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Bookselling: graduate area of work

Booksellers purchase, organise, manage, and sell books to the public and to specialist customers, such as university students.

Booksellers are employed by bookshop chains which have outlets in major towns and cities, second hand shops, independent stores and specialist retailers who sell in a specific market such as christian or children's literature.

They are responsible for:

  • answering customer enquiries
  • purchasing and managing stock
  • supervising staff
  • meeting representatives
  • preparing publicity materials and displays
  • processing orders and returns
  • marketing services
  • organising special events such as book signings
  • keeping statistical/financial records.

The job can be stressful and tiring during busy periods, when it is important to remain calm and helpful even when under pressure from large numbers of enquiries. Some evening, weekend and public holiday work may be necessary. Salaries and promotional prospects are generally poor, with chains offering the highest incomes and the best opportunities for advancement.

What's required

Although a degree is not necessary for entry into the profession, graduates are often preferred by employers and form the majority of new recruits. Personality and an interest in books are usually more important than subject studied, although a business studies or management qualification may be helpful.

Vacancies attract strong competition, so relevant commercial, sales or retailing work experience is normally beneficial. Employers seek enthusiastic candidates with excellent teamworking, interpersonal and organisational skills, who are energetic, resourceful, confident and commercially aware.

Where to find out more

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, and specialist publications including The Bookseller. Many jobs receive little advertising, so networking and speculative applications are essential. Members directories published by The Booksellers Association and The Antiquarian Booksellers Association provide useful contact information.