After some deliberation about whether this post actually needed to be written—given the how-to posts I’ve already seen floating around—I decided my recent whirlwind experience with book trading still needed to be shared with you all. Because it was definitely quite a thing that happened to me.
So let’s paint a picture real quick: it’s January of this year, I just finished reading an ARC of Reign of the Fallen, and I loved the book so much that I really want a set of the character cards released by the author. I text my go-to bookworm friend and tell her of my sudden desire for these cards that you can’t get by pre-ordering anymore, and she responds with a text that arguably ruined my life—
“Why don’t you just go check the tag?”
The tag, friends. THE TAG. *cue Jaws music playing in the background* Of course through a short discussion and checking it out for myself, I learned all about the allusive and ever-criticized #booksfortrade. Long story short, I found a good trade with a kind soul for those character cards and I lived happily ever after never checking the tag again.
HAHAHAHAHA I wish. My wallet really wishes. My TBR really, really wishes. But curse my addictive personality because I definitely did not stop after those character cards. I got into the habit of perusing people’s posts everyday (it really feels like a virtual bookstore sometimes), messaging new trader friends I had made, and sending off package after package with books to swap.
Six months later, I had people in my Twitter DMs messaging me for advice because I’m “an expert.”
I assure you guys, the last thing I ever set out to be in this life is a freaking #booksfortrade expert. But here we are.
I’m not writing this post to sarcastically chronicle my downfall as a trader, however, because #booksfortrade has actually been really fun for me in what have been the hardest months of my life. So today I’m here to maybe help guide those of you that want to start trading, or help you decide whether entering the world of trading is worth it for you!
So let’s start with the basics—
What is #booksfortrade and where can I find it?
Booksfortrade is primarily a hashtag on Twitter where people from all over the world trade books. If you just click the explore page on Twitter and type in the search bar “#booksfortrade,” then pan over to the “latest” tab, you’ll see all the excitement for yourself. If you’re just looking to get into trading, that’s where most people start. But there are a number of Facebook “Buy, Sell, Trade” groups that are also devoted to the world-wide swapping of books. If you’ve been through the ropes with Twitter for a while and want to a greater number of people to trade with, Facebook groups are actually a really effective way to find books that you want.
A brief interruption for an official #booksfortrade dictionary
If you’ve spent five seconds looking through the tag, you’ll notice there’s quite a lot of lingo and acronyms that traders like to use. So I put together a list of pretty much everything I could think of:
ISO – in search of
DISO – desperately in search of
DDDISO – really desperately in search of (this one drives me nuts given its obvious lack of grammatical sense)
WL – wishlist
FCs – finished copies (as opposed to ARCs)
Unicorns – refers to very hard to find/in demand books (usually ARCs that are a far away release date, old ARCs from popular authors like Bardugo and Maas, or special/limited editions)
US only – means that they will only trade with other people in the United States, usually because of shipping costs; you might also see “UK only,” or the opposite, “open to international”
Picky – means that the person will probably ask you to trade your soul or unborn child for a book *ehem* oops I mean they’ll ask you to trade only what’s on their WL
Will trade for shipping – this means that they’re willing to send you the book if you simply pay the shipping cost to send it
And that’s about all I can think of off the top of my head. So now that you know what trading is and how people like to discuss things on the tag, let’s go over…
The Anatomy of a Booksfortrade Post
You can go about trading two different ways: scroll through the tag and respond to people’s posts and offer what you have in exchange, or create your own post and wait for responses. If you’re looking to do the latter, every post has the same basic structure—
1. The ISO
Start your post by stating exactly what you’re looking for. If it’s two or three books, I’d just write it out in the caption. Make sure to be specific about what version or edition you are looking for (ARC, FC, Goldsboro, UK, US, etc). If you have a bigger wishlist of books, I’d attach it separately. When I made my posts, I always attached a photo of the list that I’d made. I personally like to divide my WL into types of books, so first I have ARCs, then unicorns (though I hate using that word lol), finished copies, and finally swag (oh yes friends, there’s a whole tag just for trading bookish swag too, and you guessed it, it’s #swagfortrade).
Most people tend to put forward what it is they’re willing to trade for or how they’re willing to trade in the caption of their post. This includes if you’re only looking to trade for books off your WL, if you’re willing to potentially sell books (that aren’t ARCs), if you’ll trade for shipping cost, or if you’ll trade multiple books for one. I think everyone likes having a general sense of how open you are to trading the books you’re offering. After that, traders also specify where they’re willing to trade—internationally or just domestically. Finally, they might say something like “DM me,” which just means that if you’re interested you should send a message directly and not bother with a reply to the post.
3. The Actual “Books for Trade”
The last part to your post should be a picture of everything you’re looking to trade. Some posts tend to post pictures as an offering, like “I’m really in search of book X, so here’s a look at what I can trade you if you have book X.” Others are posts just trying to get rid of books or see what new reads they can find in exchange, for instance, “Here’s everything I’m looking to unload, DM me with anything you might have to trade.”
And TA-DAAAA, you have a perfectly crafted #booksfortrade post!
