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The Salary of a Bookstore Owner

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Independent bookstores provide a place for the community to gather, host authors and readings, sell local or special interest books, and offer a unique ambiance. Stores such as Vroman's, in Pasadena, California, are landmarks remembered by tourists and neighborhood residents for years. Independent bookstores have experienced a challenging marketplace in recent years, but the American Booksellers Association (ABA) offers many resources for prospective booksellers. The salary of the bookstore owner depends on their business plan, profits and tax planning.

Store Profit

If you own and operate an independent bookstore, your salary will be paid from the store's net profits. The net profit is calculated after paying for inventory, fixed costs such as the lease and utilities, salaries and benefits of employees, and business taxes. According to "The Washington Post," Politics and Prose, a successful independent store in Washington, D.C., earned $6.8 million in revenue in 2009, with $173,000 in profit that was split between the store's two co-owners.

Sales Volume

According to Hoovers, independent bookstores sell $330 worth of merchandise for every square foot of store space, compared to $175 to $230 per square foot sales volume at book chain "superstores." The average sales volume of an independent bookstore is less than $1 million a year, according to Hoovers. However, most independent bookstore owners serve as managers, meaning that the store could earn enough profit to pay a salary ranging from $40,000 to $100,000.

Growth Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, booksellers are expected to experience slower than average growth between 2010 and 2018. A group of 500 independent booksellers who gathered for a conference in New York in January, 2011, saw potential for growth by focusing on great service and including other retail products and services, such as coffee and wine, according to "The New York Times." An independent bookstore owner will increase profit and his own salary by focusing on a strong, local business model, according to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), which offers training and support for independent bookstore owners.

Profit Margin

According to business analysts like Hoovers and "The New York Times," the average profit margin for an independent bookseller is 2 percent. On an annual revenue of $1 million, that represents only $20,000 available as a salary for the bookstore owner. "You have to rethink your whole business model," Manhattan bookstore owner Beth Puffer told "The New York Times," "because the old ways aren't going to cut it any more."


Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.