Roald Dahl once said, “If you’re going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” Reading - and writing - may be essential skills taught to children from an early age, but many of us also grow up with an innate understanding of the pleasure of the written word. Millions of people read - and write - because they love books and the adventures contained within. And many book lovers - or bibliophiles - long to turn their love of reading into a career.
The love of reading is a sentiment expressed by many published authors and poets. Neil Gaiman says that books are “a dream you hold in your hand.” When asked about her inspiration for the Harry Potter novels, J.K. Rowling said, “what excited me was how much I would enjoy writing about Harry.” Tone Gledissch Stabell, a Norwegian poet and author, explained that the best advice she could give to aspiring poets “is to read a lot of poetry...see what [inspires you].”
It’s no wonder then that so many people who love reading seek out careers that involve writing, and while “published author” may be the dream there are plenty of viable options for creative and accomplished writers - everything from copywriting to advertising and journalism require talented and versatile writers.
But what if you love books and reading, but don’t want to spend your days with a pen - or keyboard? Luckily, the art of the written word isn’t the only option for bibliophiles. Many pursue careers in publishing, preferring to dedicate their time to promoting and printing books rather than writing them.
With that in mind, here are five more possible career paths for book lovers.
If you would like to spend your days surrounded by books, then you will probably enjoy a career as a librarian or archivist. You can qualify as a librarian by gaining a university degree in a suitable subject like English literature, history, or information management. Most career librarians and archivists will also need to acquire specialized training or a degree in library science or archival studies. Many universities around the world offer Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degrees that are designed for careers in libraries, archives, and information science.
Once qualified, you can find yourself working in a public library or a school, college, or university library. You may also find careers in public and private archives, as well as in the corporate world as a company librarian or archivist. As a librarian, you are responsible for the day-to-day running of library services. These include organizing and managing the cataloging system, buying and selling books, research assistance, and dealing with inquiries from students and members of the public. While you will need some practical skills, you will also need to work on your soft ones. Being a librarian is a public-facing job; you'll need to be friendly, empathetic, and approachable. And brush up on your IT skills! The days of stamping books are long gone. Libraries have become a valuable space that allows access to crucial online resources. In today's digital world, free library services are a lifeline to many people struggling to find work, pay their bills, or make a simple customer service inquiry or complaint.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The median annual wage for librarians in the US is around $58,000 to $59,000 and there is a forecasted 9 percent growth in jobs between 2016 and 2026. Librarians usually need a master’s degree in library science, while some librarian positions have extra requirements, such as a degree in another field or a teaching certificate.
But the primary motivation for most librarians is not financial. Many take great pride in the work, and so they should. Libraries are sacred places where ancient ideas of knowledge, education, wisdom, and democracy all come together.
2. Book Sales
Working in book sales is an excellent way of sharing your love of literature with the world. This could be as simple as managing a bookstore outlet or as adventurous as opening your own independent bookstore. Alternatively, you can start selling books online. The mighty Amazon began life as an online bookseller and now turns over billions each year.
Online retailing will undoubtedly reduce your set-up costs. All you need is a laptop, a wifi connection, some books, and somewhere to store them. Online bookstores like Amazon and AbeBooks sell millions of books for less than the price of a cup of coffee. But rather than trying to compete with these corporate giants, independent booksellers can use Amazon and AbeBooks to reach a wider market for their niche collection. Options include trading and selling rare or antique books. Or you could market yourself as a specialist seller within a particular field. This could be anything that has a small but committed audience. For example, Chaters Motoring Booksellers was established over 50 years ago by Frank Stroud and is now the world’s best known and respected sellers of classic car books, with around 10,000 titles in stock.
Illustrating children's stories and books is a rewarding career for any book lover, but it might take a while before it becomes your main job. Children's illustration is highly competitive. You need to know how to draw, but you also need a firm understanding of narrative, characterization, and lots of imagination. Knowing (or remembering) how children think and feel is the key to creating compelling illustrations.
