Being a bookseller is the best f***ing job in the world. Fact. If you are a book lover there is just no better place in the world than a bookshop, but it is not all glamour and book reading (in fact there’s no book reading during the working day!) I know there are heaps of book fanatics that would just give their right arm, left arm, first born child, soul, to have my job so I thought I’d take a look a my favourite bits and not so favourite bits of bookseller life.
The books! This is a fairly obvious one. For a book worm there is no where else to be than surrounded by books all day and I get to do that. I walk into work and get to breathe in that book smell, touch the books, look at the books, lust after the books. It is heaven!
All the advanced reading copies. This is something that bloggers get to experience too – the joy and excitement of the ARC. Since working in a bookshop my shelves and to-be-read piles have exploded and this is in most part down to the huge array of ARC’s that lovely publishers send our way. This was something completely new to me when I started bookselling (over seven years ago) and now I just don’t know how I lived my life without lovely lovely ARC’s!
Staff Discount! Need I say more?!
Customers. Our customers (for the most part) are wonderful human beings. They are fellow book lovers of course! I love building relationships with our regulars, seeing what they buy or order, talking about what they’ve read, what they’ve enjoyed. It’s fab.
Sharing the book love – talking about books all day. This ties in with the customer thing. But as a book lover there is nothing better than spreading the book love and booksellers get to do that all day! With the explosion of social media this has become even easier. If there is a book we love in store we will shout about it and shout loud! Whether it’s with customers or just among ourselves in the staff room, we can spend hours blabbering on about a good book or bad in a few cases.
People trusting you to recommend a book. The biggest part of my job is recommending. Having people trust you know your job well enough to recommend them a read is an honour. Reading is a very personal thing so recommending is a skill I’ve developed over the past seven years. And it’s even better when they come back going ‘that book you recommended? Loved it’.
Kids buying books! This has to be my favourite thing – seeing children excited about buying a book. My love of books began when I was a tiny book worm, I’m now growing my own baby into a tiny book worm. There is just something special about children enjoying books, especially these days with all the techno stuff they can have.
Being creative. This is more my colleagues, I’m really not very creative at all. They have created some wonderful and beautiful windows and table displays (a Bake Off table with cake!). The hours that get spent on these things is unbelievable but so worth it. We had a Harry Potter window full of hand made props that were so good people kept coming in to ask if we sold them!
Meeting authors. I’ve met some great authors whilst being a bookseller and this is something that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have this job. I have been known to fangirl and all my bookseller ‘cool’ goes out of the window if it’s someone I really admire.
Not being paid to read all day. Sadly we do not spend the entire day reading. If only! Bookselling is actually a pretty tough job, like every job, we’re busy, have a million things to get done and not enough time to do it. So when people say ‘oh what a relaxing place to work’ it really isn’t always true!
Customers. Yep. Anyone who works in retail will know, customers can be the worst. The absolute worst. We get blamed for literally everything by customers – can’t get that random out of print book on bell ringing?? My fault. Have to pay 5p for a bag?? My fault. Can’t find that book with the blue cover that you know nothing about but really want to read?? My fault. Raining outside?? My fault.
‘When’s the new George RR Martin being released?’ I don’t know. I’m not privvy to any secret Game of Thrones info that no one else knows. It’s not my fault he takes so long to write a damn book! Look at the complex world and stories he creates – that’s why they take so long.
Heavy totes. Books are heavy, plastic totes full of books are reeeeeally heavy! Booksellers are deceptively strong because of all the heavy lifting we do, we could all be arm wrestling champions.
That line ‘it’s cheaper on amazon’. Sigh. Want to buy your books from a faceless, soulless company with no passion or knowledge of books? Go for it. And FYI – sometimes it’s NOT cheaper on Amazon.
‘I’ve written this book…’ We can’t help you get your book published. I can understand the logic behind people asking us this, but really, we have no sway or influence what so ever on getting a book published. A bookseller’s work starts after the book is published.
Bookselling is a retail job. And working in retail is crap! There’s those customers, the getting blamed for everything, the abuse and the biggie – getting ready for Christmas in August, this really takes the joy out of Christmas and sucks your soul dry of any Christmas cheer.
Stickers on book. You hate taking them off, we hate putting them on!
5p bag charge – Hey guess what? The 5p bag charge is not our fault! If I had 5p for every time I got moaned at and blamed for this, I wouldn’t need to work. I will never forget a particular day related to this, I was pregnant, hormonal, feeling pretty crap when a lady decided to have a go about paying 5p for a bag. Oh the red mist descended! But it didn’t end when she left the shop, she then returned 10 minutes later to kindly show us what a paper bag looks like. Oh my. Now I never lose my temper, but this lady, this lady got full on bookseller rage. Possibly not my best moment, but satisfying none the less.
The unexpected. Now I’ve worked in retail my whole adult life (how I’ve survived I do not know but it probably explains my love of wine) and the bookshop has to be the place where the most unexpected and bizarre things have happened. No other retail job I’ve had has delivered the surprises that book shop work does. In our little shop we have had many a strange thing – whether it’s Boris Johnson randomly coming in, Boris was in town and just popped in to sign his book. A pigeon wandering into the store and happily parking itself in the window display. A slightly uncomfortable moment with a customer when he asked me to marry him and then asked if he could touch me… A random passer by in the street punching and shattering our window. Numerous floods. Always good to come into work to find the weather indoors rather than outdoors. Our Fifty Shades of Grey window getting into the paper and local radio for being controversial. And many more that I’m sure my colleagues can think of that I’ve missed.
Obscure Books – I think this has to be a top point of being a bookseller. My favourite obscure books that we’ve had in our store have to be ‘The Little Book of Big Penises’ (yes, this is a book) and it’s sister book, ‘The Little Book of Big Breasts’ and ‘Crafting With Cat Hair’. There are hundreds more but those are the only ones that immediately spring to mind.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little insight into bookseller life. It’s a super duper job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. And a special message to my fellow booksellers –
(Any excuse to share my fave hamster picture.)