17 Cool Jobs for Book Lovers


When I was eight years old, I decided, as a personal challenge, that I was going to read the entire children's section of the Eugene Public Library from A to Z. And, I did. While I enjoyed the shocked reactions of my classmates to this dramatic display of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and basked in the adulation of the librarians, I had no idea how this literary stunt would shape my adult life.

When I am not writing for Wise Bread, my other primary sources of income are from my work as a book scout and as a film producer. As it turns out, an encyclopedic knowledge of pre-1980 children's literature is a valuable commodity. My 25-year career in books and film is based on the extreme reading I did during grade school.

If you are interested in parlaying your mad bookworm skills into paid work, consider these book-wormy vocations.

1. Archivist

Archivists identify, preserve, organize, establish, and maintain physical and intellectual control over records of enduring value. Archives are non-current records that contain information about individuals, groups, industries, governments, etc.

For example, urban planners can examine old records to investigate land claims or study how zoning impacted neighborhoods. Archivists curate media, which means that they have to be able to put documents in historical context, establish the relationship of documents with other material, and organize and describe documents in a manner that is searchable by historians and researchers who may use the records for purposes other than those for which they were originally created.

2. Blogger

I don't even want to reveal how many articles I had to read in order to write this post. Writing click-worthy content for even the frothiest gossip site involves spending hours combing the Internet for story ideas, doing background research, and fact-checking.

3. Book Reviewer

I think Lev Grossman of Time Magazine says it best:

"I think of the reviewer's role now as being more about providing context for a book, tracing its lineage in the tradition and locating it in the literary topography of the present, and all that touchy-feely sort of thing. The critics I love these days do something slightly different from what they used to: They don't just judge, they open up that weird, intense, private dyad that forms between book and reader and let other people inside. They tell the story, the meta-story, of what happened when they opened the book and began to read the story."

4. Book Scout

Book scouts typically work for book agents, publishers, or film studios. A book scout for American publishers travels to book festivals around the world and works with foreign publishers or agents to find titles that are worth publishing in English for the American market. Book scouts who work for film studios scour the publishing world looking for stories that can be turned into movies or television shows.

5. Book Store Employees

I have never met anyone who worked in an independent bookstore who didn't have a profound passion for reading. The owners and employees of independent bookstores not only curate a collection of books for their specific customer base, but often act as advocates for authors. The "Employee Recommendations" shelf is one of my favorite places to find new writers.

6. Copy Editor

Do you know why Ferris is capitalized but wheel is not? Do you avoid the express line at the grocery store because you find the "10 Items or Less" sign rage-inducing? Do you hate my reliance on the passive voice? Then copy editor might be the job for you. Copyediting (also copy-editing or copy editing) is editing to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of written material. In addition to their attention to detail and their ability to see typos in the dark, copy editors must be ready to throw down with anyone at a moment's notice over the Oxford comma. (For the record, if you don't use the serial comma, I don't think we can be friends).

7. Development Executive

Studio executives for film and television work with writers to "develop" ideas into viable scripts for movies and television shows. These ideas can be an original story idea from a screenwriter, or based on a book, magazine article, news item, or even a love letter.

Development executives work as editors for screenwriters, helping shape the story and characters to create the shooting script. When I was a D-girl, my nickname was Magazina, because I subscribed to 26 different newspapers and magazines. A large part of my nights and weekends were spent not at glamorous Hollywood parties, but at home, reading screenplays, book manuscripts, and news articles.

8. Editor

The best editors, like the best development executives, are language mechanics. Their job is to improve the quality of written communication and prepare a writer's work for publication. Editors help writers shape material for clarity, momentum, humor, consistency, and a lot more. Successful editors are also experts at selling and promoting the written word to the reading public.

9. Historian

Historians literally write history by interpreting the past through the study of written historical documents. Like homicide detectives, historians gather information in order to build a narrative to explain events in history.

10. Librarian

Surprise! In addition to acting as administrators, educators, and archivists, librarians also read a lot of books. A special committee of librarians choose the winners of the Newberry and Caldecott Awards for children's books each year.

