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from my experience founding and operating small businesses--been there, done that.
I have fond memories of visiting a small bookshop in San Francisco when I lived there. No best sellers here, no how-to books, no popular novels.
Instead, the shelves were lined with hard cover books published mainly by university presses--philosophy, Greek plays, history, political commentaries, Oriental and European classics. The owner was targeting a specific, though narrow, market.
When I moved to New York, I was confronted with stores that carried everything. You could find just about anything you might want in one of these big box bookstores.
It was also a lesson in how markets can be tackled. Big box bookstores have sections that appeal to almost every interest, while small bookshops can take one particular interest and run with it.
Examples: Several small independent bookshops are in my area, and they are showing how survival is possible in spite of the big box stores and e-books.
One store is active with local schools, holding book fairs twice each year, and bringing authors into classrooms to talk about their work and writing in general.
Another store concentrates entirely on mysteries--thousands of mysteries, new and used, line the shelves and are promoted with email lists and social media.
Four of the bookshops in the area hold regular book signings, bringing authors from far and near to meet the public and talk about books in general and their book in particular.
Another local bookshop offers thousands of out-of-print books, an extensive selection in all categories, but sold mainly over the Internet to people looking for a particular book.
Two stores concentrate on books for children--from the very young to teens. Book clubs for young people are promoted in both these stores. Regular weekly or monthly sessions keep youngsters coming back for more.
Small independent bookshops are using all sorts of tools and techniques to meet the competition of the big box bookstores and the e-book revolution. It's a changing world. That means you have to run twice as fast just to stay in the same place. There is still a market for that small San Francisco specialty bookshop.
My lifetime of experience founding and operating small businesses is at your disposal. Free answers to your questions--send to AlWarr16@gmail.com and put BLOG in the subject line so I don't delete. I'm not selling anything, and your privacy is always respected.