Five Things I’ve Learned from Selling Books Part Time


As you may or may not know, last month I took a part-time job at Barnes & Noble.  With the next being completely empty these days, I was finding myself growing lonely.  Working at home is great, but working at home alone twelve hours a day is also very isolating.  I found myself longing for some human contact.  And, let’s face it, for a writer, selling books in your spare time is a dream job.

Five Things I’ve Learned from Selling Books Part Time

  • I will never be rude to a person behind a register again! Working retail is a hard job. On busy days, you stand there repeating the same questions for hours with a cheery note in your voice and a smile on your face. Even when some hard-o customer wearing sunglasses inside  yells (loudly) that they don’t want to hear your B&N Membership sales pitch.

    Although, I will say….

  • Regular bookstore customers — the ones who are in day after day — are extremely friendly.  They want to chat about the books they purchased and they want to hear bookseller’s recommendations.  While I never recommend my own books (because that would be tacky and unprofessional), I never hesitate to recommend the nonfiction, romance and women’s fiction writers I love.  (I introduced a lot of women’s fiction writers to Kristan Higgins last month.)
  • They are also extremely patient. With only a handful of exceptions, the customers were understanding when I made beginner mistakes, as well as having to wait in line because of the holiday rush.
  • Bookstore customers aren’t buying a ton of romance novels or cozy mysteries. At least they aren’t in Bellingham, Massachusetts.  In six weeks, most of the romance fiction I sold were by big name authors like Debbie Macomber and Susan Mallery.  On the other hand, they buy a lot of contemporary fiction. Books by Kristan Hannah, Laura Hildebrand, Celeste Ng, and Fredrick Bachman flew off the shelves.|

    What should we make of this? Nothing other than the fact that Little Fires Everywhere and Winter Garden are extremely popular titles in Norfolk County.

  • Part of me will forever be twelve years old. I internally blushed every time a man or woman bought Penthouse Magazine. (And yes, we get both.) Not that I care. What truly fascinates me is what other magazines these customers choose to pair with their skin purchases. In fact, if you ever need corroboration in general that people are unique, study their magazine purchases.

The Bottom Line

Getting out of the house 10-20 hours a week has been a Godsend. It’s provided me with the human contact I needed, but still gives me the time I need to write. Working a second job forces me to be a better time manager as well.  Now, when I sit down to produce words, I really must produce. No more burning time online surfing social media.

No wonder I was in such a good mood all December.

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5 Responses to Five Things I’ve Learned from Selling Books Part Time

  1. Donna says:

    You know that I agree with you 100% since I did the same thing only with chocolate. Most of our customers were extremely patient as I learned, particularly during the just-before-Christmas rush. Though I didn’t have to sell Penthouse. LOL.

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