Now you can speak like a trader and post like a trader, so it’s time for the most important part of this discussion
Best and Worst Practices of Trading
This section is basically gonna be a general discussion of what I believe is the way to be a “good” trader rather than a “bad” one. I’ll preface just by saying that a lot of this is subjective and based on my own personal experiences, so you should definitely take what I say with a grain of salt.
If you’ve heard discussion around #booksfortrade lately, you’ll know that a majority of it is pretty negative (and at times nasty). I can’t say I disagree with the criticism out there, in most cases I agree with it. But in general, the discourse surrounding book trading is a result of a few things:
- Over the months (years?) of the tag, it’s steadily become more centralized around a small minority of people that, as critics say, “hoard all the books.” From what I’ve seen, this is an astute statement but somewhat exaggerated. There are still a good number of people out there trading, but I can think of a few individuals that have nearly every desired ARC/book and hold onto them indefinitely in the hopes of trading for even more hard-to-find unicorns.
- Everyone wants the same damn books. If you scroll through the tag you’ll see that every other post is “ISO The Wicked King” or “Only looking for Muse of Nightmares.” At any given time there are around five/six huge titles that everybody holds out to try and find. If you’re someone without those five ARCs, things can get frustrating very quickly.
- Lastly, people are mad about booksfortrade because of poor conduct. I’ve had people turn nasty and rude on me before, and it’s never a fun experience. It’s easy to see how bookworms can get lost in the weeds and forget that they’re not trading priceless artifacts from twelve centuries ago—they’re trading books.
And that’s basically the tea on booksfortrade. I could talk about any one of those topics for a loooong time but instead of contributing to an already very loud discussion, I’d just like to try and make the community a nicer place to be, if I can.
So. Things you should always do as a trader:
- Be kind. Just be kind.
- Be clear about what you are looking for and what you’re willing to trade.
- Send photos of the book being discussed from multiple sides so the person is aware of what condition the book is in.
- Use media mail at the post office (if you’re in the US)! It’s significantly cheaper than regular first class shipping, when you go to the counter to send the package just tell the PO worker you’d like to send media mail because it’s a book. This saved me a ton of money over time!
- Be friendly. Say hello in your messages, please, thank you, and have a nice day.
- You are always allowed to say no. If you’re not interested in what a person has, just say no thanks! But definitely don’t leave them hanging on the other end of the line, I’ve had this happen so many times and it feels incredibly rude and disrespectful.
- Send the tracking number for the package once it has been shipped! This is a big one friends, it’s how I know that the person hasn’t scammed me.
- Be forgiving. Realize that mistakes happen with the post office and it’s not the other trader’s fault. When you agree to a trade, you accept the risk that comes with mailing off a book.
- Be patient. People have lives outside of the book community, so it may take them a few days to ship.
- Finally, just BE KIND. It’s not that hard and it makes a huge difference. You’re also much more likely to make friends that way, which for me has been the best part about trading.
Alright. Now here’s what NOT to do:
- Act like booksfortrade is an auction block. If you have a desired book, do not bounce between traders in your DMs and say things like, “Person A offered me three books, can you do better?” It’s dehumanizing and greedy, and it’s that attitude that earns the tag its bad rap.
- Post a photo of a book you’re not actually willing to trade. So many times I’ve gotten excited because I had a book on someone’s stated WL, and when I message them the offer they say that “they’re not willing to trade for that book.” It just creates disappointment and confusion.
- Try to sell ARCs or offer to pay for someone’s ARC. This is a big one friends, ARCs are clearly stated to be “not for sale.” So don’t be a jerk and try to undercut the publishing industry.
- Take advantage of someone. This is happening more and more and it’s really disheartening to see. I always like to stick by the fact that a book for a book is fair. Asking for two and three fall 2018 ARCs just because you know you have a “unicorn” that someone is desperate for is an assh*le move, I just have to say it. It’s taking advantage of someone, plain and simple.
- Be unresponsive. The most unnerving thing in the world is sending off a book only to find sudden silence in your DMs. If another trader suddenly stops responding and hasn’t sent you tracking, that’s a huge red flag for a scamming situation. Most times it’s just that the person isn’t checking their DMs though, so just be considerate and remember to respond.
PHEW. I think that’s about it. Those lists were much longer than I intended them to be but I had *things* to say lol.
Overall, here’s what’s good about trading: you can find books you probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise; it’s a great outlet to find reviewers for an ARC once you’re done reading it (though keep in mind, if it’s an ownvoices book it’s always best to send it to an ownvoices reviewer); you can meet new bookworms and make new friends; and it’s an excellent resource to find out what editions of books exist (is there an alternative UK cover? Has the ARC been printed by publishers yet? etc etc).
And of course, the bad: it’s addictive, scrolling through the tag becomes a kind of compulsion since you always want to see what people have (at least, this became the case for me); it costs money to constantly ship books, especially when you take packing supplies into account; the tag contributes to a toxic culture of accumulating ARCs just for the sake of having them to trade or use as a bargaining tool rather than for, hello, reading.