When we first met, Al and I both decided that we wanted to create a library. It’s taken decades to reach that point, but a few years ago, we finally achieved our aim of having a room that is entirely dedicated to books.
I estimate that we have over 2000 titles now and we’re still collecting. We like to mix our purchases up, regularly paying full price (someone has to fund the publishing industry and bookshops!) but very often finding bargains – particularly as I’m freelancing at the moment so don’t have fixed income. If you’re prepared to put a bit of work and time in, then you should be able to find great books without shelling out. Here are our top tips for how to build a book collection on a budget:
Charity shops (or thrift stores)
I’m always surprised at the amount of premium titles available. It’s possible to pick up newly-published works for a fraction of the cost if you can spare the time to forage. Occasionally you might even discover a first edition, although these tend to be snapped up by the retailers themselves. You may not find the perfect cover, but if aesthetics are important you’ll have your pick.
Not always the cheapest, but good for sourcing classics at a lower price and of course, essential for building a vintage collection. We try to support indie booksellers whenever we can. If you’re starting out, buying used copies can be a really affordable way to add to your book collection, especially for expensive editions such as Folio Society which are generally a third of the price if bought secondhand.
Competitions and giveaways
The bigger publishers and booksellers such as Penguin and Waterstones run competitions constantly, but you’re likely to have more success with smaller giveaways on social media. The bookstagramming community is really generous so if you haven’t joined and you love books, then I would highly recommend it (be careful not to only enter giveaways though as this makes your account look spammy!). Also keep an eye on Twitter as this is probably the best and easiest place to join in with these types of promotions.
This involves a bit more work, but it’s very rewarding. Again, the best way to get involved with this is to start a book blog or social media account so that you can apply to publishers for review copies. I’ve written about this in a bit more detail on my bookstagram influencer post.
If you don’t want your own blog or online account you could apply to join a review network. I reviewed books for a website few years ago (unpaid) and built up a good chunk of my YA section via this method. Look out for openings on social media, follow a couple of book bloggers or if you’re super confident about your writing skills, apply to magazines such as Kirkus. You’ll need some samples at the ready though.
For those mega-expensive treats, why not compile a gift list for family and friends? We occasionally hanker for signed copies but tend to save these buys for birthdays and Christmas – it’s the same with hardbacks. To avoid disappointment, we usually borrow the paperback from the library first and only commit if we love it. Saying that I’ve been stung a few times recently which is why I’m mentioning it here!
Aiming to build collection on a budget does sometimes seem like a huge decadence even if you do it cheaply, but I can honestly say that we don’t regret it after half a lifetime of spending our hard-earned cash on paper and ink. We’ve learnt so much from everything we’ve read and revisit our books frequently. We also share them with family and friends. It’s an investment that goes far beyond the final page.