Book Review – Starting an Online Business All-in-One For Dummies

I don’t think I’m going too far out by saying that many of my readers are interested in online business. A goodly number of you are fellow bloggers or otherwise already involved in e-commerce somehow, and of those who aren’t, there’s probably some who would at least consider starting a business if they had the skills and opportunities.  My wife, for one, is certainly interested in creating a home-crafted item business, and I’m trying to help her.  The only question is, where can I find the information needed to create such an online business?

Starting an Online Business All-in-One For Dummies attempts to provide such information.  Covering numerous different issues from multiple angles of creating an online business (being ‘11 books in 1’, as the cover states), this book from Shannon Belew and Joel Elad attempts to be everything you need in an online business reference.  Being a ‘For Dummies’ book, Starting an Online Business (for short) also attempts to break everything down so anyone can easily understand it. Does it do the job of being both a key to an online business and possible to follow?  Let’s find out!

Summary of Starting an Online Business All-in-One For Dummies

Starting an Online BusinessStarting an Online Business opens with a short Introduction sharing the goal of the book (to provide you with a resource to create an online business, covering many types) and providing a listing and summary of the individual ‘minibooks’, before getting into the first one:

Book I: Online Business Basics

Starting an Online Business begins, appropriately enough, by giving the basics of online business.  It covers how to create a business plan, finance the website, and produce the online policies.  It lists many of the initial issues to consider before truly beginning the business creation process.

Book II: Legal and Accounting

The second book covers an important, but often neglected issue in business: the legal end of things.  It has chapters about whether to incorporate your business, trademarks and patents and how to handle tax issues.  There is also some basics of how do your accounting (or get someone/something to cover your needs) discussed throughout the tax chapter.

Book III: Web Site Design

Now website design is covered, from choosing the right domain name to finding an effective webhost.  There are suggestions on the methods for creating the site itself and ensuring that it appeals to customers (and to search engines)

Book IV: Online and Operating

Book four focuses on how your site will operate once it is up.  Most of the chapters cover different methods of generating income using a business website, from working with affiliates to selling information.  There are also chapters on how a business selling physical items will function, including taking inventory and ensuring that orders are fulfilled.  Lastly, payment methods for both business types are covered.

Book V: Internet Security

As the title states, this book covers security, protecting your site from attacks and hacks and recovering from if they occur.  Chapters include what sort of attacks will likely occur, how to create a plan for countering those people who are attacking and how to handle security when using wireless networks, whether at home or your place of business.

Book VI: Boosting Sales

With all the basics of creating a site covered, in this particularly long book you get information on generating buzz for your site and turning the visitors you get into customers.  Issues about marketing that are particular to the web and monitoring your customers are discussed and detailed.  Similarly, suggestions on how to promote your site (including using blogs) and managing search engine rankings are provided.

Book VII: Retail to E-tail

Book seven looks at how existing, physical businesses should go about generating websites to support their businesses.  Real-life retail and e-tail businesses are examined and compared, and methods of generating effective websites are created.  How to manage interactions between the two store types are also covered (such as handling returns of online items at the physical store).

Book VIII: Storefront Selling

In this book, you see how to handle storefront selling, that is, creating stores where the stocking and delivering of the actual goods is handled by other businesses.  Most of the chapters look at some of the biggest names in the industry, specifically Amazon, Yahoo! and eBay.  The book rounds out by looking at some the smaller, less well known storefronts, and how to work with them.

Book IX: Fundraising Sites

Here is a bit of a departure from the main drift of the book, by looking at how a nonprofit site can create a website to aid in fundraising.  It provides a crash course in such fundraising sites, from adding fundraising methods to existing sites to creating entirely new sites.  There is also a chapter covering some of the unique legal issues that are faced by nonprofits, compared to regular businesses.

Book X: Niche E-Commerce

Book nine looks at selling to smaller, more specific markets, rather than attempting to sell to the world as a whole.  It looks at several such markets, such as those who are 50+ (increasingly including Baby Boomers), women, children, and the international crowd.  It also provides a brief guide to micro-commerce, selling digital items for very small amounts of money.

Book XI: E-commerce Advanced

The last book discusses how to handle more advanced business issues, mainly how to recover lost business.  There are chapters on redesigning your website, adding new products to your selection, bringing back customers, and revisiting marketing strategies.  There is also a chapter on how to expand your business, including how to take it public if it proves to be highly successful.


  • Very Easy to Follow: Starting an Online Business is quite easy to read and the information provided can be understood without trouble (as you’d expect for a ‘For Dummies’ title).
  • Good Information: The book provides plenty of information on nearly everything discussed, covering the subjects substantially and even providing step-by-step instructions for many cases.
  • Wide Level of Material…: Nearly every issue related to online business you can imagine (and many you might not) is discussed, with many given their own chapter.


  • …Possibly Too Wide: With so many subjects deserving their own book (and many having individual ‘For Dummies’ guides), it’s hard to provide enough coverage in individual chapters.
  • Some Unusual Subjects: Also, some of issues covered are unusual for a book on online business; the chapter on fundraising sites, in particular, seems out of place.


Starting an Online Business All-in-One For Dummies is a very thorough guide to online business creation and management.  Most of the subjects are covered in more depth elsewhere (including blogs like this one), but this book provides a good starting point.  It’s not something you’re going to read in one sitting or use all the information contained within, but it provides a good reference point for many issues you’ll encounter if you create an online business.

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