Quentin Blake illustrated the works of the iconic children's author Roald Dahl. He wrote, "What you really do when you start to draw is you imagine that you are that person and you go into the reactions you think you would be having."
Children's books aren't the only option for talented illustrators. Everything from cookbooks to magazines and packaging require skilled illustration. Emily Isabella is a freelance illustrator who combines her love of design with her love of books. She studied textile design and uses her penchant for patterns in her work. Says Isabella, "All my illustrations incorporate pattern in some form or another which reflects my background in textile design." To date, her portfolio includes illustrations for a wide variety of projects, including cookbooks, coloring books, and textiles and Isabella hopes to add children's books that repertoire. "I remember having an epiphany in the hallway of my first grade classroom after my teacher had just finished the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle," Isabella told Bachelorstudies. "I knew right then that I wanted to write and illustrate children's books."
4. Digital Publishing
With more and more people receiving information online, digital publishing is a growing industry and an exciting prospect for book lovers looking to build a career and make an impact on the literary scene.
Digital publishing is an innovative industry which cuts out the middlemen and circumvents the cultural gatekeepers. As a recent article by the BBC points out, “Digital publishers are often young, dynamic companies striving to find creative ways to win influence in the online retail market of fiction and non-fiction.”
One such company is The Pigeonhole, a digital platform that runs interactive and discursive marketing campaigns for some of the biggest publishers in the world. The Pigeonhole works with publishers to create a vibrant and interactive online community around digital books. Users download the app onto their mobiles and stories are broken down into bite-sized segments, or staves.
Laurence Kilpatrick, senior project manager at The Pigeonhole, said, “We want people to use The Pigeonhole as a place to share ideas and bring books to life through discussion. The Pigeonhole is the only place where readers and authors can meet at the destination of a book's journey: publication date. Watching authors respond to the reader's emotional reactions to their novels in real time is a genuine pleasure and helps to create bonds that are increasingly hard to form in such a competitive space.”
This new relationship between old and new modes of cultural production is what drives the digital publishing industry. And with more and more apps being designed every year, it may well revolutionize the way we consume stories.
5. Audiobook Narrator
If you like the sound of reading books for a living, then maybe you should consider a career as an audiobook narrator. The audiobook industry generates billions of dollars every year, and so there's plenty of work for people who know how to tell a story.
Unsurprisingly, audiobook narration is an attractive option for actors and performers. For some, it’s a side hustle that keeps them going through the lean times. For others, it's a lucrative full-time job. Since starting as an audio narrator in 2006, Renee Raudman has recorded over 300 books. The former actress went on to win several awards, received critical acclaim, and changed the way publishers think about the genre.
"When audiobooks were first being produced for a more mass market, the trend was toward a 'single-voiced' read with, at most, subtle changes for each different character," she says. "However, I didn't know that when I narrated my first audiobook. I just assumed the approach I took — voicing a distinctive personality for each major character — would be best suited for this medium as well."
Narrating books is about bringing the story alive. Or, Renee Raudman likes to think, it’s about creating a movie for the mind.
6. Literary Agent
Behind every great writer, there is often a great literary agent. Having a good agent is more crucial than ever. A literary agent will have a list of contacts within the publishing world. They know how to negotiate, who to speak to, and, most importantly, they know which publishers are likely to accept their clients’ work.
Agents are a vital link between the creative writer and the more business-oriented side of the publishing world. A literary agent needs to be a real people-person, but they also require strong business acumen and the force of personality to fight for their clients.
Gordon Wise has been a literary agent for over 10-years. In an interview with the Guardian, he said, “What I enjoyed about publishing was that it is the place where business and creativity meet; you would be working with these wonderfully creative people – the writers – but trying to turn what they have created into something of commercial value.”
Gordon started his career as a bookseller, but other routes to becoming a literary agent include marketing, PR, editing, and academia.
So there are many exciting opportunities for book lovers. Some will be drawn to more traditional careers, while others can join new industries that will revolutionize the way we write, promote, and consume literature.