13 Authors Who Worked in Bookstores

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Jenn Northington

Director, Editorial Operations

Jenn Northington has worked in the publishing industry wearing various hats since 2004, including bookseller and events director, and is currently Director of Editorial Operations at Riot New Media Group. You can hear her on the SFF Yeah! podcast nerding out about sci-fi and fantasy. When she’s not working, she’s most likely gardening, running, or (obviously) reading. Find her on Tumblr at jennIRL and Instagram at iamjennIRL.

Did you know that both David Mitchell and Sarah Waters are former booksellers, according to The Guardian? If you’ve read Just Kids, you already know that Patti Smith used to work (and occasionally sleep) at Brentano’s. There’s a long tradition of booksellers writing their novels during their lunch breaks, and writers seeking out jobs in bookstores, and current publications are no exception. Here are 13 authors who have slung books for a living — some of whom still do!

Cover Collage for Bookseller Authors

  • Melissa Cistaro currently works as a bookseller and event coordinator for Book Passage, and her memoir Pieces of My Mother comes out May 5, 2015.
  • Jennifer Close, author of The Smart One and Girls in White Dresses, worked at Politics & Prose after moving to Washington D.C.
  • Josh Cook, a bookseller at Porter Square Books, just published his first crime novel An Exaggerated Murder.
  • Jeremy Hawkins, bookseller at Flyleaf Books, also just published his debut novel The Last Days of Video.
  • You may have seen Edan Lepucki on Colbert for her apocalyptic novel California; you might also have seen her working the stacks at either Book Soup and Skylight Books.
  • Ellen Meeropol went from a career in nursing to author and part-time bokseller at Odyssey Bookshop and has written two novels: House Arrest and On Hurricane Island.
  • Jamie Kornegay is both a former bookseller (Square Books), a current bookstore owner (Turnrow Book Co.), and the author of debut novel Soil.
  • Kevin Sampsell works at Powell’s, runs his own press, Future Tense Books, and has written a memoir (A Common Pornography) and a novel (This is Between Us).
  • Award-winning author Martha Southgate (The Taste of Salt, Third Girl from the Left) is a part-time bookslinger at BookCourt.
  • Author/Rookie staff writer Emma Straub (The Vacationers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures) also worked for BookCourt.
  • Justin Torres, author of We the Animals and 5 Under 35 honoree, was a McNally Jackson bookseller.
  • And rounding the BookCourt alum party to three is Adam Wilson, author of Flatscreen and What’s Important is Feelings.

    Bonus round: here are four amazing authors who don’t just work in bookstores, they own them.


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