A year ago last week, I worked my first shift as a bookseller! This year has gone so quickly but to mark the occasion I thought I’d share my experiences.
I’ve really enjoyed my first year working in a bookshop – I love the people that I work with and being able to recommend books to people is one of my favourite things. Nothing beats putting a book in a child’s hands that gets an amazed gasp and a smile from their parents. I’ve spent the past year mainly as a Children’s bookseller so would say I have a fairly good knowledge of most things kid’s books, with a specialism (if you can call it that) in YA. Kid’s books aren’t something that I’ve always been interested in but working among
So, rather than bore you guys with the day-to-day bits of my job, I took to Twitter and thought I’d see if there was anything you guys wanted to know about life behind-the-scenes at a bookshop. Here are the As to your Qs! 🎉
How did you get the job?
I’ve wanted to work in a bookshop since I was about 16 and tried a few times to work at Waterstones. Finally, at 21 I managed to get an interview and it was a success 🎉 If you’re in the same boat, keep an eye on the shop’s social media accounts as job are often advertised there – I saw the opening I was hired for on Instagram!
What’s the best and worst thing about working in a bookshop?
The best is definitely the environment. I love being around books all day and the people I work with are all wonderful – definitely makes the job even more enjoyable when you like who you’re there with. The worst has to be that I’ve forever spending my money in there! I seriously can’t help it. As I’m always putting out stock, I’m picking up new things that I’d like to read.
What’s your discount?
50%! 🎉 Really useful when I have my eye on something a little more expensive but it also means that I buy more books as my mind justifies it 😂
What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever had?
Hmm, every so often we get a request for ‘non-fiction’ with no further info about what kind but that’s easily solved. Other than that, I always get a little bit stumped when someone is convinced a book is written by another author but there hasn’t been one I haven’t solved yet!
Do you have to know details about a big release synopsis in case people ask more about it?
Every day, each shop gets a commercial update with books that are in the media and the basic gist of them. If there’s something particularly big, there’s usually someone in the shop who’s read it/is waiting for it and they’ll give us a run down on what it’s about and why they like it – really useful for things that aren’t your typical choices.
Have you picked up any books because of a customer gushing about it?
I don’t think so! I’ve gushed with customers about what they’re buying but I have yet to be recommended anything. To compensate, my fellow booksellers are often telling me about books they’ve enjoyed that I end up buying for myself!
Do you get early copies of new books?
Sometimes! We can request reading copies or proofs of books that we’re interested in if the publisher is offering them – we don’t always get them but I’ve been pretty lucky so far!
What famous authors have you met?
I really love working events as there’s always something new. Now time for the name drops 😂 I’ve met Stephen Fry (he’s super lovely!) Holly Bourne, Kim-Joy (from Bake Off), Malorie Blackman (very briefly) and recently met Tony Christie! My favourite has to be meeting Caroline Lea when she came in to sign copies of her book, The Glass Woman, which I loved! She was so nice and let me blaber about how much I enjoyed her book
(Can you see the internal panic on my face meeting Stephen Fry?? 😂)
How much interaction do you have with authors and publishers?
Not a huge amount unless they come into store for an event or signing. Other than that, I’ve had brief interactions on Twitter but nothing huge.
How early in advance is a book delivered to the store before its official release date?
It depends on the book. If it’s a particularly big release (e.g. The Testaments or The Secret Commonwealth as recent releases) then they come in a few days before release day but are strictly embargoed so they get unloaded and put onto trolleys but that’s as far as they go. For books that aren’t as publicly hyped, sometimes they come in a week or so early and are able to go straight onto the shelves.
What do you do if someone asks about a book that you didn’t particularly enjoy?
I try to stay objective – there are so many books in the world that if I don’t like something, doesn’t mean everyone will feel the same. Reviews are super useful (and I get to see a lot of them by blogging) so sometimes I go from that, or whether or not people I work with enjoyed it. Knowing what the book is similar to helps as it can give customers a better idea whether they’ll enjoy it.
How long does a book stay on the shelf before it’s removed to make way for something new?
Books tend to stay on shelves for a while as long as they’re selling fairly consistently. Our tables rotate based on what’s new and things might be taken off and replaced by a newer book to showcase new releases.
How much do you actually get to read?
I read on my way to and from work and sometimes on my lunch breaks if there’s no one to chat to. I don’t get to read as much as I’d like but that’s most likely because I’m constantly finding books I want to read without finishing what I already have 😂
Do you have to constantly remind yourself that you aren’t working in a library? As in, not pulling books off the shelf to read while you’re working.
Hahaha, I’ll often read the back of a new book that comes in if it looks interesting or when I’m tidying tables and I haven’t seen a book before. It’s usually too busy for me to get away with actual reading though 😂
There we go! I’ve never done a Q&A before so hope this was ok – and thank you to all of you lovely people for sending me some questions to answer! You’re angels!
What do you think? Is there anything you’d want to know about being a bookseller? Or maybe you have your own experiences! I’d love to know!