For avid book readers, local used bookstores are gold mines. The books in secondhand bookshops are plentiful and typically cost half of what new books do. New books are expensive and costly for smaller bookstores that only carry new books so they have to be very selective on the titles and quantities they stock. Small used bookstores, however, can afford to carry many more titles that are newer, older and out-of-print and they can also carry a larger number of books because the only money they directly invest in the purchase of books is what they pay customers who bring those books in to trade or sell.

Used bookstores depend on getting most of their book stock from their customers. The types of books that a used bookstore carries are usually determined by what is popular with readers in the area. Some bookstore owners scout other bookshops for specific titles or subjects to help build up popular sections in their stores, but for the most part, they are dependent on the books that customers take  in to trade and sell to keep their shelves replenished. Some stores purchase books from customers outright with cash, but many, if not most used bookstores offer book trade credit to customers who take in their secondhand books that can be used toward the purchase of other books in the store.

Book trading policies in used bookstores vary widely depending on how the store owners have set it up. Some stores require you to pay part cash when using your book trade credit; some stores give you a fixed percentage of publisher’s price in trade credit whereas others estimate the trade credit amount based on the kinds of books offered to them for trade by their customers. Some stores will offer cash, but it will frequently be lower than a trade credit offer. Here are some steps to take so that you can get the most book trade credit possible at a used bookstore.

Visit local used bookstores in your area and ask what their policies are on buying or trading books. Also ask whether or not there is anything they don’t take. You don’t want to haul in a bunch of books that they definitely won’t accept. Examples of these are magazines, encyclopedias, textbooks, etc., but it depends on the store so ask to be sure. Also ask if they buy only during certain days or hours. Some used bookstores have only certain people who are book buyers and in other smaller stores, all of the employees are trained to be book buyers. Look around; get a sense for what the bookstore carries. Also take a look at condition since the book buyer will likely not take anything in worse condition and actually would prefer to take in books that are in better condition so they are continually upgrading their stock.

Gather all of the books in your house that you are prepared to offer for trade at the used bookstore. Don’t forget children’s books, do-it-yourself books or cookbooks; many used bookstores carry a wide variety of subjects aside from popular fiction.

Separate your books into stacks based on genre, such as mystery, cookbooks, history and then by binding, such as paperback or hardback and take note of whether or not the hardbacks have dust jackets.

Review the condition of the books. Look for highlighting, underlining, loose or torn pages, smoke odor, moisture damage or missing dust jackets (on the hardbacks). Set books with any of these flaws aside. Most likely the used bookstore will not be interested in these books since they are trying to offer their customers books in the best possible condition. Secondhand books are used and are not expected to be in new condition, but used bookstores are dependent on repeat customers and need to have quality offerings to ensure their customers return, so they will try to acquire books in the best condition possible.

Of the books that are left that appear to be in good condition, consider the subjects and the age. Age isn’t important for some books, such as classics, some cookbooks and most fiction but is very important for subjects like business and health. Remove any that seem to be outdated based on the subject and age of the book.

Neatly pack in a sturdy box all of the books that appear to be in good condition that you would like to offer for trade at the bookstore. Pack the books carefully to avoid damage during transit.

Take your secondhand books to the used bookstore and be prepared to either look around until they finish reviewing your box of books or even do another errand and return later. The book buyer will most likely not take everything, but since you pre-sorted the books before you brought them, they may take a large percentage if the authors and subjects are popular in their store. They may also turn away books that would normally be great choices if they already have several copies.

When you receive the offer on your books, you get to decide whether or not you would like to accept it. You don’t have to. If you accept the offer, ask if there were any books that they would not take so that you can take them home or try selling or trading them at another store.

Use your book trade credit to buy more books!

Tip: If the bookstore keeps track of book trade credit for customers, make sure to spell your name correctly and give a phone number if they request it, so they can contact you if they change locations or sell the store and want to make sure you have a chance to use your available book trade credit.

If the bookstore gives you a slip of paper with your trade credit on it, make sure to put it in a safe place since they may not keep track of it and if you lose the slip of paper, it’s gone forever.