by Mary Jo
So booksellers are doing their best to get books into our hands. One such bookseller is our guest today, Sue Grimshaw, the much respected and much loved romance buyer of Borders. (http://www.borders.com )
Sue is known for her enthusiasm and knowledge of the genre, and for her generous support of authors. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including RWA's 2008 Vivian Stephens Industry Award, which recognizes a “professional in the romance-publishing industry who is not a writer, and whose accumulated body of work has contributed to the genre in a significant and continuing manner.”
Sue Grimshaw has attended numerous romance writing conferences, and willingly shares her experience of the genre. Today, Sue will talk to us about her views of the romance genre, and discuss new initiatives Borders is taking to sell more romance.
MJP: Sue, your official bio says that you joined Borders Group (BGI) in Ann Arbor in 1995, and you’ve been the romance buyer for over eight years. How did that come to pass?
SG: I’ve been in the retail industry for years. I started working at Kmart stores and then I advanced to buyer of cosmetics. Then, a buying opportunity arose at Waldenbooks. After a quick flight to Connecticut, I made a job change to become a Childrens book buyer. A little more than a year later, I moved to Non-fiction, then on to Romance, which has been my dream category.
MJP: You mentioned in your e-mail that romance does very well at Borders.com, and is usually the second or third top selling genre within Fiction. I’ve been to Borders new True Romance page ( www.bordersmedia.com/trueromance ) and it’s very cool! Can you tell us some of the new things you’re doing there?
SG: Our Borders TRUE ROMANCE online program is a new endeavor for us. The videos feature interviews with bestselling authors such as Lisa Jackson and Lisa Kleypas talking about their new book releases. I have to say that we’ve been quite pleased with the viewing response we’ve received. It was just another format for us to reach the reader in a viral marketing world and to offer readers something they can find no where else – unique insight into how their favorite authors think and write.
MJP: I asked the other Wenches if they had particular questions to ask you, so here there are! First, “maybe she could talk about what makes a great story for her as a reader. Any pet peeves? Any stories she'd like to see? “
SG: I cannot stress enough that stories should be told in the third person. Romance readers need to experience that conversational reaction between the hero and heroine – we have to know how each is thinking and why they are reacting a certain way. To me, it can make or break a story.
SG: Regencies continue to be the bestselling timeframe in historical romances; however, a well camouflaged Georgian setting, like that in Eloisa James stories, can also sell well. Paranormals continue to show double-digit sales gains. Soft romance in the contemporary genre is definitely filling a niche for our readers.
MJP: Covers are always a huge topic of discussions with historicals! Do you see any new trends in covers? What do you think works?
SG: Historical covers need to be sexy and yet tasteful. A hero and heroine embracing is always a winner. Strong colors often work well with the costumes of the time period. A Medieval will typically benefit from a handsome torso. The caveat to this is that big, bestselling authors can usually get away with anything.
MJP: In years as a writer, a number of promotional approaches have become popular, from the first bookmarks to trailers and blogging. Is there any particular promotion for romance that you'd like to talk about? Encourage more of?
SG: First and foremost, authors should have their own Web sites. However, rather than the author having to manage the blogging, etc – which can take a chunk out of the day – my advice is to work with other authors on one main site and link to it to fill your page. I am still a firm believer that in-store placement is the most important promotional element needed to sell your books. Getting out and visiting stores generates word of mouth that is infectious –booksellers are your friends and I really encourage authors to get to know them.
MJP: Any thoughts you'd like to share on e-books and (or versus) traditional print?
SG: Authors, make sure you link Borders.com to your sites, newsletters, etc. Romance is one of our top three categories in terms of online sales and you don’t want to miss out! Digital purchases are strong, too. The digital market is continuing to evolve – don’t count it out as it will play a bigger role in our business moving forward. In my mind, traditional print is still the life blood of the category as we readers LOVE the sexy covers, but again, lots of people are discovering devices like the SONY Reader Digital Book which allows them to store lots of books on one device.
MJP: How can we get more men reading romance? <G>
SG: Men are funny creatures, but we love them! I wish I knew the secret to this question as that would really expand out reader base. Hopefully as the stigma of the category disappears we’ll see more men wandering into the section. Men definitely are reading our suspense authors’ stories.
SG: A BIG THANK YOU to all of the authors for continuing to write the books we love. You give us insight into the times in our lives when we thought we were facing things on our own; and you continue to show us that life can be filled with happy endings. Also, thanks to you all for your continued support of Borders – I truly appreciate it. Keep your eyes on Borders.com and our new TRUE ROMANCE program (http://www.bordersmedia.com/trueromance). We have lots of wonderful things planned so feel free to link to your site and begin that viral marketing now!
The covers shown here are all ones that Sue has picked as being effective at point of sale. Lots of variety–but as you can see, handsome men are always in fashion! What questions do you have for our expert?
Mary Jo, who has added a couple more covers Friday morning. (Jo's cover is a great example of historical romance!)