How to Become a Bookseller

The role of a bookseller is to buy books from publishers en-mass and to distribute them to customers. Regardless of whether they work from a small independent shop or a large commercial chain, the role maintains the same principles.

The perfect career choice for someone who relishes in literature, and is capable of displaying their enthusiasm in a sales-oriented capacity, the profession of bookselling requires exquisite customer service skills. A basic and proven grasp of maths and English (GCSE grades A-C) is essential for most employers within this field- with an HND or degree in a relatable field (literature, business) usually doing wonders for a candidate’s employability.

Nature of the Job

The typical duties of a bookseller operating within the modern market include:

-  serving Shop Customers Face-to-Face

-  handling Money

-  giving Advice/Recommendations

-  answering Enquiries

-  ordering Stock

-  assessing the Market

-  administration: Accounting, Distribution of Orders, Arranging Deliveries, Dealing with Returns

Generally speaking, the nature of the business the bookseller works for will dictate the nature of their day-to-day tasks beyond those provided above. For example, in a specialist bookshop employees may liaise with local colleges and universities in order to make sure the student market is being well catered for.


Projected Income




£12,000 - £16,000

Shop Manager

£20,000 - £40,000

Source: National Careers Service


Time Commitments

The hours of work a bookseller must dedicate themselves to usually match those of most other commercial workers: 9am-5pm Monday to Friday with occasional Saturdays. That being said, effort must often be made after hours in order to meet customer needs through research and the like.


Personal Requirements

The UK National Careers Service outlines a series of personal attributes that those wishing to work in bookselling should possess. These include:

-   an interest in retail, books and literature

-   good customer service skills

-   a smart appearance

-   the ability to talk knowledgably and enthusiastically about books

-   good communication skills

-   the ability to plan and organise events such as book signings

-   the ability to sell, promote and market the products in your shop

-   confidence with computers

-   the ability to work unsupervised or as part of a team

In terms of official qualifications, there is no real set level prospective booksellers must achieve beyond those vital A-C’s in GSCE English and maths. However, it is possible that some employers will expect a higher-level qualification of some kind (HND/Bachelor’s degree) in a closely related subject (or a subject you feel you’ll be able to draw a parallel with at the recruitment stage). This, however, is usually more to do with the need to separate applicants given the very high levels of interest available roles in this field tend to attract.


Training and Career Development

On the job training is standard in this role, given the large amount of room for variation there is between different shops stocking different genres and catering for an altogether different clientele. Initially working alongside more experienced colleagues, a trainee bookseller will be a trainee only until they have accumulated knowledge on the range of literature stocked by the store in question, as well as the ins and outs of the tasks listed above in the ‘Ins and Outs of the Job’ section.

Larger chains may follow a more rigid process when it comes to training their recruits, though they will likely be geared towards achieving the same transfer of knowledge and skill. For further information on the subject of training, the Booksellers Association of the UK is a vital resource. 




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