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GROW YOUR BUSINESS|GENERAL BUSINESS

Marketing Ideas to Keep Your Independent Bookstore Thriving

4-minute read

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Kristin Vegh

Kristin Vegh

5 February 2024

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In the five years where I worked at a big-box chain bookstore, I witnessed a lot of half-hearted attempts to boost foot traffic and sales. And time after time, I listened to customers muse that what they actually wanted was an intimate shopping experience with a local feel.

Owning a bookstore of any size can be a challenge. But offering a personalized experience is precisely where independent bookshops can shine! So, if you’re thinking about opening a bookshop — or already have thought about it — we’ve rounded up some of the best marketing ideas to help even a tiny bookshop stand out. You’ll find unique bookstore ideas, such as tips for getting involved in the community, using digital platforms, and bookshop design to tell your story and supercharge your small business.

7 Ideas to Help Boost Your Indie Bookstore Business

1. Stay active on social media.

When it comes to bookstore advertising, social media can be a good place to start. You don’t need photography or marketing skills for it (although they don’t hurt). And it’s a cost- and time-effective way to get your products noticed by more people.

Wondering how to craft a powerful social advertisement for bookshops? While social pages are a great way to highlight new releases, sales, and events, don’t limit your posts to promotions. Engage with your followers by asking them to comment with their favorite authors and what kind of events they’d like to see. You can even run the occasional giveaway to encourage people to like and share your posts.

2. Create an online storefront.

Another way to fortify your shop’s online presence is to build a website and learn how to run an online bookstore. With the popularity of e-commerce remaining strong in recent years, the best time to bring your tiny bookshop online is, well, yesterday.

Online independent bookstores have the potential to reach customers worldwide. But your website doesn’t need to be only for online purchasing. While it’s important to keep your website customer-forward and make the online shopping experience user-friendly, you can build out your brand by using the platform for blogging, newsletters, and promoting your events.

Best of all? You can make your bookshop business plan budget-friendly by building the website yourself. Templatized website builders such as Squarespace and Wix make it easy to create an online store without much HTML knowledge.

3. Host events.

Book clubs, author signings, and children’s story hours. These are the Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Jane Austen of bookstore events — classics. And they are the cornerstones of bookstore marketing and getting customers in the door. But don’t be afraid to experiment with other unique bookstore ideas when planning events.

Think about what you know about your customer base and ask yourself: What would customers like to see at my bookstore? This could even be a good opportunity to start asking your patrons for feedback and suggestions. If many of your regulars are poetry lovers, you could start hosting open mic nights. Or maybe you have a lot of crafters who would enjoy a knitting club. You could even partner with local tabletop gaming communities and see if they would be interested in game nights. And speaking of partnering…

4. Partner with the community and other businesses.

Getting involved in your community can be great for business. For an indie bookstore, boosting your shop through community involvement could mean:

  • Reaching out to nearby schools to coordinate over summer reading. Ask for the assigned reading lists and let them know that you’ll be stocking up on the titles. You could even suggest starting a reading rewards program.
  • Are there any local artists and craftspeople whose work you love? Ask them if they’d like to sell their work from your shop. Candles, art prints, and even ceramics pair well with books and will help diversify your inventory.
  • Work with a charity or an organization to set up a book drive. The bookstore where I worked partnered with a children’s hospital every holiday season. Customers were able to purchase books for young readers, and we’d donate them to the hospital. It boosted sales and raised awareness.

5. Go mobile.

Community involvement also can extend outside your bookstore’s doors. More and more booksellers are embracing unique bookstore ideas to reach more customers. I’ve heard of local bookstores converting vans into bookmobiles that can be set up at community events.

But you don’t need a bookmobile to bring your bookstore out on the road. Look for boothing opportunities at farmers markets, musical festivals, and antique fairs.

6. Get creative with how you present products.

You know what they say: Don’t judge a book by its cover. But, unfortunately, some customers may. For indie, used, and local bookstores, visual marketing can be critical for boosting foot traffic. And without strict corporate requirements, your indie bookshop has the opportunity to get creative with how you present your inventory.

Keep up with current trends, and leverage them into curated shelves, tables, and end-caps. Take my experience, for example. During my bookselling tenure, poetry experienced an astronomical rise in popularity with readers young and old. To capitalize on that trend, we designed poetry displays, combining popular and indie titles with related products like pens and journals.

7. Rethink your bookshop design.

Knowing how to leverage visual marketing isn’t the only aesthetic tactic you can use. Thoughtful bookshop design is another way to delight customers. Your store’s layout can make a huge difference — in sales, as well as brand development.

Your floor plan should allow shoppers to browse comfortably, without feeling cramped or getting in each other’s way. The bookshop design should also ensure that the space is inviting. Chairs and reading nooks encourage customers to stay and get cozy, and may be what turns your tiny bookshop into a customer’s favorite hangout.

Insurance to Handle Unpleasant Plot Twists

As a bookstore owner, your story is always exciting. Every page brings new and unexpected twists, like an action-packed thriller and a dreamy fairytale all rolled into one. Make sure you’re prepared for whatever the next chapter holds.

Simply Business® helps owners find business insurance for their retail shops. Use our online tool to compare costs and browse insurance provider options to find the coverage your bookstore needs, as well as the additional coverage you want. Find quotes — day or night — for workers’ comp, general liability, BOP insurance, and more.

Owning a bookstore can mean navigating some major plot holes. But we’re here to help shape your success story! Check out our Resource Center for information you could use to help supercharge your small business:

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Make Your Bookstore Jump Off the Page

Being an indie store may make you “the little guy,” but remember that you have something the big corporations could never replicate. While online bookselling behemoths offer convenience and selection, consumers are learning that buying local is often a better way to support publishers and authors. Use that to your advantage. Let your love of books shine through with how you market your shop. A little creativity can go a long way.

Kristin Vegh

Written by

Kristin Vegh

After several years of working in insurance while also freelance writing, I've finally found where the two interests intersect. I'm a writer with Simply Business with an insurance processing background and a love of research.

Kristin writes on a number of topics such as small business trends, license reciprocity, and BOP insurance.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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