by Craig Stark

#126, 11 August 2008

How to Become a Full-Time Bookseller

How many full-time booksellers do you know? I don't know many, and I know a lot of booksellers. However, I know a lot of part-time booksellers who talk and talk about doing it full-time. Someday. For some reason not many of them ever make the transition.

Why is this? As a full-time bookseller myself, I can assure you that, if you love selling books part time (and I think most booksellers do), you'll love doing it full time as well, probably more because full-time bookselling demands so much more of you - and there's great satisfaction in meeting that demand, knowing that you've succeeded in an intensely competitive business. A lack of desire, therefore, probably isn't stopping you, but I bet money is - specifically, the uncertainty of making enough to live on.

This is understandable, especially if you have a secure job with benefits. If you quit, go into business for yourself, you'll not only have to match your current salary but also pay for health insurance, etc. Scary. And who's to say the bottom won't fall out of the book market next year?

This is how I see it: The bottom falls out of the book market every year. Or seems to. And fear is a two-sided coin. On one side, if you let it, it can shut you down, prevent you from taking any and all risks. On the other side, however, it can galvanize you to action, but only if you understand that meeting your fears, moving through them, is the proven path to growth, to becoming more than you are. Far be it from me to urge any of you to leave a secure job to take up bookselling, but I'm sure all of us will agree that there's a lot to be said for following your heart. It changes you. Helps you become you. Instead moving through your days, suffering in a job that seems to lead you nowhere, you wake up every day to new possibility.

Moreover, security, so-called, isn't always what it seems. Americans have lived through an unprecedented period of economic prosperity - about twenty years' worth. Yes, there have been a few blips here and there, but for the most part unemployment lines have been relatively short, and few of us have experienced the hopelessness of not being able to find work. I've been in the work force long enough to know that this hasn't always been so. I first went into business for myself in the 1970s - a pretty dismal economic period - and I vividly recall feeling far more secure after making that decision. I wasn't dependent on anybody but myself, and I sure as heck wasn't going to lay myself off. In some ways, this was the best security of all.

So, assuming that full-time bookselling is still something you aspire to, how can you make it happen? It'd be nice if it was simply a matter of doing more of what you're already doing, but in most cases this won't get it done. It doesn't take much imagination to see why. If you're already regularly shopping most or all of the inventory sources in your area as a part-time bookseller, where are you going to find full-time inventory? Are you going to drive out of town? Out of state? If you do, won't this increase your cost of acquisition? Of course it will. Other possibilities include buying in venues you haven't previously exploited - online, perhaps, at auction, etc. - and no doubt some of this will help your cause. But it isn't only a matter of buying in different places; it may be that what you need to bring to the table is an altered perception of what inventory is. If you do, I think you'd be surprised to discover that there's a great deal more potential than you realized in the very venues you've already been scouting in, not to mention on your own shelves.

Purchase the complete article, the complete 8-part "How to Become a Full-Time Bookseller" series or a subscription to the Gold Edition here.

< to previous article                

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

| Forum | Store | Publications | BookLinks | BookSearch | BookTopics | Archives | Advertise | AboutUs | ContactUs | Search Site | Site Map | Google Site Map

Store - Specials | BookHunt | BookShelf | Gold Edition & BookThink's Quarterly Market Report | DomainsForSale | BookThinker newsletter - free

Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC

 Subscribe in a reader

Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment