The job responsibilities of a bookseller are quite self-explanatory. Basically, they sell books to people and help the customers of a bookstore (or any establishment that sells books) find the paperbacks, hardbacks and magazines that they’re looking for.
Booksellers also make suggestions or give expert advice on the books and other products that the store offers.
The actual responsibilities may differ slightly from store to store, but essentially booksellers do a whole range of tasks, from processing transactions and coordinating book reservations, to stacking bookshelves and helping customers with their consumer needs (even when they don’t have a clear idea of what they want).
They are also responsible for assessing the sales activity and creating plans and strategies to make sure that the store meets its sales targets.
Salary & benefits
Most booksellers do it for the love of books (a fact that isn’t surprising, considering their annual salary).
Bigger bookstores can offer as much as £40,000 a year for head booksellers. However, the smaller ones may only offer between £12,000 and £20,000 a year.
Working hours depend on the individual operational hours of the store. Since most bookstores are open at the weekends, booksellers may have to work hours outside of the standard working week (maybe even on national holidays, in some cases).
Full-time booksellers work either on the opening shift (meaning that they’re in the store an hour or two before opening) or the closing shift (meaning that they remain in the store an hour or two after closing).
Understandably, booksellers are engaged in the retail environment, so the working day can be quite busy and hectic, depending on the store’s normal foot traffic.
Another good point for prospective booksellers to remember is that there are job opportunities everywhere, but the bigger stores are usually situated in bigger cities.
As with most areas of retail, booksellers don’t need to have a degree. Sure, a degree may give you an edge over other applicants. However, some employers may prefer candidates with retail experience over those with scholastic credentials.
The usual clincher here is the applicant’s passion for books. How much does the applicant really know about books?
This is an important issue, since the core of a bookseller’s job is to help customers find books, which, in turn, should lead to a sale. How can a bookseller sell books if they don’t know much about them?
Awareness of publishing trends is a necessity here. Niche or specialty bookstores may even require booksellers to know about their area of interest (for instance, a store selling art books will hire booksellers with knowledge on art).
Since most stores now sell books online, a decent knowledge of I.T. can also be useful.
Training & progression
There are no standardised industry-wide training schemes for these careers. Incidentally, you won’t be required to do any extra professional exams to develop your career in this area.
Most training schemes will be offered by individual employers and these will vary greatly between different organisations.
It’s likely that you will do the majority of your training on-the-job. For instance, your store manager may train you in customer service techniques or give you extra guidance on niche bookselling areas.
People who want to progress in this field usually move to bigger bookstore chains to get a desired promotion. It’s also not uncommon for booksellers to use their experience as a stepping stone into other industries, such as publishing.