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In “Bookselling Is Harder than It Looks,” an article by Robert Gray in the Shelf Awareness newsletter (http://www.shelf-awareness.com/), Robert described a bookseller’s job being like a duck “which appears to float serenely on the water’s surface while paddling like hell underneath.”

Here’s just a bit of what those customers nestled in their comfy reading chairs planet-wide don’t see because you are doing your jobs so well: today’s deliveries stacked up in shipping & receiving; cartloads of as yet unshelved books; sections needing to be culled for returns; returns waiting to be boxed and shipped; staff meetings; internal staff rivalries; scheduling conflicts or sick days that result in overstaffing/understaffing (whichever is the worst one that could happen at this particular moment); ordering to be done; bills to be paid (or strategically delayed); websites and blogs to be updated; author events to be planned and executed….

This isn’t that different from my days at Starbucks only our deliveries were perishable.  Crates of milk stacked up in the back needing to be sorted into the apropriate walk in freezer; merchandise to be unboxed and put on shelves; a cafe that had to be cleaned every ten minutes even though there was a line out the door, staff meetings; extra staff meetings for the holiday rush; internal squables over who was going to suffer headset duty; bitter rivalries over who was promoted; scheduling conflicts and people who left in the middle of their shift if they bothered to show up at all.  I don’t think we ever had an overstaffing issue.

And then you have the customers.  We had customers literally throw the drinks back at us through the drive through window.  I’ve had a customer look at a tan and a brown cupcake and ask me which one was chocolate.  I’ve handed a customer a pink frappicino and a brown frappicinno and ask me which one was strawberry.  After calling out a drink for customer XYZ including the drink name I had customer ABC come up, take a sip and inform me that this was not their drink.  I’ve had people wander off and “forget” to pay for their drink so I’ve refused to make it until they did.  I’ve had people order a coffee traveler (which takes about 30 minutes to prepare) through the drive through and have the nerve to be disgruntled when I ask them to pull around out of the way so they’re not making people behind them wait.  Customers in the drive through have asked me to recite every pastery we currently have in stock because they are too lazy to come inside… and the list goes on.

I doubt any job is as glamerous as it looks.  Take this video about some of the misconseptions about writing and publishing.

If you resemble the “novelist” and I use this term loosely… good luck to you, I would find a new day job unless you’re a trust fund baby.

Even reading the job descriptions may not prepare you, so be careful before you think any job is easy, tranquil, or glamerous.

-Eliabeth Hawthorne

Follow the people mentioned in this post on Twitter @ShelfAwareness and @Fresheyesnow

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