11. Literary Agent

My friend Alan is a huge literary agent. His mother describes his job as an "entertainment salesman." I think this is an apt description. Literary agents for books try to sell their authors' work to publishers and sell book sub-rights to film and television studios. It is an agent's job to negotiate deals on behalf of their clients. Literary agents for film work with screenwriters and directors. In addition to selling completed screenplays, they also work to find open writing assignments for clients. (Adapting a book to a screenplay for a producer is an example of an open writing assignment). Some literary agents straddle both the publishing and the film world, but most focus on one or the other.

12. Opposition Researcher

To quote political strategist Joe Rodota,"Political campaigns are won in the library, not on the campaign trail."

It's the job of opposition researchers to find damning evidence against rival political candidates in order to sway public opinion. For example, it was James Carter IV, an opposition researcher, who found the video of Mitt Romney's now notorious 47% speech and gave it to Mother Jones writer David Corn. But candidates are often attacked for more pedestrian reasons: They plagiarize cookbook recipes or they are late on payments for their private plane. Once the dark art of politics, opposition researchers now regularly work for corporations, non-profit groups, unions, and high-wealth individuals.

13. Proofreader

While there are proofreaders who work as copy editors and vice versa, proofreading is a distinct job from copyediting. While copyediting is more concerned with maintaining a consistent style, proofreaders are responsible for correcting errors in the final draft (or proof) of a document before it is published. This includes fixing typos, correcting pagination, and double-checking that the photo captions actually match the content of the photos.

14. Public Policy Analyst

Public policy analysts who work at the local level study everything from police response times to parking meter fees. The job of the policy analyst is to create or adjust public policies, regulations, and laws, hopefully to ensure that policies are fair to everyone involved. Policy analysts typically work for government agencies and non-profit groups, but more for-profit companies are hiring policy analysts to steer regulation in their favor.

15. Publisher

A publisher is responsible for overseeing all aspects of preparing books, magazines, newspapers, or blogs for publications. This means everything from working with scouts to acquire new material, hiring illustrators to create cover art, and organizing book tours. If you are an author who wants to self-publish, you should be aware of all of the hats you must wear in order to create a book that can compete with big publishing houses.

16. Reader

While there are still some union readers working for film studios, the majority of reader jobs are now held by freelancers (many of them executives who are between jobs) and unpaid interns. Because publishing companies, literary agencies, and studios receive hundreds of submissions each week, it's impossible for top tier executives or editors to read everything. Readers read submissions and then write coverage, which is a short document that contains a brief synopsis of the material and a comments section where the reader reviews everything from the quality of the writing to the marketability of the book or screenplay. Only material that receives positive coverage is passed up the line to the higher ups. Material that receives poor coverage is rejected.

17. Teacher

When I was a kid, I never wanted to be a teacher, because who wants to do homework every night? Then I got a series of jobs in publishing and film. Let's just say I don't get the summer off, my kid self was dumb, and leave it at that. While English and history teachers bear the brunt of reading student writing, even math teachers must stay current by reading up on new methods of teaching.

Every great teacher I have had in my life has taken tremendous pride in their ability to inspire intellectual curiosity in their students. Quite often the tool they used to communicate the love of learning new things was a book.

Do you have a job that pays you to read? Share your experience in the comments section.

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Guest's picture
Kelli B

Good article! There really are a lot of job options if you love to read. While many people think of "blogging" as a hobby, it can be a career if you're passionate about it and dedicated to it.

Guest's picture

Great list of jobs! I'm with you on the serial comma. I'm sure you'd like to know that the Newbery Medal is named after the Britsh printer John Newbery, which is the reason it only has one 'r'. Cheers from a librarian.

Guest's picture

Your humor within this article is spot on! Thank you.

Guest's picture
Tom Rogers

Great article. I work as a 'content editor' for Thomson Reuters and, in preparation for impending retirement, was wondering if I might find a freelance job as a reader. That's when I came across your piece and discovered some associated job options. Thanks for sharing. Your time and effort are much appreciated.


Guest's picture

I am a bookseller and love it! I do read a lot of books, but I absolutely love to recommend books to my customers!! I love when they come back to me and tell me how much they enjoyed the book! it is such a pleasure to be able to love and work with books! I loved to read as a child, teen and into adulthood!!!! I have been working these last 10 years in a bookstore and I still love it! I wish I had had this job sooner^_^ !!!