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A bookbinding business (or bookbindery) binds books together. Rates are generally based on the size of the book. Even though physical book sales have been a little uneven for the past several years, there’s no reason to fear they're going away anytime soon. Bookbinders have a unique opportunity to create more book buyers by using their creative visions to keep the public interested in having books on more than just their phone or e-reader.
Who is this business right for?
This business is good for someone who has connections in the publishing world, and who has experience in what it takes to provide quality bookbinding services. Anyone thinking of trying bookbinding should be good with their hands, as it can end up being a very manual process.
What happens during a typical day at a bookbinding business?
Bookbinding owners may have the following to-do list on an average day:
- Buying materials
- Creating designs
- Networking/finding new clients
- Selling blank books
- Binding books
- Teaching employees the process
What is the target market?
The best client is a publisher who will contract you for all their new projects. Beyond this, you’re looking for someone who loves the concepts and designs you’ve already made. Normally customers will tell bookbinders specifically what they want their covers to look like, but some may treat the experience as a collaboration rather than a one-sided exchange. You want people who value what you do, and who care their book's aesthetic value.
How does a bookbinding business make money?
Bookbinders make money by setting a price for their services that covers the cost of equipment, rental space, and materials used to make the book. Generally, book binders will charge more for color photos than they will for standard black and white print.
What is the growth potential for a bookbinding business?
In 2014, the physical book sales of Brazil doubled, even while other countries were struggling. The book world can be volatile, but it often only takes one book that can’t be put on a Kindle (think: a complicated cookbook or a photography coffee table book) to spark interest in the public. Plus, some people will always want a hard copy of a book, so they don't have to worry about their machinery failing to provide a satisfying reading experience. The growth potential is definitely there for those devoted to the field.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful bookbinding business?
Those getting into this business should be a mix of both creative and logical thinkers. For bindings to be uniform in quality, you’ll need a certain amount of precision and accuracy. But it also takes a free thinker to come up with new designs that will entice a buyer to want to buy the object in their hands. You need to be known as both reliable and helpful before you start to make it is bookbinding.
What are the costs involved in opening a bookbinding business?
If you’re starting this as a hobby, you won't need many supplies. Glue, leather, paper, and quality cardboard may cost you less than $200 just to get started. However, if you want to expand your business, then bookbinding equipment can get expensive. An industrial paper folder may cost up to $5,000 while a professional binder can cost up to $10,000. These products can certainly help you tackle the larger jobs, but they may limit the personality and character you can inject into binding.
If you choose to have your own shop, you’ll need to pay for the rental costs, and any employees you may hire. You'll also need a Certificate of Occupancy with a brick-and-mortar store, with rates fluctuating depending on the neighborhood in which you open.
What are the steps to start a bookbinding business?
Once you're ready to start your bookbinding business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your bookbinding business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your bookbinding business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Recommended: Fizzle.co offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a bookbinding business?
Trends will teach a lot about where your business is headed. Customers are always looking for something new and different to catch their eyes. Whether it’s a book cover that’s covered in fur, says hello to the reader when they pick it up, or just made of incredibly soft leather, there are ways to make physical books stand out to people. When possible, recommend ways for your customers to stand out on shelves based on your own experience. Whether you have people making books for a million people or just one loved one, it never hurts to go the extra mile.
You may also want to start your business with blank books, like journals or sketchbooks. This not only ensures you have plenty of samples to show potential clients, but also gives you a chance to entice other kinds of clients (e.g., authors) while still making money. Or you can market yourself in a specialized area, such as turning people’s Facebook history into a custom book.
How to promote & market a bookbinding business
Bookbinders of the past would generally apprentice under an expert before using that experience to branch out on their own. Today though, people often sell their creations through art sites like Etsy to get started. You may also want to use social media to advertise, since what you’re is highly visual. Set up Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages to show off your latest designs. Ask your customers to share what they've done with your books, and start a conversation about the stories and memories you're helping to preserve.
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How to keep customers coming back
Most bookbinders attract people by doing something different, especially considering the established bookbinders already have many of the mass-produced books. Instead of standard bookbinding, put your own vision into whatever you happen to be making. Stay as flexible as possible and experiment whenever you can to see what works and what doesn't. You’ll expand the number of people who want to use your services based on your ability to get the job done.
How and when to build a team
You should probably start off your business without any employees, potentially even on a part-time basis. Once you know you have a steady base of clients, you can start building a team.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a bookbinding business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Bookbinding businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your bookbinding business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Certificate of Occupancy
A bookbinding business is generally run out of a workshop. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a bookbinding business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your bookbinding business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Ultimately, this depends on the materials you use, but authors and publishers will generally invest to make sure their books appeal to their customers. One major bookbinder charges about $14 for a 200-page, black-and-white book with 5 color pages. You will need to set your own prices based on your own process.
What are the ongoing expenses for a bookbinding business?
Ongoing expenses can be low for the smart business owner:
- Equipment maintenance
- Rental costs
- Permit costs
- Ongoing supplies (paper, glue, etc.)
How much profit can a bookbinding business make?
Profit is based on the margins you set. If you sell 100 journals in a month at $30 with a $21 profit margin, you’d make about $2,000 a month. If you’re able to bind all of the books for even one mass printing in a year, you could make profits well into the 6 figures.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are plenty of other services you can consider offering, such as book refurbishing or repairs. Once you understand the nature of binding, glue, and materials the book is made of, you can restore practically anything. This can ultimately expand your services to more people who want to preserve family heirlooms or who collect old books for fun.