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So You Want to Own a Bookstore

March 14th, 2008  |  Published in Bookselling  |  1 Comment

Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics is one of the most interesting retailers of collectables. I have basically zero interest in comics, but I subscribe to his email list and read every one. He basically breaks every rule in the book, and doing so has made him the leading comics dealer in the world (he started out living in his car along with his inventory). Instead of keeping his emails short and to the point, he tells stories about his latest buying trips, what's going on at home, his adventures collecting Native American pottery, and whatever else happens to be on his mind. He also runs crazy promotions, like giving $10 gift certificates to everyone on his email list. The gift certificate had no minimum. Order $10 in comics and they were completely free except for the shipping, charged at the actual cost (no markup). In December, Mile High customers redeemed $50,000 in gift certificates.

Mr. Rozanski wrote a column for a comics publication, and then posted them on his store's website. It's very good reading, and although it is about selling comics, a lot of what he writes applies to books as well. His columns are particularly honest about being in business, too. He describes the downside of rapid success and how the sudden growth of his business to $10,000 per week in 1980 nearly bankrupted him—the cost of hiring lots of new employees, renting warehouse space, investing in desks and equipment, and acquiring enough new inventory to keep the sales going ate up all the cash and then some.

One series of columns addressed the desire of collectors to enter the business of selling comics. Mr. Rozanski offers seven questions every potential dealer should ask. Change comics to books, and the list works for bookselling, too.

About the motivations for entering the business, he writes, "If your answer is that you want to sell comics for a living because you have have a passion for comics, I'm unimpressed. Alcoholics have a passion for liquor, but that's certainly not a good reason for them to be operating a liquor store. In fact, I've seen a large number of comics stores fail because the owners were so wrapped up in their love of comics, that they forgot that they were running a business."

Here are the seven key questions. They aren't the usual ones people ask when starting a business, which is why they are so illuminating:

1) Do I have the ability to self-motivate myself?

2) Am I willing to forego all other activities in my life to be a comics dealer?

3) Can I make it my foremost goal to serve other comics fans?

4) Do I have the ability to ignore my own personal tastes?

5) Do I have the desire and intellectual curiosity to endlessly educate myself about new areas of collecting?

6) Do I have the mental toughness that will enable me to persevere, even when the odds seem hopelessly stacked against me?

7) Do I communicate well with others?

Read the first part of Mr. Rozanski's advice here. Don't forget to hit the "Next" link at the bottom of the page for the continuation of his comments.

Responses

  1. Terry Weadock says:

    March 14th, 2008at 7:20 am(#)

    I agree. Chuck’s posts are well worth reading. Always worth a chuckle.
    taw

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