The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

Owning a bookshop may seem a natural and attractive proposition if you love and have a great knowledge of books. However, your love and knowledge have to be combined with business acumen if your bookshop is to succeed. Remember that at the end of the month, like any other retail business, you will have to meet the cost of rent, rates, telephone, electricity, bank charges, and salaries, not to mention payments to your suppliers.

In addition, you will be competing against existing bookshops. Try to think of a special niche to fill, sell something different, or come up with a unique selling proposition.

You need to make sure you:
  • - have the necessary knowledge and experience;
  • - have the right financial backing; and
  • - are prepared to work hard.

The best way to learn about bookselling is to work in a bookshop. Even a week or two can give you a sense of the day-to-day realities of the trade, such as dealing with all those unfamiliar faces and demands, working on a till, ordering stock, looking after the existing stock, handling invoices - an experience otherwise impossible to achieve in any other way. Also, if you are new to business, see if a local college runs courses for business beginners. 
We have produced an essential resources page for aspiring and new booksellers, which includes links to other useful book trade organisations and publications. We also have an online Retail Directory which has detailed information on book wholesalers and suppliers, bookshop equipment suppliers, etc.

We have also produced some short films, Pride in Bookselling, interviewing booksellers across the country, which give you a taster of all the benefits of bookselling as a career!

You can see a bookseller job profile here.

We have three key services to help you in the planning of your bookshop:

1. We run a training course Introduction to Bookselling, which is tutored for us by award-winning bookseller Patrick Neale, who runs Jaffe & Neale Bookshop & Cafe in Chipping Norton. 

The course runs once or twice a year and details of upcoming courses can be found here

2. We publish a book called How to Start and Run a Bookshop  (338 pages) in eBook/PDF format at a cost of £25 + VAT. If you have any questions please contact Kate Gunning.

If you are buying an existing bookshop, you may also find our free guide Transfer of Ownership - Top Tips for Buying an Existing Bookshop useful.

3. We have a number of bookselling consultants who can help new or potential booksellers with their business planning. The BA is not directly involved in the relationship, which is a direct one between the consultant and the bookseller, but nonetheless, it can be immensely helpful to have advice and direction from an experienced bookseller. For further information contact Kate Gunning or call the Membership Department on 020 7421 4640.
Once you are ready to open your shop, you will be able to join the BA - but if you need more information or would like to talk to a member of BA staff about your shop and BA Membership, contact the Membership Department on 020 7421 4640 or email Kate Gunning.