Bookselling salary guide?
March 19, 2009 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for salary guidelines for a job outside my field that I'm interested in -- coordinating events and marketing for an indie bookstore.

So I just had some conversations with the owner of an independent bookstore. They're looking for someone to manage events and marketing. The goal is to take the bookstore from its current, basic approach to the newer model of community engagement, frequent instore events, partnerships, big author events, etc. The job would involve the event planning, working with publishers, marketing, managing a presence on social networks, etc. It will also involve serving as the assistant manager, the second of two fulltime staff in the store. About half the time would go to the marketing and events, the other half to bookselling and management tasks. I wouldn't do hiring or payroll.

The store is in an affluent Northeastern college town. The goal is revenue growth through increased event sales, and increased overall sales from newly-built customer loyalty. So there are some success measures that can be built into this job.

It's a newly created job; I would largely define what directions it develops in. I have all the required skills.

We're at the stage where I need to communicate my salary requirements to them. I'm coming from the world of nonprofit management, so it's not like I'm expecting hundreds of thousands; I already work for modest wages. But I'm afraid of both lowballing them, and coming in way too high, and I can't find any references. There's a baseline I need to make, but if I can beat it by a lot, I will definitely try. Does anyone have any idea what a job like this could command?
posted by Miko to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
$53K seems like a useful base. Given the sector (book retailing), plus your tasks and responsibilities (managing a preset strategy, rather than developing new strategies and taking account for the success of the strategies), plus you lack of staff supervision, this seems like a reasonable offer to make (it's a little on the high side).

If you have any tools that can measure and link increased sales to your efforts, you will be in a better position after a year or so to ask for a raise. If your success is based largely on your unique knowledge, skills and personal networks, you will also be able to stand a better chance of achieving a higher starting salary, and then a salary increase a year or so down the road. Basically, you should be a key player they can't afford to lose.

PS: I chose $53K, because a figure that's not divisible by 5 is usually more believable (plus, 50k may be too low to start with negotiations, while 55k may be a little too high)
posted by KokuRyu at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2009

The Department of Labor publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook that would be helpful in assessing salaries for the different tasks you are talking about.

If your job would entail sales, which it sounds like it would, you may want to add a commission piece (if that is the norm) or at least a bonus structure. Sales people get bonuses for good performance, ie meeting and exceeding their goals.
posted by FergieBelle at 11:35 AM on March 19, 2009

I think $53K is way too high, but I suppose it depends on the market. You say "Northeastern College Town" - I assume you mean near where you are now. I can tell you that in Portland, ME someone doing the job you describe for an independent bookstore would make around $32K - $36K per year, tops. I'm figuring in here that 50% of your time would be spent basically as a bookseller -- doing retail management, essentially. Often those positions are hourly. So you'd want to calculate that 50% at the same range as what the current Assist Managers are making. The other 50% of your salary I'd calculate at 25% higher than the first 50%.

I base this on conversations I've had with my former roommate, who manages an Indy bookstore in the Greater Portland ME area.
posted by anastasiav at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Check out
posted by Kololo at 11:49 AM on March 19, 2009

I'm in Charlotte, and have co-worker who does exactly the job you describe, and she makes $8 an hour.... so wages obviously vary widely.
posted by at 11:50 AM on March 19, 2009

I pulled these hourly pay rates from the national average wages for occupations. In your situation, because your job would be hard to categorize, I pulled a few different occupations.

First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers: $14.34 (30k) Note:This number references individuals who supervise staff. Since that's not you, this might be high
Meeting and Event Planners: $19.57 (41K)
Advertising and Promotions Manager: $34.64 (72K)

If you want to go into your negotiations with some actual data, this is one way you could calculate:

Use the jobs above, but weigh the amount of your job that would be spent on each one. For example:
50% of job @ First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers: $14.34 (30k)
25% of job Advertising and Promotions Manager: $34.64 (72K)
25% of job Event Planners: $19.57 (41K)

