Betty Loves Books A Quick Q&A on Preloved Books
Huge big thank you to Katie and Emily from Betty Loves Books for telling me about their Newcastle bookstore.
They’ve even offered the I Love To Op Shop a special discount code!
Can you tell us a little about how you Betty Loves Books Journey Started?
Emily: Katie and I both met at work and loved sharing books with each other. Katie and another friend even gifted me a book subscription through Secret Book Stuff for my birthday one year which I absolutely loved.
After Katie’s holiday around Australia she asked me to start a book business with her. This was without even knowing it was a dream of mine to one day own a bookshop. We both had so many similar ideas and everything just clicked from the first meeting. We started applying for markets around Newy and building our collection and trying out our ideas from there.
Katie: Emily and I met at work a few years back and bonded over a shared love of reading, but the bookshop didn’t really occur to us until last year. Emily was housesitting (and dog sitting) for me last year when I bought up the idea of us going into business together. We’re both huge fans of secondhand bookshops and bookshops in general and I just knew that I wanted to open one in Newcastle.
We had our first business meeting over coffee in December 2021 and it went from there!
How did this lead to the opening of the Betty Loves Books physical shop?
Katie: The dream was always a physical bookstore but we took baby steps. First we opened the website and then starting to sell our secondhand books and teas at local markets. It was quickly evident that we had stumbled onto something that Novocastrians wanted.
From there we were given the opportunity to have a retail store at The Station in Newcastle, a Heritage listed train station building. The Station has been repurposed into a bespoke shopping and event precinct. We wanted something small and intimate and it was perfect for us so we signed up!
Emily: We knew from our market stalls that we loved choosing and selling the books and creating the tea blends. We also love having great conversations about books and finding the perfect book for each of our customers gives us lots of inspiration and energy.
I also dreamed of having our own space – something small with our curated collection, fun, beautiful and welcoming. The Station was perfect! Just the right size and position in Newcastle, and affordable rent, so we thought- why not?!
What was the hardest thing about opening a shop for you?
Katie: It takes a lot of time to run a business like ours- even though it’s quite small. Being very new we don’t have staff and do everything ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to prioritise where to focus and what to let go.
Emily: Underestimating how long each element of the to-do list would take. There is also ensuring nothing is forgotten which was quite stressful and still is.
We have made the decision to do as much as possible by ourselves. This included the fit out of the shop (with Katie’s husband Pete and my fiancé Ben). We were still painting the table and assembling the shelves the night before our official opening but we got there just in time!
It really helps having the two of us to share loads, bounce ideas off each other and encourage each other when feeling overwhelmed!
Why did you decide to include a preloved option in the store?
Katie: This was a non-negotiable, we both love secondhand bookstores. I love being a part of the circular economy and being able to provide quality books in excellent condition to our customers at a secondhand price.
Books and the experience of reading and loving books like we do shouldn’t come at a premium. While we love our new books section we also understand that sometimes the price of a new book is just out of reach.
We also offer free kid’s books to ensure kids have the opportunity to take something home as well even if a new book is maybe not affordable at that moment. Betty Loves Books has a free library at the front of our store and also have a smaller version with us if you catch us at our market stall.
Emily: We really love secondhand books including inscriptions on the front page, shopping lists or random notes left in the pages and any evidence of who has read it before.
I think we love the idea of people being excited to buy books. Our secondhand collection is carefully chosen so people can buy affordable, current reads (published 2015 onwards) They are in good condition and with a high-quality variety of genres and authors.
We also love the added fun and magic of the ‘Blind Date’ books where we get to choose books to wrap up and write a clue so there’s a bit of intrigue and surprise.
How do you find or source secondhand books?
Katie: Everywhere! I am always on the lookout for books nowadays. Facebook marketplace is excellent, op shops and charity shops, some people even donate books to us.
