Book Exchanges: A Treasure Hunt and a Marketing Tool

For independent presses and self-published authors, marketing is one of the most important factors in a book’s success. Oftentimes we associate marketing with the publication date, but really it’s a process that starts at the very beginning, when a manuscript is acquired, and lasts for as long as you want it to. But with new projects and a busy schedule, sometimes it can become difficult to actively promote a title for years to come. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be all about scheduling social media posts and newsletters: there are other ways to gain exposure for your titles!

Book exchanges have become increasingly popular in recent years. Generally, the process involves swapping books with strangers for free. This allows readers to expand their reading collection and discover new authors. With over ninety thousand registered libraries in ninety-one countries worldwide, the nonprofit organization Little Libraries has become very successful in inspiring more readers. The general idea of “give a book and take a book” draws people in to browse the little wooden box’s contents. Imagine the excitement if a curious wanderer happened upon a brand-new, freshly published book from a local press! This is a great way to gain free local support and exposure for new independent titles or even self-published authors. Slipping in free bookmarks or postcards with your press’s name and website is a great way to market your booklist; if the reader likes the copy they’ve picked up, no doubt they will want to learn more about the press and the author.

For even more widespread exposure, there are book-exchange sites like BookCrossing, which comes with a neat benefit—you can track where your book ends up! You register your book on the website for free, receive a code and a label, then release the book into the wild to get “caught.” This can be interpreted in many ways: the BookCrossing community allows its members to connect and personally exchange books, leave a book in an “Official BookCrossing Zone,” or place a book somewhere random and register the location on the site. Some readers even set up wishlists, where you can send the book to them directly. This book treasure hunt is appealing to many: the site has garnered over 850,000 active BookCrossers to date worldwide. Sending copies (along with marketing materials) to BookCrossers is another innovative way to execute free, passive marketing for your titles. As a bonus, if you keep track of the book by utilizing its individual code, promoting the treasure hunt on your social media platforms can be a fun way to engage readers and fans.

Marketing can be one of the most exciting elements of publishing: it pushes one to be constantly innovative in order to bring exposure to fresh, exhilarating stories. When strategizing for how we can market a book to the right target audience, we often forget that for readers, sometimes the best way to find a book isn’t online through a search bar, but organically. After all, nothing beats the serendipity of stumbling upon a book that catches your eye and rifling through the pages that are just waiting to take you on your next adventure.