Those calculations gave me $20.72 an hour or $43K

You would probably need to decide whether where you live is significantly below or above the national average cost of living and adjust accordingly. And obviously, think about whether this is astronomically more than an independent bookstore could afford to pay you, because it sure might be. My numbers have nothing to do with bookstores, and every niche market is different. Good luck, this sounds like a really cool job!
posted by mjcon at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2009

During the exciting four months a couple years ago when I briefly left working for museums and got a job doing basically what you're describing, only for a brewpub/vegetarian restaurant/microbrewery, I made 33K. In Asheville, that was considered quite generous and probably is why I got laid off so quickly (well, that and the owner's terrifying ADHD.) Since I think where you are and where I am are probably about the same salarywise, my guess is you're looking at the low to mid 30s. Maybe 40, tops, if they pay really well.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:05 PM on March 19, 2009

Oh and I got hired away from my museum job and he asked me how much I needed to make. I went in saying, well, look, I'm making 29K now and you're not offering me health insurance, so I have to make at least 5K more a year. Then he offered 33 and I took it. You might consider just doing that - setting a salary that's close or a little more than what you're making now and see what happens.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:09 PM on March 19, 2009

I think Anastasia's correct. I used to be an independent bookseller, and wages were never impressive. Consider asking for extra vacation time, which has lots of value to you, but is not as painful to the store owner.
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: This isn't looking too good. I guess I'll just have to start a little above where I am, but my baseline is $40K, so they may not be able to afford this. However, maybe they will. The business has some complexities, like a reasonably-sized textbook trade. I suppose all I can do is state my goal and see if they quail or not. I don't want to be underemployed, either moneywise or skillswise, even though this sounds intriguing and fun.
posted by Miko at 12:29 PM on March 19, 2009

$40K is probably out of reach for an indie, but it couldn't hurt to ask. I'm sure they recognized that you would make an excellent candidate, but having been a bookseller for pretty much my entire career, and having had my own store for about a decade, I can't say I've come across to many operations that could support that kind of salary, especially in this environment. My last year in business (2000) we had sales of about $900K and I was still the highest paid staff member at $24K. These days I would be very reluctant to look to a manager to increase sales. I would instead look to a manager for more ways to cut costs.

One thing you might consider as a selling point though, if you wanted to make a case for why $40K might be worth it to them, your previous experience could actually be very applicable. One of the most successful strategies we had when struggling to keep our doors open was starting a volunteer program. Folks would work at the store for free in exchange for receiving a substantial discount (near cost) on books. The last couple of years I had three part time volunteers and one full time. It made a huge difference. A proposal to manage such a program on top of the the other duties might be worth considering for an indie. Another strategy you might propose would be to file for NFP status for the store and offer to manage development. This is a strategy currently being pursued by Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor. With one or the other, or even both of those additional responsibilities it might seem like a worthwhile investment for the store. Of course neither strategy might be appropriate for the store your talking with but with you're previous experience with NFPs, it could have potential. Good luck!
posted by Toekneesan at 1:25 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, toekneesan. There is some interesting NFP potential in that the store has been trying to get the town involved with a regional Buy Local program - we discussed my spending some time providing support for that. As a separate program run with/through the bookstore, it could pull in economic development grants and such.

Thanks to everyone. This was very helpful in getting perspective on the potential of this. I feel as though I have a much better idea where I have to start, and not to pin my hopes too high on this one.
posted by Miko at 2:05 PM on March 19, 2009

With that small of sales staff, I don't see how they can possibly pay this position above $40k unfortunately. I manage a slightly larger sized used bookstore, and I know we couldn't afford anything around that.
posted by highfidelity at 6:34 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: It's a bigger staff, this is just a new opening they are creating. They have about eight part-timers.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on March 19, 2009

If it's something you would be interested in doing still, is there any possibility of talking to them about leaving out the assistant manager type duties and condensing the marketing aspect to a 20-hr/week job? Then you could find something more lucrative for the rest of the week? It sounded like you were less interested in that aspect of the job anyway. I know the promotions manager for our store works only 2-3 days a week and never really is in the actual storefront working.
posted by highfidelity at 5:20 AM on March 20, 2009

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