I Hosted My First Ever Book Swap Party At Home And Here’s Everything I Learnt

A Book Swap party is exactly what it sounds like – a gathering where you meet up, exchange books and stories and simply have fun with fellow readers. I hosted my first party in December, last year, and honestly loved every bit of it. I’ve listed out some fun lessons I learnt and hacks that I used to make it a success, along with some lessons I’ll use for the next one (it’s happening in February at Khar, Mumbai, for everyone who is interested in attending).  

Here goes…

PS: If you host your own party after reading this, don’t forget to send me the pictures.

1. You Don’t Need A Lot Of SpaceY

One thing that was stopping me from hosting this was the lack of funds to book a huge venue. However, I did want to get it off my 2018 list so I thought of hosting it at home and only inviting a set number of people. I live in a one-bedroom apartment and trust me, the space worked out just fine.

One thing that helped was opening up my entire house, rather than just the hall. So I packed most of my stuff in suitcases, dumped those in the kitchen, and put up book piles all over my house. The fact that there were two rooms to browse through, kept the crowd moving, also giving people enough space to sit and chat.

2. Invite as many people as you can

Because not everyone will turn up! Unless you get a rock solid RSVP, its okay to invite about fifty to eighty people – about thirty people showed up in this case. The point is, don’t limit your crowd just because you have a small space. Apart from a handful of people, not everyone is going to want to hang out. People will be in and out, in 15 minutes flat, and that’s good enough to keep the crowd moving and not letting the place get cramped.

I noticed that most people who walked in single were quick with their selection, while larger groups spent about 20 to 30 minutes selecting the books that they wanted. As long as you have a good mix, it’ll work out perfectly.

3. Get organised

Because I was hosting this singlehandedly, I wanted to make sure there was no last-minute chaos. I printed out raffle tickets and gave them to people in return for the books they got for the exchange. So if someone got five books for the swap, they got five raffle tickets in return. They were then free to go around, find the books they loved and then come back and give me the tickets and in exchange take the books they had selected. It kept things simple, without me having to ensure that no one walked away with more books than they got in the first place.

4. Use local publicity mediums

While I did use Instagram and Facebook to publicise my event, I also made sure it got a lot of local publicity. I put up flyers in all the postboxes in and around my building (you’ll need permission for this, but it’s easy once you tell people that it’s a free event, and not commercialised). I also made images announcing the event in Whatsapp, Instagram story and Facebook post sizes, and asked people to help spread the word. I reached out to a few book influencers, in Mumbai, to put up a story about my event, as a favour to me.

I also spoke about the event to basically EVERYONE I met. Trust me, all of it helped!

5. Branch out

While I pulled a very last minute deal (thanks Dukaan India), I did invite one of my friends to put up a pop-up corner with her stuff, during my event. It helped because it gave people a chance to not just exchange books but also browse through her collection of bookmarks, coffee mugs and decoratives. If you have space, doing this will help in not just attracting a larger crowd, but also doubling your publicity.

6. Have other activities

I had free chai and a book quiz at the end… trust me, I got a lot of people sticking around for this. Just a fun book quiz at the end gives people reasons to hang out for longer, and you get the time to actually mingle and have conversations instead of having people simply rushing out.

Now for the good stuff… all the “don’t do this next time” that I got out of it.

1. Don’t try and do everything singlehandedly

If you can’t find a co-host, simply get a friend to help you. It’ll make things a lot easier, and you’ll find time to actually sit and enjoy the event. Thankfully I had a friend helping me out (the same one who put up a pop-up corner), however, it would have been great to have another person simply dealing with the raffles, and the photo clicking, so that I would have gotten more time to talk to the people who were attending the book swap. 

2. Be super active on social media during the event

Because I was doing everything on my own, it got hard to stay on top of my social media game, during the event. Turns out I missed a lot of calls and messages from people asking me for the address, and event details. I also think posting photos from the event as it happened would have definitely tempted a few more people to come. For February, I am surely getting either a co-host or something to help me with social media and event management the next time. Interested? 

3. Have a rule regarding the books

Apart from ending up with about 16 copies of Chetan Bhagat books, 12 copies of Twilight and way too many 50 Shades of Grey, I was also stuck with comic books like Tinkle and Champak. Some people will treat this as a way to get rid of the books they hate, which meant that I was stuck with some really crappy books by the end of it. Having a list helps. No books under 150 pages, no Chetan Bhagat (because COME ON), no torn books… Also, no exchanging a 400-page book for a copy of Tinkle (as much as I love it, NO)! I am definitely putting together a rule book for next time.

4. Make it more personal

While I did say this to about four people – there was way too much running around to actually sit and talk to people – it’s a good idea to get people to write personal notes about the books that they are exchanging. Keep some post-its handy, and get people to talk about why they feel that someone should read the book that they are exchanging (this will also stop people from getting 50 Shades of Grey to the event!) and then put it on the books. I had a lot of people ask me how a particular book was, and I had no idea because it belonged to someone else. Having post-its will give the person picking the book a fair idea of what the book is like.

So that’s about it. The event was great, and I certainly learnt a lot about people and book events. I also met some amazing people who got gifts for me simply because they wanted to ❤

I loved meeting some really amazing people, and I hope to learn more about them on social media and see them, and YOU, at my next book swap party.

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