Works with customers and liaises with publishing sales to purchase, organise, manage and sell books to the public or to specialist organisations such as universities.

Working mostly in stock rooms or on the shop floor, booksellers work with customers and liaise with publishing sales to purchase, organise, manage and sell books to the public or to specialist organisations such as universities.

Their responsibilities will vary greatly depending on the size of the store and customer base. Their duties will often include cataloguing and updating stock on computor databases, and seeking out rare or out of print titles on behalf of the customer.
In addition, their role involves replenishing shelves and arranging books in an attractive and accessible way.

Work activities

  • Selling to a variety of customers.
  • Dealing with enquiries and orders.
  • Dealing with customer complaints and/or returns.
  • Performing stock checks on books.
  • Buying from catalogues and publishers.
  • Creating in-store and window displays.
  • Processing book deliveries, returns and mail orders.
  • Liaising with teaching staff on set texts.
  • Keeping abreast of new titles by reading reviews and consulting publishers' catalogues.
  • Organising book events including talks, signing sessions and fairs.

Work conditions

Travel: not a normal feature of the job.
Working hours: can involve regular unsocial hours including weekends, evenings and bank holidays.
Location: mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible for owner managers.

Typical employers

  • Specialist bookselling chains
  • Academic booksellers
  • Wholesalers
  • School and library suppliers
  • Independent bookshops.

Career development

Opportunities for progression are good and can start from managing larger departments or moving to a bigger store, to becoming store manager. While it takes time, it is possible to move into senior management positions and specialist areas, such as area management and head office positions like customer relations or buying.


Salaries will vary depending on employer. Non-pay benefits such as commission on sales, performance related bonuses, in-store and cross-store discounts, or company cars can top up basic salary considerably.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to non-graduates and graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Administration
  • Business
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Modern literature
  • Retail management.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not usually required.


Mainly on the job training. Some large retailers offer graduate development programmes.

Tips for applications

Relevant commercial, sales or retailing work experience is normally beneficial.

Skills and qualities

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, and ability to project a suitable image to the public.
  • Ability to prioritise and multitask as well as the ability to delegate.
  • Teamworking, motivational and leadership skills.
  • Numeracy, attention to detail and IT skills.
  • Ability to use initiative, especially with customers.
  • Passion for books combined with customer focus and commercial acumen.