page of a book should have the following details:

✦ Title
✦ Author
✦ International Standard
✦ Book Number (ISBN)
✦ Hardcover/paperback/e-book/audio book
✦ Edition
✦ Publisher
✦ Price before and after discount

Apart from the details mentioned above, you can include editorial reviews, publishing date, reader ratings, about author section, etc. Give an overview or description of the books. Ensure that it is exciting enough to hold the attention of the reader and effective enough to prompt the reader to buy it. Ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in it. You will also have to include a 'Buy it' or 'Add to cart button'.

Tip: Apart from this, the web page should also tell if the books are available in your stock and can be shipped in a certain number of days.
Types of Books
You will have to decide whether you will offer paper books or e-books. You also have an option of selling audio books. However, you will have to make them available in various formats. Also, you will have to take a call whether to go for new books, secondhand books, or both. You will have to plan which category of books you will offer. You can choose from a wide list of genre like textbooks, suspense, love stories, bestsellers, self-help, fantasy, mythology, horror, fiction, science fiction, etc. It is advisable that you choose a few categories in the beginning and add more as your business expands.

Tip: Offering bestsellers and textbooks can be risky. This is because bestsellers are available too easily on the Internet, and textbooks have seasonal sale and run the risk of getting outdated too fast.
Ordering Books
You can have tie-ups with various distributors for supplying new books. Conduct a market study to understand partnering with which distributor will be profitable for you.

Look for indicators like:
✦ Profit margin
✦ Cost
✦ Delivery
✦ Availability of books
As far as sourcing old and new books is concerned, you can get them from:
✦ Used book stores
✦ Garage sale
✦ Library sales
✦ Thrift shops
✦ Wholesalers
✦ Family and Friends
You can also source books from:
✦ Ingram Content Group
✦ Baker & Taylor
Source e-books from online shops like:
✦ Amazon
✦ Kobo Books
✦ Barnes & Noble

Tip: Make an agreement with the distributors to get a better bargain on the prices of books.
Storing Books
Try to order the books keeping the demand in mind. If a new book has caught a reader's fancy, unless you offer competitive prices, people will not be interested to buy it as it will be easily available everywhere. Go for collectors' items, autographed first editions, award-winning books, as well as those that are rare to find, high on demand, and help fetch a good price. You can hire a climate-controlled warehouse to keep the books or wrap them properly to store in your garage space. Giving a contract to drop shippers can save your storage costs. Don't buy too much stock as people often want an updated version of the book.

Tip: Make use of a good inventory management software program in order to update and maintain the stock from time to time.
Shipping Books
You will have to decide which parts of the world will your business cater to. Initially, try to gain a reputation of timely delivery nationally before venturing out in the international market. You can use U.S. Postal Service's media mail to ship your books. It will be affordable for you as in most cases, books will be heavier, and this will incur high courier charges. However, it may be time-consuming and require additional efforts on your part. At least in the initial days of the business, it is recommended that you send your shipments through the media mail.

However, if a customer wants overnight delivery or urgent mail, you can avail the help of courier providers like:

✦ FedEx

Tip: If you are going to send books through a private player on a regular basis, negotiate the rates for a better bargain.
Various Schemes
Offer various schemes like bargains, bids, offers, discounts, etc., which will encourage people to buy your books. Offer gift coupons, codes, and certificates for buying your books. Allow people to write book reviews and reward the best ones every month. Give discounts to regular customers and have referral discounts. Arrange to have contests, sweepstakes, giveaways, etc.

Tip: Having a post-holiday clearance book sale will help you clear the book stocks.
Price your books wisely. Take the cost of your investment, add your profit to it, and then quote the cost of a book. Give competitive quotes as many online users compare prices of books on various websites before placing the order. However, don't go too low on the prices such that you will incur loss on the transaction. Add the cost of transport, packaging, and delivery service to the books. Once you expand your business, you can offer free shipping. Every book will be priced based on how unique it is, its availability, and special features.

Tip: Whether hardcover or a paperback version, don't sell a new book at the price of its secondhand version.
Promote Your Business
As most of your audience will be online, try to focus your promotion efforts in that direction. Pay for online ad banners and ads. Get listed on websites that offer a database of services like yours. This will be more helpful for your business. Needless to say, exploit social media thoroughly for the advantage of your business. Ask your family members and friends to promote your social media pages. Utilize Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, Pinterest, etc., to reach out to your target market. You can send your business cards with the books. You can also put up posters at cafés, grocery stores, library, etc.

Tip: Pay for Facebook ads to reach out to the bibliophiles.
Now that you know how to set up an online bookstore, these come next:

» Partner with suppliers, distributors, writers, etc., for promotion of books.

» Include various lists like bestsellers, popular, award winners, etc.

» Keep yourself abreast with the trends in the online book market.

» Know what is selling and incorporate the strategy in your business.

» Study what is working for your competitors and what is not.

» Keep innovating to stay ahead of the competition.
Once your business is established, think about various ways of expanding it. You may introduce other categories of products along with books like stationery, bookmarks, coffee mugs, etc. Try to start a chain of retail stores so that people will identify and recall your online store once they read the store name. This can help rake up your profit.