Monday, February 11, 2019

Book Trading, A Guide

Nearly three years ago I wrote my first post about the book trading hashtag on Twitter, also known as #booksfortrade. I've continued to used the tag very regularly in the time since then and have had largely great experiences with it! My previous post was mostly regarding entitlement on the tag, but here I'll try to dive into some other issues I've seen over the years. (Please note, these are just my opinions based on a few years of experience. I'm not saying these tips will apply to everyone and I'm always open to other opinions!)


  • #booksfortrade - A hashtag that people use to trade books for other books. ARCs are often traded on the tag. All ARCs are books, but not all books are ARCs. Sometimes books are also posted here for sale. Swag is traded on this tag. Books are also occasionally given away for the cost of shipping. It's a bit of a catchall.
  • #arcsfortrade - A hashtag used to trade ARCs only. 
  • #swagfortrade - A hashtag specifically for trading various swag including bookmarks, samplers, pins, and tons of other items. 
  • #booksfortradeUK - Most people on this tag are located within the UK and are looking to trade with other people in the UK. Sometimes people from other countries post on this tag when they're looking for foreign editions and are willing to trade internationally. ARCs also get traded here.
  • #booksforsale - This hashtag is for selling books, although books are also sometimes sold on the trade tags (minus #arcsfortrade since selling ARCs is frowned upon).
  • #bookishwish - A hashtag created for giving books away and granting wishes. If you're looking for a book but have no money and nothing to trade, post your wish here and it MAY be granted.
  • Unicorn - The word "unicorn" refers to an extremely difficult to find ARC that someone is looking for to complete a collection. This could be an ARC, a rare, out of print finished copy, a special edition, etc. 
  • WL - Wishlist
  • FC - Finished Copy
  • HC - Hardcover
  • ARC - Advance Reader Copy

Alright, now that we've got the basics out of the way, let's jump into some of the issues. 


This is the most obvious ISSUE with the trade tag and it has become a particularly nasty issue in the last couple weeks. Of course, there's no way to be 100% sure you aren't getting scammed, but in all my years of trading it has only happened once. Here are my tips for making sure you don't end up getting scammed: 
  • Ask for references! Seriously, this is SO important with new traders. I know that it can feel awkward to ask someone for a trading reference. I've been there. I know how it can make you feel a little icky and like you think the other person is being dishonest, but you have to watch out for yourself. There's no harm in asking someone for the names of who they've traded with and, if they're honest traders, they shouldn't have a problem with it. 
  • If they're brand new to trading and you aren't, you can always ask them to ship first. Once you have tracking or a book in hand, send yours out. If they have an issue with this and you feel uncomfortable, just skip the trade. 
  • Always pay via PayPal! If you are buying a book or paying shipping for an ARC, never pay any way other than PayPal. Everyone these days has a PayPal account and, if they truly don't, it only takes a couple minutes to set one up. Paying through PayPal gives you a way to get your money back if they do turn out to be scammers. 
  • Ask for more photos if you feel uncomfortable. A recent scam on Twitter involved stealing photos from someone's Instagram and passing them off as their own. If you feel weird about it, reverse image search and/or ask for more pictures, maybe even one including their username. 
  • Check the bad traders list! It seems like this resource doesn't get nearly enough attention and it's such a good place to start. If you have a bad experience, comment about it here.  


In the time since I wrote my last post, I've continued to trade A LOT and I actually managed to get a couple of the unicorns I mentioned wanting in that post. In that time trading I saw these books for trade multiple times and usually attempted to snag them, to no avail. I just did not have anything the trader wanted. And that was perfectly okay. It took awhile, but I did get them eventually. Here are some trading tips related to getting what you want: 
  • You might have to search for YEARS to attain your unicorns. Eventually you may be able to find a trade that gets you what you want. Or maybe not. 
  • Just because you see your unicorn or any other book you want does not mean you're entitled to it. If you don't have something the other person wants, you will probably have to move on and keep searching. 
  • Someone posting a book for trade does not equal them giving it away or offering to trade it for anything. People who post usually have wishlists and most of them want something off their wishlist in exchange for their book(s). 
  • Please don't get mad at people for wanting to be happy with their end of the trade. If they say they're being picky with a book it is probably because they don't REALLY want to part with it, but are willing to in order to get their own unicorns. 
  • Realize that other people can ask for whatever outlandish things they want in a trade. As much as it sucks, they can wait for the best offer. Whether you agree with it or not, it's their property and it's their choice at the end of the day. 
  • On the other hand, if you're looking for something and know you're going to be picky, SAY SO! It's your right to be picky, but it's so much easier for everyone if you're very clear about your expectations. 
  • If you know you'll only trade for 2 or 3 books from your wishlist or a super rare exclusive edition, or plan to wait for the best offer, just say that instead of surprising people with it in DMs. 
  • Lastly, know what you're trading. You can post an ARC from three years ago that has 4 reviews on Goodreads and list only unicorns on your wishlist, but you probably won't get them. 


I'm honestly surprised I even need to mention this, but here we are. Most traders are very conscious of the way they package books and swag, but there are always those who don't get it quite right. Here are some tips for making sure your trades make it in tact: 
  • Do NOT ship your books in manila envelopes. These offer absolutely zero protection. 
  • Bubble mailers are fine, but choose one that is the right size for the book. If there's tons of room for the book to move around, chances are it will end up getting damaged. If the envelope is way too big, just fold it over before taping. 
  • For extra protection, bubble wrap your books before they go inside the envelope. 
  • Boxes are even better than bubble mailers, but it's still important to make sure they fit well inside the box. If not, use extra packaging material to make sure they will stay secure. Otherwise, they may get damaged. 
  • Never ship bookmarks in plain envelopes. If you must put them in an envelope, at least secure them between pieces of cardboard so they don't get bent or ripped. 
  • Unless someone tells you otherwise, they'll probably ship using Media Mail, which means your book is probably going to take a week to get to you. If you need it faster, offer to pay for priority shipping. 


Last but not least, let's talk about some basic decency when it comes to trading. Just like you can't help what others want in exchange for their books, you can't help how they act. Thankfully, you can help how you act towards other traders. 
  • Once you agree to a trade, decide on a shipping timeline. If you say you'll ship on a specific day, do it! If something comes up, be transparent. 
  • DON'T be one of those people who comes up with excuse after excuse and takes a month and a half to ship. 
  • Similarly, if you agree to a trade, follow through with it! It's so unbelievably rude to agree to a trade and then ghost your fellow trader. If you absolutely can't stick to the deal you've made, just say so. Again, transparency is key (not so transparent you're a ghost, please). 
  • Once you've sent your half of the trade, send tracking info as soon as possible. It's just the polite thing to do. 

These tips are not the be all and end all of #booksfortrade, but they feel like a good place to start, based on my experience. It's always unfortunate when a trade goes badly, especially when it's a first trade, but please know that the trade tag has been a great experience for a lot of us! The community has been overwhelmingly supportive and often try to help each other find what they're searching for. 

Have you used the trade tag? 
What would you add to my list? 
Let me know in the comments!