November 4, 2010

The Best Careers for Book Lovers

My husband often says, "When you retire, you can just sit at your computer and write about books all day long." What fun that would be, to read and review to my heart's content! So, I was excited when Tara, the assistant editor of Pounding The Pavement, suggested they'd like to write an article for Dolce Bellezza. Did I have a topic in mind?" she asked. "Most certainly," I replied. "I'd love to know how we can turn our passion for literature into a career."  Now, here it is:

If you’re a book lover like me, you’re at your most comfortable when surrounded by books. Walking into a great library or bookstore, I can feel my blood pressure lowering and the stress dissolving. It’s invigorating, and I can’t wait to either get going on the work I need to do, or to pick up every book around me and read the first page. One or the other.

But how do you turn this abstract love of novels and poetry into a satisfying life path? Here are a few suggestions for jobs that can provide both a life of letters and a way to pay the rent.


If the thought of taking an unpolished piece of work and turning it into a stellar piece of writing sounds exciting to you, you might make a great editor. As an editor, you’d look over people’s writing, make suggestions for revision, and help them come up with titles. Editors also generate ideas for content in books, journals, and newspapers.

Necessary education and skills: You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, and a concentration in English, communications, or journalism can be helpful. It’s also important to love writing, and to be able to express your ideas clearly.

Salary: $36,000-70,000 a year


What better way to show your love of books than to take part in their production? Publishers specialize in many aspects of book selection, design, and production, from picking out which books to buy from authors, to marketing new releases, to selling advertisements for periodicals.

Necessary education and skills: A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement, through job experience is important. Interning or working on a college newspaper can be helpful for getting a better job.

Salary: $36,000-$100,000 a year, depending on position


If you’ve got an artistic bent, consider bookbinding. Bookbinding is the craft of creating books, through shaping their covers, hand stitching, and gluing in their pages. Bookbinders also repair and restore old, rare books.

Necessary education and skills: It can be helpful to take classes in bookbinding, though many binderies offer on the job training. Comfort using tools and a knowledge of graphic arts is also helpful.

Salary: $20,000-40,000 a year

Script Writer

If you’re tired of moaning over how your favorite book was turned into an awful movie, you can take action. Script writers are in charge of adapting books and other media for the big screen. You’ll get paid to obsess over the book and all its details, and to decide what’s necessary for the movie and what can be left out.

Necessary education and skills: You’ve got to have great writing and reading skills, so a bachelor’s in a related field is definitely helpful. Knowledge of film and the production of movies is also key.

Salary: $38,000-70,000 a year; most script writers work by contract and are paid by project.

Indie Book Store Owner

Owning and running an independent bookstore is like assembling your own library of great books, each one chosen at your discretion. As a small business owner, you would supervise employees, advertise for your store, and price your inventory.

Necessary education and skills: Though no formal education is required, a degree in business or management can be a lifesaver for opening a small business.

Salary: $30,000-60,000 a year

Freelance Writer

Freelance writers set their own schedule and decide when, where, and how much they work. This can be a great job for someone who wants to hone their writing skills, while also having time to read copiously and immerse themselves in a new novel. Freelance writers work for newspapers, magazines, blogs--basically any company that needs writing done.

Necessary education and skills: A bachelor’s in a writing-related field will develop the necessary writing skills. Experience, like interning at a magazine, is helpful in scoring your first gigs.

Salary: $30,000-80,000 a year, depending on experience

Joy Paley is a culture, technology, and science writer from Berkeley, California. She is also a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on online career training for the Guide to Career Education.


  1. Easier said than done :) Being an indie book store owner does have its attractions tho.

  2. Great list, but you'd be hard pressed to get a loan to start a new business these days.

  3. Oh, to be able to hop over into a world surrounded by books only. I would love it! My degree is in English / Creative Writing, and somehow got into Corporate business. How did I get stuck in that for 16 years when I should have been teaching or writing?? Argh.

    Maybe 2011 will be my fantastic year in which I stop talking about a change, and start planning for a change...! :)

    And great article!! Thanks for posting and reminding me that it might never be too late...!

  4. This is a great, helpful post, Bellezza. :)

  5. Sounds a beautiful idea, with one proviso, I loved gardening, but part of my job was organising a garden project & I spent all my working/waking hours on this - end result, a fantastic garden, beautiful flowers, fruits etc.
    But my own garden - a neglected corner of pardise, overgrown, unloved, & a constant thorn everytime I stepped outside my door. I live, breathe, love books & I would be concerned that if my love became my job, would my passion become just another chore. love your blog as per usual.

  6. Book Bird Dog, it certainly does sound easier than I know it would be to jump into any of these professions. What I know about business you could fit on the head of a pin, and my degres are in psycholoy and elementary education which I don't think would transfer very well to some of these literary focused jobs. It's a dream, though, to see how I could immerse myself in books on a more full time basis.

    Bermudaonion, I'd be terrified even to take a loan on! We're rejoicing our house will be paid for in a few years, I don't want more debt at this time in my life.

    Coffee and a Book Chick, with a degree in creative writing, and experience in business, you should be set to go! I'd love to see one of us take the leap, and right now, I think you're the better candidate. ;)

    Suko, I hope so. I hope it sparks some flames for some of us literary buffs!

    Parrish Lantern, your analogy with the garden makes perfect sense to me. It would be a terrible thing indeed to turn one's passion into a job. (Glad you love the blog, too. ;)

  7. Well, you could always work at a large bookstore and make somewhere around $18K/year, full-time. :)

    I'm with you on the loan situation. We should have our house paid-off in the next 6 years. Woot!!!!

  8. I'd LOVE to work in a book shop. How about a small one in Italy somewhere? Or, I'll even take outside of Chicago. Six more years for us, too. I'll bet our notes are due on the same day, knowing us.

  9. Beautiful post, Bellezza! I love the fact that there are so many options for book lovers :) I remember reading about book binding in 'The Book of Air and Shadows' by Michael Gruber. It is such a fascinating and delicate art! I seriously thought of working in a bookstore for some time - my feeling was that if I feel so happy spending time in a bookstore for a couple of hours, how would it feel if I spent the whole day there? It would be heaven, wouldn't it :) The thought was tantalizing, but then I didn't go through with it.

  10. Great post. You could have also mentioned 'librarian' but I do know about the current hardship libraries are facing in the US due to lack of funding. Hopefully, this will change soon.

    I was thinking of book binding or book preservation as another lovely job to do with books except the latter one seems to need a lot of understanding of chemistry and science!

  11. Mae, it's true with librarians being a great career choice for us literature lovers; the only thing is, in our school district, the librarians have to be more technologically minded than literary. So sad...

  12. AnonymousJune 17, 2013

    I think the "freelancer" salary range is a bit unrealistic, at least in rural Iowa where I live. I get paid by the story by a local small-town newspaper and make under $2,000 a year.

  13. AnonymousJune 17, 2013

    In addition to freelance writing, I do library work (I don't have a library degree, but I do have a bachelor's degree in English). I earn $8.36 per hour for 18 hours per week. I love the work, but wish I had a liveable wage. Luckily, my husband works full-time.

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