People don’t want to see their books in landfill so it’s often the most asked question we get “will you take my books?”. The answer is almost always yes, we will find a home for them either on our shelves, in our free library or in the various free libraries around Newcastle.
What has being a shop owner allowed you to do and what do you still love about it?
Emily: I think the creative process of discussing ideas and then seeing them come to life is so fun and exciting for me. Having the freedom to create things as you want them to be and seeing other people enjoy and interact with what you created is amazing! And having access to so many books is very cool.
Katie: I love, love, love sourcing our books. It’s my absolute favourite part of our bookshop. Particularly finding the more obscure, interesting or left of centre reads that aren’t that easy to find. If I can stock those and find the right owner for them, I’m a happy gal.
Tell us about your market days and where can we find you.
Katie: There’s a soft place in my heart for the markets, It’s where we started after all. It’s a very different vibe from being in the shop as well, it’s faster paced and the customers are very different so being able to flex and move with your customer base is always exciting.
Emily: Homegrown Markets at the Station was our first ever stall and I still remember the nerves from that first day. We still go to Speers Point and The Station Homegrown Markets regularly and keep putting our hand up for different markets such as the Earp Distillery Night Markets.
We enjoy the buzz and energy of the markets and have stocked our shop with a lot of different items from local business people we have met at markets, it’s a great networking opportunity. We update our market dates on Instagram and our website.
Do you have any advice for someone at the start of their retail journey?
Emily: I think it’s important to just start somewhere and simply ask yourself what you need to do to get each task done. It’s all about the action, no matter how much of an imposter you feel like at the start, if you just keep taking action one day you realise how far you’ve come!
Katie: My advice would be around expectations, I had never thought of myself in retail or as a retail owner but this experience has really changed that. I love our little shop and our customers and I would have hated to close myself off to this because of my pre conceived expectations around that.
Is there a big mistake you’re game enough to share about your retail journey?
Emily: choosing books as our stock at markets – a box of books is heavy! I’m not as strong as I thought I was. Rain can destroy them and they take up a lot of room! Nah we haven’t made any huge mistakes yet!! We have tried to be as kind to ourselves as possible and see any progress as a win!
Katie: Yes, OMG the tubs of books we haul around with us. They must be 40kgs each and we need 7 of them for a market day. But temper that with the look of happiness when someone finds a book they love, the heavy ass tub is probably worth it
Do you have any tips for what works well for you in marketing or promoting Betty Loves Books?
Emily: We originally got Leith form Nurtured Creations to create a beautiful logo for our brand which I think helps to make us recognisable. We did interviews with Newcastle Live, HunterHunter and the Newcastle Herald once our shop opened. Katie does an amazing job of the Instagram/Facebook page and website and is great at creating beautiful signage for our shop and products. I think that has all really helped.
Katie: We don’t actually typically market ourselves at all. Which I know is kind of a retail no-no but we really struggle with this element of the business. We’ve dabbled with sponsored Instagram posts with mixed results, but being consistent with our non-sponsored Instagram and Facebook pages helps tremendously. We have started seeing the results from this. Word of mouth and PR at the markets helps a lot, we give our card to everyone- “do you know we have a shop?”
Do you have any other secondhand folks you’d like to shout out?
There are some fab secondhand bookstores in Newcastle:
Bin Chicken Books in Brisbane has been a tremendous ally and has always been open to helping us out with a question or two (or Three).
If you’re in the area please pop in and support Betty Loves Books!
The shop can be found at Shop 1A The Station, Cnr Watt Street & Scott Street, Newcastle NSW 2300
They are open Thursdays & Fridays from 10am – 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10AM – 4PM
You can also shop online of course and their website is here.
I’ve also included a couple of their social media links below.
Betty Loves Books
Special Offer Alert!!!!
Thanks so much to Emily and Katie who have offered 15% off online using the code ILOVETOOPSHOP at checkout. This can be used until the 31st December on their website at https://www.bettylovesbooks.com.au