Love Books: a book lover’s dream
Caitlin16 Oct, 2020
We spoke with Kate Rogan, owner and co-founder of Love Books, to learn about fostering a loyal customer base, making it through 2020, and what it takes to create an awesome book store.
How was Love Books born?
In 2009 I was approached by a friend who already owned a shop in the Bamboo Centre. The wine shop that used to be in our space was closing down and she thought a book shop would be fabulous. She knew nothing about books so she approached me, as I have a background in the industry and have been involved with books in one way or another for a long time. We opened it as partners, but she has been a silent partner for the past 10 years.
It’s clear that you have a very loyal customer base, how has this been fostered?
An independent bookshop by its very nature is never simply a retail space, it is always part of a bigger community. We are very much part of the community of Melville and The Parks. Our space is warm and welcoming and filled with the most tantalizing titles across loads of genres. Our service is very personal – we do, for example, call a customer if a book comes in that we think they will love.
We know our market and what they like. Our book launches (which have been on hold since COVID hit) are a chance for people to meet authors, socialize, get books signed, have a glass of wine etc. There are not many independent book shops in Joburg, so the experience at Love Books is unique.
What does Love Books mean to the South African publishing community?
I am a huge supporter of local fiction in particular. I know that our support of work that is often very difficult to sell in the mainstream outlets is hugely appreciated by the publishing and author community. We have also become a place where readers and writers can gather together at our launches – a very important part of generating interest in books.
In short, I think that in a very tough market like ours, anyone who sells books is highly appreciated. It’s a very supportive industry. We all have the love of books running in our veins.
Do you have a favourite book launch? What book was it for? Why?
Very, very hard to say, but some of my favourites – Ivan Vladislavić and Geoff Dyer shooting the breeze, Pumla Dineo Gqola attracting the biggest crowd ever, William Kentridge talking to Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, Barbara Kingsolver and Anna Trapido, Maneo Mohale reading her poetry. The list is endless and I hope I don’t upset anyone by leaving them out.
What’s something challenging that you’ve overcome as a small business in South Africa?
Simply surviving is what comes to mind, especially in a market where the culture of reading is not very firmly embedded. Books are a luxury in the South African context, so we are proud to be able to sell enough books to be successful.
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You were part of SnapScan’s #SnapItForward campaign, can you tell us a bit about this experience?
When the President announced a 2 week extension to the 3 week lockdown, I panicked. For a small retail business to survive 5 weeks of no trade is virtually impossible. It was while I was wondering how I could run a successful voucher campaign that the email from SnapScan arrived in my inbox announcing #SnapItForward. I signed up immediately and had an incredible response from the Love Books customers, and it’s thanks to them that we have made it through this extremely challenging period.
If there’s one piece of business advice you’d like to pass on to entrepreneurs starting out, what would it be?
Be passionate about what you do – you have to love it to keep going. And every single cent counts! The #SnapItForward voucher campaign is an example of this – lots of little contributions counted for so much.
If you’d like to share your business’ SnapScan story with us, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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