How to start your own print online bookstore for free!

There are lots of reasons to start your own online bookstore. You may be self-publishing in print on demand or POD, so that you have copies of your books for sale. Or, you may have a publisher who has gone bankrupt or closed its doors, so you’ve purchased boxes of books that you’d like to sell. Or, you may have purchased author copies somewhere along the line that you’d like to sell and get out of your basement.

I’ve had all of these experiences. 

Our Little Bookshop poster

Visit Our Little Bookshop

Coteau Books went bankrupt. And, I have some books with publishers “across the pond,” so local bookstores haven’t jumped through the hoops to import them. I did, but now that I’m not doing a lot of public readings, I’ve got copies that I’d like to sell.

How Much Does it Cost to Set Up Your Own Bookstore?

There are, of course, many ways to set up your own bookstore. However, most of them aren’t designed for authors who are only selling their own books or who don’t have a lot of time or technical savvy to set up shopping carts, and the like. 

So, in comes Big Cartel, who make it easy for authors, artists, and anyone else with products to sell, to make an online store.

But back to the question, how much does it cost to have your own bookstore? Well, with Big Cartel, if you have five or fewer products, it’s all free!

What features Can You Get in Your Online Bookstore? 

So, what can you get for free in your online bookstore? 

  • An online store with five products
  • A customizable theme for your store
  • One image per product
  • Real time sales stats
  • Shipment tracking 
  • Sales tax autopilot (if required)
  • Ability to set different shipping rates (e.g. inside and outside your country)

Since there are a group of us in Our Little Bookstore, we have more than five books. The costs, though, are very low when we split them. See the Big Cartel fee chart for more information. 

These are additional features, some of which may be only with the 50 products or more stores ($9.99 month). See the FAQ page on Big Cartel

  • The ability to run promotions and sales events
  • Inventory tracking that will display Sold Out when required
  • Ability to create product categories (Picture Books, YA, etc.)
  • Ability to accept payment by PayPal or Stripe
  • Set up shoppable posts on Instagram or sell on Facebook
  • Newsletter sign-up

What Do You Need to Do to Sell Your Own Books? 

How to start your own online bookstore for free!

When you sell your own books, you’re in business. So, the first thing you need to do is to check out the business laws and requirements in the area/province or state/country where you live. 

If you use Big Cartel and want to accept payment by PayPal, you’ll need to convert to a PayPal Business Account. Don’t worry, though, it’s pretty easy–just check the instructions on PayPal. You can also accept payment through Stripe, which is the second payment option with Big Cartel. 

You’ll also want to check out the postage costs before you set up your store. Don’t just guess! In Canada, they can be pretty high if the book is larger than letter size, so shipping costs may be higher than the book cost. Remember that it also makes a difference on where you’re shipping, so if the book is going from one end of the country to the other, it will cost more than within the province. 

So, no matter where you live, take the time to visit your local post office with your largest and smallest books, and get some cost estimates for locations inside and outside your country. 

Remember too, that you’re likely going to need to invest in shipping envelopes of some sort. Be sure to include them when you’re setting your shipping costs. 

What Should You Do Once You Get Book Orders? 

The most important thing to do once you get orders is to ship them in a timely fashion! That may sound like common sense, but really, bad customer service can be upsetting to your buyers. 

So, you’ll need to be organized in your business. Make sure you’re tracking your inventory, so you don’t oversell your books, which could be a disaster if you’re selling books from a publisher who has gone out of business. Even if you wanted to reprint them, unless you got the rights to the existing cover and their files, you can’t do it. 

What About Selling Your Own Ebooks? 

These days, I’m mainly an ebook author and haven’t really worried a lot about getting my new books out through print on demand paperback options. You may feel the same way. If so, here’s a link to a guest post on the Kindlepreneur site on how to set up your own ebookstore: 

5 Ways to Sell Your Book on Your Own Author Website

Where Can You Learn More About Publishing Your Own Books? 

Self publishing can be the most rewarding project you ever take on! I can guarantee that it feels amazing to have your dreams of publishing a book come true. However, self publishers must wear the hats of four or five whole departments in a traditional publishing house, so there’s a lot to learn to be successful. 

So, that’s why I developed and teach the fully online, six-week course, Publish and Sell Your Ebooks. Check your community college to see if ed2go courses are offered, or your library, if they offer Gale courses. If you don’t have access to either, you can register directly.  

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