How much do booksellers get paid

This phrase just showed up in my search engine terms list.  I thought I’d try to answer it more fully, in case anybody else ever needs to know.

Short answer: not as much as we’d like.

Long answer: but it’s not as bad as all that.  I live by myself, so I manage rent and bills on my own, have a car, eat well, etc etc–all on a full-time bookseller’s paycheck.  Okay, that’s a bit of a fib.  I do have a second job for an extra 10 hours or so a week, because if I didn’t, I would have to count every penny and be much more careful.  But as I’ve pointed out to people in the past, I save a lot of money by not having to buy books.  I take home probably 20-30 books a month (ARCs, freebies, damages) and that means I usually don’t buy more than 1-2 a month.  So that’s a savings.  I’m also lucky enough to be able to walk to work, saving me a lot in gas money.  And I don’t think you can discount the non-monetary value of actually liking one’s job.  I don’t leave work so drained or stressed that I need to go home and veg out; I usually have enough energy to work on other projects (most days, anyway, and this assessment is useless in December).  Overall, I wish I had a little more money for things like travel and a savings account, but I recognize that in the large scheme of things, I’m pretty lucky.

Although if it’s important enough to you that you need to go seeking out the answer before going for the job, it might not be the career for you.  There’s a great joke I’ve heard which goes:

Q: How do you make a million dollars running a bookstore?

A: Start with two million.

Booksellers with different experiences are welcome to leave their story in comments; booksellers who disagree with me because they make a lot of money are also welcome to leave an email address to which I can send my resume.


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