Is Bookselling a Good or Bad Job for a Writer?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

I often people that I learned more over the four years I spent working in a bookstore than I did at university. It’s true — being around all those books and being responsible for them was genuinely enlightening. On the other hand, as an aspiring writer, there were days when I looked at all those books, particularly on the day I had to pull returns, and a wave of “what’s-the-point” would wash over me. Some days, the sheer number of new books that would flood in through the back door was so overwhelming that it merely reinforced how insignificant my contribution might be. The whole ¬†experience wavered between energizing and demoralizing (of course, I was also much younger at the time).

In today’s lead story, author Deborah Willis extols the virtues of being a writer who works in a bookstore. For her, it works. But perhaps that’s not the case for all writers. For starters, bookstores don’t offer a great deal of “life experience” from which to draw on to develop stories — something that might not affect a novelist, but would be potentially detrimental to a nonfiction writer in need of raw material. Then there’s the exposure to the public, whose taste in books might make you question the very idea of who you are writing for . . . and of course, all those books that come in-and-out of the store through a revolving door.

So, ultimately, do you think working in a bookstore is a suitable job for a writer? The same question could be asked of the publishing business itself.

Read our story and let us know what you think in the comment

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.