Once you’ve decided you want to be an antiquarian bookseller, you’ll want to make it official by becoming a business. What does that entail? Here are some of the things I did when I opened my business in January, 2007.
1) Selected an inventory tracking software — this should be a place where you can catalogue books, store images of books, invoice customers, create mailing lists, and catalogues. There are quite a few different options out there, beginning with ABE’s free Homebase. There are also the more sophisticated BookHound and Book Trakker. Research them and figure out which is the best fit for your needs. Also, very important: Find out who offers tech support. You will likely need it from time to time. These are good questions to ask on the Bibliophile Group List and Bookfinder Insider List. If you post a question about software, you should get responses from a variety of booksellers. For the record, I use BookHound. At the time I purchased it, it was the best program out there for Apple computer users.
2) Filed a fictitious business name. Rules for how, when, and where to do this probably vary from state to state. For California, I got a lot of information on the necessary paperwork here. Your state probably has a similar site to this one. Research it. (Sharpening those research skills will come in handy in your life as a bookseller.)
3) Rented a post-office box to receive business mail and have a business address.
4) Opened a business checking account and get checks with business name and address printed on them.
5) Applied for a couple of low-limit business credit cards.
6) Applied for a Seller’s Permit (Resale Number/Certificate) from the State of California Board of Equalization.
7) Applied for a domain name. I used GoDaddy, but there are a number of inexpensive options out there.
8) Built a website. I started with a simple Chrislands website. These guys do a nice looking bookstore for relatively low cost. My store site was built and ready to go in two days. Custom sites are nice, too, if you can afford someone to write all that html for you. Again, this is where forums like Bibliophile Group and Bookfinder Insider come in handy. You can post a question and read the multitude of opinions before you make your own decision.
10) Ordered business cards. More than once, I was told by other booksellers to invest in professionally printed cards, the kind with raised ink. I’ll pass that on, for what it’s worth. I think they were making the point that your business card is what a customer or potential customer sees that will remind them of how professional you are. Turns out people sometimes do judge booksellers by their covers after all. I got mine from Design Your Own Card. I also ordered a rubber address stamp from them.
So, these are some of the nuts and bolts of opening an antiquarian book business. Oh, wait! I forgot to mention the most important thing: Don’t forget that you must have a stock of books to begin. I assume that if you’re reading this blog, you are already well on your way to doing so.
Tomorrow: Simple Tools Every Bookseller Should Have