How to Plan the Perfect Book Swap

If you’re an avid reader, you likely have dozens of read and re-read books on your shelf. Although some might be staples you’re unwilling to part with, you probably own at least a few books you’re ready to donate. Make space for new poetry collections, non-fiction works, or novels by hosting a book swap. 


Book swaps are an enjoyable, inexpensive (or free!) way to discover new literary favorites, check books off your to-be-read list, and connect with other literature enthusiasts. To help you plan your own book swap, we’ve created this simple, useful guide.


Choose a location 


Before determining details, choose a location to host your book swap. Depending on how simple or dynamic you want the event to be, decide if you want to host the book swap at a participant’s home or a public place. 


Your home or a friend’s home lends to a more casual, personal event. You’d likely tailor the guest list exclusively to people you know, creating a fun, potentially recurring, opportunity to connect. This choice has multiple benefits, such as the ability to easily distribute planning responsibilities, like who will bring refreshments or other items. An event in one’s home also provides a more comfortable, familiar atmosphere, allowing guests to feel at ease. 


In contrast, hosting a book swap in public at a bookshop, library, or nonprofit, for example, could allow for a more varied book swap. Public spaces already have certain accommodations, such as tables and seating, simplifying the planning process. This location also lets you reach more people and build community with like-minded folks. As a bonus, the book swap helps support and bring attention to local businesses or organizations.


Iron out details


Now that you’ve chosen a location, figure out the logistics. First, decide on a date and time, preferably during the day on a Saturday or Sunday, allowing the most amount of people to attend. 


Then, decide if you want to primarily plan by yourself or with a team. If you’re planning with others, create a shared document detailing responsibilities, including who will market the event, send e-vites, create signs, source seating, and bring snacks and beverages, if applicable. 


If you’re hosting in a public place, consult with the business owner or organization manager. Send an email proposal, outlining why they should partner with you to host a book swap. If necessary, meet with them a few times before the event to iron out details, such as whether the event should include speakers or spoken word performances, for example.


How to swap


Now that you’ve established the basic details, figure out what the event should look like. Instruct participants to bring books or book accessories, such as bookends, bookmarks, and bookshelves, in decent condition. Then, decide if you prefer a particular theme and genre or a more general book swap. Options could include only poetry collections, novels-in-verse, or books exploring a specific issue or subject. 


Also, determine how the book swap will operate. Will participants simply approach others to swap items? Or should books and accessories be organized on tables based on genre and accessory type, allowing attendees to freely choose at least one item?


Encourage donations to an organization


Use this event as an opportunity to help an organization that is creating positive change—if you wish to stick with the book theme, choose a local literature nonprofit. Upon entrance, encourage those attending to donate what they can. If your budget permits, hold a raffle, with proceeds benefitting the nonprofit. Prizes could include new books, literature-themed merchandise, or a gift card for a local bookshop.


Hopefully, this guide serves as a starting point for hosting your first book swap. For more literature-themed event inspiration, check out 4 Quick Tips For an At-Home Writer’s Workshop and How to Host Your Own Literary Salon.