Does it pay to own a small bookstore?

Does it pay to own a small bookstore?

A student asked this question. My answer:

…it’s a bit like asking if it pays to be a poet. The answer is, “it depends.”

It certainly doesn’t pay to be a poet who only makes money from a few journals who pay a few dollars a poem.

But it might pay to be Bob Dylan.

All an elliptical way of saying, in my opinion, at the scale you’re at, you can’t make a profit in the way you hope.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell books. You might need to sell baskets of books (for gifts) and memberships in book clubs (for connection) and coffee to go with the book (because–caffeine and community).

The books are an excuse to have a business, but they’re not a business.

Of course there are exceptions, but they tend to be real estate dependent and at a much larger scale.

I think the same thing is true for “does it pay to write a book.”

Not like it used to. Not like it should.

But writing a book might be the seed that you can grow into reputation and influence and connection. It might be the chance you need to discover the challenges that others need your help with. And it might merely be joyful.

Commercializing the thing that doesn’t lend itself to making a profit merely makes you sad.