While attending some of the LBF17 seminars on ‘how to get into publishing’ we were told (again and again) that hands-on work experience meant more than having a degree in publishing. And though this sentiment was devastating, frustrating, and anxiety inducing to hear as an in-debt publishing student, I do see the merit of it. Getting your hands dirty (from new ink) will definitely provide us with insight that the course, for obvious reasons might be lacking in. For though we have access to Nielsen data and we have visiting speakers from book shops, we won’t gain the experience of actual customers coming in and asking for book recommendations etc. And working in a book shop will give us that new and different perspective to the things we learn in classes. So, I decided to jump right in.
Since that decision was made, I have started to volunteer at the Oxfam bookshop in Stirling. And though I have not worked there that many hours yet, I have tried a bunch of tasks related to book sales. On my first day, I was helping with book pricing, till service and rearranging book shelves. Firstly, pricing books, and seeing how a books value is changed as it passes to another person, was really interesting. It dawned on me, to a greater extend than it had before, that books keep on selling, when they leave the high street shops. But seeing their price reduced, to sometimes extremes in my opinion, made me happy. I kept thinking: “This is so great! Lower prices on all of these amazing books will mean that people might be more prone to buy more books.” And we all know, that anything that makes people read more is a huge plus!
Secondly, working at the till enabled me to see what customers actually bought, and what they were looking for in the shop. For though Oxfam is second-hand, the sales in that shop still reflect the trends of the overall market. The figures and features genres in the bookseller is also what is reflected with Oxfam sales. In the future, I am hoping to do some work on the shops social media pages and to enhance both their visibility and my skills on that score.
Ultimately the things I’ve learned through the course and the things I’ve experienced in Oxfam and hope to experience and build up in the future, will deepen and broaden my understanding of the publishing industry, which will in turn, I hope, help me further my career.
Also – I have to be honest – working in the storage with all of the more expensive and old books is definitely a dream of mine, though I’m tempted to spend all my money on them – which I guess is the danger of a book lover working in a bookshop.
by Mette Olesen