Becoming a Book Buyer

It was a long and unpredictable road from the Preservation department at the Marriott Library to the General Book department at the Campus Store, in spite of the fact that the two buildings are neighbors at the University of Utah. I loved my job in Preservation but it was only a work study position, which meant I had to leave when I graduated and I had hardly begun the training necessary for a career in the field. I already had a family to support when I graduated, so more schooling wasn’t a very attractive option. Neither was going into the foreign service, which had been my plan when I decided to study History and Russian. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I also knew I needed a steady income, so I took a job with Hertz, the first company that offered. What do books and rental cars have in common? Unless one gets left in the other, not a whole lot!

I applied myself nonetheless, becoming a rising star (entry level to branch manager in less than a year) that quickly burned out (I quit less than a year later). I assumed that my education and work experience combined made me a desirable candidate for a multitude of positions, so I quit without lining up a new job. Huge mistake! My education actually priced me out of multiple opportunities, while my experience wasn’t nearly as valuable as I anticipated. I couldn’t get a job! I sold cell phones for a couple of months, picked up some substitute teaching gigs, and spent a summer basically unemployed. One of my more memorable job applications was for a position at the county library: I filled out the application, took the skills test, and waited for an invitation to interview. Instead of an invitation, I received a letter informing me that I ranked 11 out of 13, and that the top five candidates would receive interviews. That was a blow to the ego! I could live with not being in the top five, but I certainly didn’t expect to finish near the bottom! A couple of weeks later, I received another letter from the county. It explained that a computation error had resulted in a mistake in the rankings. Aha! That made a lot more sense! The letter went on to explain that my new rank was 13 out of 15! They actually used more of my tax dollars (okay, cents) to send me a letter notifying me I was even further from consideration! I still have the letter, naturally!

Our finances reached a critical point, and there was nothing else I could do but take an entry level position at Target. There I was, a college graduate, mopping the Bakery floor alongside high school students making the same wages. I started working again (the only point that mattered to my family) on September 12th, 2001, so I couldn’t feel too sorry for myself right then. That crept in later, as I spent four years working in different departments, always on the grocery side of the store, with no hope of advancement. What do groceries and books have in common? More than rental cars, as I will shortly explain!

My book Orlando and Geoffrey was published while I worked for Target, and I tried to get them to stock it, but they rarely carry items of “regional interest.” I decided to go to graduate school for an MFA, but then I ruptured my Achilles tendon, and that plan was set aside. I applied for more jobs in the book industry – I had a lunch interview with Gibbs Smith Publishers which seemed promising but never went anywhere, and a fine interview at Barnes & Noble, but they only offered me a position in their cafe (although they did stock and sell my book!). I didn’t know how I would make the switch from food to books. On a long shot I answered an ad for a position in the Merchandise department at the University Campus Store. Had I been able to work in soft goods at Target I’d have felt better about my odds of getting the job, but I went for it anyway. The interview went extremely well (Jaima Dyer, the Merchandise manager, also had rental car experience), and I was offered the position! As it turned out, the position was responsible for running the candy counter in the store, so I had the necessary experience after all.

That got my foot in the door of the bookstore and brought me back to the university campus, nearly full circle. From Merchandise I moved to Shipping and Receiving, and then, after our store dropped its contract with Ingram, I was able to move into a newly-created Book Buyer position! Now I work in General Books with Drew Goodman, a fellow History major and published author, who likewise started in this store running the candy counter! Yet another example of the truth being stranger than fiction!

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3 Responses to “Becoming a Book Buyer”

  1. Thanks for the encouraging story. I have written a book that I am trying to get someone to carry. The book is selling internationally on many major websites, but I would like to get some store locations to carry the work. Any help or advise would be appreciated.
    book: Debt Free and Set for Life, author Les Tripp, MBA.

    Humble Thanks

  2. I loved your story and in fact I’d love it also if I could talk to you in more detail about your experience.
    I am a student at UVU, an English major, and as part of our senior seminar we are to explore possible careers and learn about the work and luck that go into getting a job in a related field.
    I think it’s awesome too that you have written a book. I feel your experience as a job hunter and as an author would benefit the other students in my class as well. Would you have time for a short email interview?
    Thanks for your time.
    Valerie

  3. […] 22, 2009 · No Comments Becoming a Book Buyer has had steady hits over the past 15 months, making it one of the top five most viewed posts on my […]

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