How to host a book swap party…

I will be hosting my 4th book swap party this week. It has been absolutely fantastic to have my friends (& their friends) over to enjoy coffee and grown-up conversation about my favorite topic BOOKS!  I think I’ve got it down to a science now and I know many of you have asked for the details on planning the swap. I am very excited to share with you!

What is a book swap party?! Good question. Basically a bunch of grown-ups grab two of their lightly used (already read) books and meet to drink a bunch of coffee or wine, visit with other grown ups and go home with two new-to-them books to read. The best part, its free to attend! No sales pitches, no catalogs to look through, and no wait for product to arrive.

Here are the details that I provide in my invitations:

For the adult books:
Please bring 2 (or more) new or lightly used books to swap. Upon arrival you will write a short note about the books you brought and put them on the tables provided. After drinks and snacks, you will draw a number to decide in what order you get to shop. You can take home as many books as you brought. (If you bring 2 books, you can leave with 2 books, if you bring 5 you can leave with 5 etc.) You are also welcome to leave with less, the leftover books will be held on to for the next swap.

For the kid books:
It has been suggested to let the kids have a free for all. So, please bring as many kids books as you would like to swap. We will sort the books by reading level. To keep things from being to crazy, we will give the kids groups to shop in.

Thats it! Easy and FREE. Please RSVP so I can plan accordingly. You are welcome to bring or invite guests. The more people, the more books to chose from.

If you are able to help with any of the following please let me know; chocolate, drinks, fruit and/or vegetable tray.

The Preparation:

Easy stuff, pick a date and time. I’ve found more folks show up if you plan in the evening after spouses get home to watch the kids. So far, we have been holding a Book Swap Party every 2-3 months. Giving our group of readers time to finish the books they pick out.

Make sure to have enough tables and seating available for your guests. I pick up table cloth (paper) to cover my mismatched tables. I created cute little word signs to label the places on the table where certain genres should go. (Find a book you didn’t like, tear out some pages and cut fun shapes, use a black sharpie to write out the words.)

Plan the food and drinks. Order a meat/fruit/veggie tray at least a week in advance. Pick up a bottle of wine (Peach Bellini is a favorite at our swaps) and bottled water. I purchase plastic Solo cups, but your house might be a little classier than mine. I recommend checking in advance if cups/plates are something you need to purchase.

Make the “library cards.” On the entry table I place a jar of pens, “library cards” and instructions on what to do. Basically, invite your guests to fill out a card with their name, the books name and what they liked/disliked about the book. Then they can place this library card inside their book before they put it on the swap table. Everyone LOVES to read a little blurb about the book and will forever remember the person who they got it from. (There are sample book swap library cards on Pinterest, if that is your thing. I avoid the site, or I would never get any reading done!)

Decide if you will have other themed decorations. I found a copy of Twilight at the local thrift store for 50cents, opened the book about half way, and cut a big hole into the center of it. On Book Swap Party night I fill it with gummy worms. Other decoration ideas, book paper confetti, bookmark party gifts for each guest, a flower bouquet with a book theme, or even have a particular book series throughout your swap party theme.

What to do about invitations? For my first swap, I bought this pack of postcards from Amazon and wrote out an invitation and hand delivered to each of my guests. It worked great! However, I found that everyone wanted a digital reminder as well. The rest of our swap party invites have been done via a Facebook Event.

Be sure to check up on your guests a few days out, check who has RSVPd and post a reminder in the event so no one misses out.

Getting the party started is simple! As people arrive, have them fill out the “library cards” and place their books on the tables provided. I invite people to grab food and drinks at this point as we wait for everyone to show up. Once all the guests have arrived I call a quick meeting. Each guest draws a number (okay, this is cheesy, so far I’m writing numbers on paper and cutting them out…I know if you live in America you can buy “tickets” or other fun paper products instead of going sharpie.) Announce the rules; Everyone has time (say 10 minutes) to browse the books and ask questions of their owner, after that time we start with number 1. Each person has a few minutes to go up to the table and pick out their first book, then we move on through the guests until everyone has picked 1 book. We repeat the cycle one more time. After everyone has their top two books, the rest is a “free for all.” We base this on how many books each person brought, if Susan brings 5 books to the party, she can leave with 5 books.

When we are doing a kids book swap, we place all the books on the table by reading level and assign the kids color coded groups so that the table isn’t crazy, and they don’t have to “wait in line.”

Thats it. Simple. Easy. Fun. And free if you do it right.

Have you hosted a book swap? Any tips, tricks or recommendations? We are always looking to improve our set up.




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