Welcome to “Dear Book Nerd,” Book Riot’s very own bookish advice column. I hope you find this week’s topic interesting. Note: when I receive submissions that are similar in theme, I will try to group them together (as I have done below) so that I can answer more questions for more people in an efficient manner. Thanks for reading, and keep those questions coming!
Dear Book Nerd,
I love working with books and worked at a couple of book stores including the now defunct Big Box book store. There aren’t any local book shops in my area and while the B&N is an option I’m gun shy. Due to bad life choices I never finished my degree so library work is out. Do you know of other jobs where I can work with books and make a living wage or at least close to one?”
Dear Book Nerd:
I’ve been a second-hand bookseller here in the UK for the last four and a bit years, and now my shop’s on the market. We can’t afford to run the place any more (well, we can’t afford to live on the wages at any rate) and had to make the decision to sell the business. I still adore books and would like them to be a part of my working life, but I didn’t finish uni due to health reasons (so no degree) and now have no idea where to turn next. Go back into education (with all the costs involved)? Go for a job in a chain bookshop – my local Waterstones, say – where my bookish knowledge could be put to good use? Or is there something else I haven’t even thought of yet? Any ideas or advice would be most welcome…
– A Disheartened Bookseller
It’s hard out there for a book nerd. I understand completely. And I’m sorry that things aren’t working out for you two in the way that you’d like. I know so many smart, motivated people who just can’t find jobs in their desired fields, whether it’s book-related or not. (Read this past column to see how things can be even TOUGHER when looking for work.) Finding a decent job these days is often a combination of being willing to compromise (or lower your standards), having amazing connections (a luxury not everyone has), and sheer luck (ugh, stupid luck).
To touch on one point that both of you made: in theory, I believe that it’s never too late to get the education you want. I see adults getting their GED and older adults taking college courses all the time in my line of work. The reality of this situation, of course, is often very complicated. Degrees don’t grow on trees – they require a lot of time and money, both of which are scarce for many people. But from the way I read your questions, the two of you seem to have a bit of regret about not furthering your educations. I’m not saying that you MUST do this in order to get your dream job, but if it’s something you really want to accomplish, try not to let fear stand in your way. (For example, if I had not left a profession that I didn’t like and gone back to school AGAIN to become a librarian, I would not be sitting here answering your questions today. Life is funny.)
Ultimately, the education/career decision is a very personal and difficult choice and relies on many specific factors. In other words, I can’t tell you what’s best for you in this situation without knowing more about your lives. You just have to weigh all the options and follow your hearts (sorry to sound trite, but it’s true). What I CAN offer, though, are some ideas for book-related jobs that you might not have already considered. To do this, I did some brainstorming, did some research, and also consulted the most informative resource of all: my Twitter/Facebook friends. Crowdsourcing, son!
Together, we came up with a massive list of bookish jobs, both conventional and unconventional. Some of these are rather tongue-in-cheek, some of these might require specific degrees and/or certifications, and some of these are probably not practical in any way at all. But it’s my hope that this might at least spark an idea in you, or maybe push you to do something you’ve been thinking of doing anyway. Good luck out there, Peter & (Hopefully Re-Heartened) Bookseller.
BOOK RIOT’S BIG LIST OF BOOKISH JOBS:
Antiquarian Book Repair Expert
Book Content Site Editor/Contributor
Book Store Worker
Book Fair Coordinator
Book Foundation Volunteer
Book Trailer Producer
Book Website Marketer
Cover blurb writer
Drone Operator (see Amazon)
eBook Conversion Specialist
Editor (acquiring or freelance)
Escort (Note: for author tours. Not the other kind.)
High School English Teacher
Librarian (Academic, Public, etc.)
Painter of Book Edges
Professor of Literature
Pulp Mill Worker
Rare Book Thief (not recommended)
Recipe Tester (for cookbooks)
Romance Book Cover Model
Sales Rep for Publishers
School Librarian/Media Specialist
Talking Book & Braille Library Volunteer
Tour Guide (at an author house museum)
Used Books Seller
Readers, if you have more suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
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