Love Your Bookstore! The Millions Interviews Valerie Pierce

October 23, 2019 | 4 min read

This piece is the first in a series of posts supporting the 2019 Love Your Bookstore Challenge, which is sponsored, in part, by The Millions.

Launched last year to draw attention to physical bookstores, the Love Your Bookstore Challenge is back for 2019, kicking off on November 8 and running through November 17.

The brainchild of Sourcebooks Publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah, Love Your Bookstore aims to draw attention to physical bookstores and give readers way to celebrate their favorite stores—via the #loveyourbookstore hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook—with other book lovers.

To help kick off this years Love Your Bookstore Challenge, The Millions sat down with Valerie Pierce​, the director of retail marketing and creative services at Sourcebooks, to talk about the origins of the campaign, the power of social media, and the importance of local bookstores.

The Millions: Tell us a little about how #LoveYourBookStore got started?

Valerie Pierce: Bookstores are the best places to find the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday list, and we wanted to find a way to encourage readers to visit their local store before Black Friday hit. That’s how #LoveYourBookStore was born. Several publishers and industry folks banded together and launched this massive campaign that touched millions of lives.

TM: Who are some of the partners and how have they helped shape the campaign?

VP: This is such a tough question; we had an embarrassment of riches when it came to all of the partners who joined us. Publishers Weekly was the first partner to sign up, and they have been absolutely instrumental in helping us promote the campaign. They were kind enough to include several stories in their newsletter about the movement, and they dedicated tons of advertising space so that we could really get the word out. Carl Lennertz from the Children’s Book Council was on our steering committee, and helped guide us in the early days of the campaign. Binc was another organization that really supported the movement. They utilized all of their contacts to help us reach authors, booksellers, and other publishers. We had several publishing partners, including Penguin Random House and Abrams who really engaged with the campaign, as did HarperCollins, Grove Atlantic, and Books-a-Million was extraordinary; they really went above and beyond to help us promote the campaign to their booksellers and to their customers. We also had several indie booksellers who championed the campaign and gave us really important feedback like Becky Anderson at Anderson’s Bookshop (she was on the original steering committee), and Kelly Justice at Fountain Bookstore.

TM: That year was the inaugural #LoveYourBookstore. What were some of the highlights, and what’s new this year?

VP: The biggest highlight was seeing how the industry responded in such a positive way. We ended the campaign with 42 publishing partners, which is extraordinary. We also had a potential reach of 14 million-plus people on social media. We’ve seen people continue to use the #LoveYourBookStore hashtag throughout all of 2019. This year we hope to expand the reach of #LoveYourBookstore.

The American Booksellers Association signed on as an official partner this year and has given us several opportunities to promote the event to their booksellers. Abrams has been kind enough to dedicate staff time to help us organize everything. And our publishing partners are back on board for another year, and we’ll continue to offer prize opportunities for people who participate.

TM: Can you talk a little about the importance of local bookstores?

VP: Absolutely! Local bookstores aren’t just a place where you go to buy a book. They’re community centers, safe spaces, and places to discover new worlds. The right bookseller can chat with you and find the perfect book that will change your life. I’ve been in bookstores all across the country, and I’ve watched booksellers teach, aid, comfort, and entertain their customers. Bookstores are the heart of their towns, and it’s important for us to support them and to show them how much we love and appreciate them.

TM: We hear a lot about the problems with social media. But this seems like an example of social media bringing people together. Can you talk about your experience of that as it relates to #LoveYourBookstore?

VP: People love showcasing elements of their personality on social media, and a lot of people really love their bookstores; many people are also very loyal to their bookstores, in the same way that sports fans are loyal to teams. This campaign gave those loyal customers a chance to 1) show their bookstore how much they love them, 2) tell the world how cool their bookstore is, and 3) interact with their friends and see what stores their friends love. Your local bookstore can be seen as an expression of who you are, and it’s fun for people to show that off on social media.

TM: What’s your favorite local bookstore and why?

VP: This is a horrible question! There are way too many bookstores that I love to name one. I’ve lived in several different places, so I’m going to cheat and give you a few! When I visit family in Nashville, Tenn., I always stop in Parnassus—I love their staff recommendations, and I’ve definitely bought and fallen in love with books I never would have picked up on my own. I also love the Books-a-Million at Nashville West; the staff is really friendly, and I’ve had great conversations with them. When I lived in Charlotte, N.C., I frequented the B&N in the Southpark neighborhood because they hosted great book clubs. In Kansas, you could often find me spending time at the Raven. The former owner would always help me find obscure mysteries and special order them for me. And in Naperville, Ill., I’m in Anderson’s Bookshop at least once a week; I’ve seen so many of my favorite authors there!

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