One of the joys of belonging to my local chapter of Romance Writers of America - the San Francisco Chapter (major shout-out here) is because of some of the wonderful programs they pull together for published authors.
(Of all ilk, really. Yo: mystery, thriller, commercial lit, and lit writers, seriously: it's worth attending these meetings, for the mojo alone.)
Take, for instance, yesterday's speaker: the incomparable Sue Grimshaw, the romance buyer for Borders Books on a national level. I've heard Sue speak at least three times in the past five years, and each time not only do I learn something new, but her message is always up-to-the-minute on industry trends, from the bookseller's perspective.
Besides being one of the most unassuming and gracious book industry people on the planet, Sue is also very open and forthcoming with information from the perspective on how and what makes it easier for her to want to buy your book on a national basis (it all comes down to the writing, folks: character development sells...), and how you can make her phalanx of in-store romance booksellers aware of it, so that they can enthusiastically sell it. (There are 200 of them in Borders stores across the country! Talk about knowing and workin' the genre...)
That said, here are my top five reasons why Sue is a romance writer (and romance reader's) best friend:
Reason #1: Romance books are her focus, day in and day out. A dedicated romance book buyer isn't necessarily the norm in many of the other chain bookstores, or the majority of indie stores. Sue has worked in that capacity at Borders for over a decade, and it has allowed her to analyze sales and reader trends in this book genre.
Reason #2: She works hand-in-hand with publishers of the genre. She lives to give input on ARCs and covers, and to update publishers on sales trends in the romance subgenre categories (historical, contemporary, paranormal, inspirational, etc).
And by the way: According to Sue, in the romance genre, the male torso on the cover still pulls the impulse buy, even more so than a woman on the cover. Both on the cover, done well, works, too.
Does publisher co-op get you more front-of store and end cap placement? Well, duh, yeah of course. But there is still some "store option" on the local level, which brings us to . . .
Reason #3: She encourages you to get in touch -- and stay in touch -- with her romance booksellers and store managers. Hey, we're all in this together. Authors have to promote, too. To quote Trollope (Anthony, not Joanna) it's the way we live now.
To that end, it would behoove you to walk into your local Borders -- for that matter, every Borders within reach, even (or especially) when you're out of town -- and make it a point to introduce yourself to the store manager and if they have one, the romance specialist. Yes, you should drop off bookmarks or advance reading copies, if you have them. (and if you don't, CREATE SOME.)
Reason #4: She talks to authors. Ask her anything: How is my subgenre doing? What kinds of stories or plotlines sell? What do you think of my cover? She won't hedge. And as we all know, knowledge is power. The best thing about it: although she's in a power position, she's not intimidating. She's just like the rest of us: reserved (okay, maybe not ALL of us) and loves books. Contact her via email: via email at: sgrimshaw at bordersgroupinc.com
Hey you can even find her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SueGrimshaw
Reason #5: Sue -- and Borders -- are doing all they can to get you in front of readers. Truly, that's what you want from any bookseller, right?
To help this process along, email Sue when you have your pub date and blurb and cover. Be sure she gets an ARC as soon as possible. Let her know what you'll be doing to promote the book (online excerpts, book trailer, special promotions). Get quotes and raves from other authors (she says this is something that gets her excited, as a reader, so she presumes it works on other readers, too).
In fact, Borders is one of the sponsors of RomConInc, a humongous romance fan convention and booksigning, to take place in Denver, Colorado July 9-11, 2010. Here's hoping it's a huge success, and that, eventually, we'll see similar events more frequently, and in various regions of the country. Considering the number of romance books launched each month, there will certainly be a demand for it, by readers and authors.
Another must-do: Create an affiliate account with Borders, and put links to its specials -- and your books, of course -- on your site. Not only will it make your books more accessible and affordable for your readers, but affiliates get commissions (cha-CHING!)
And yes, feel free to send her your book trailer. Her vlog, which lives at bordersmedia.com/trueromance, is updated daily with all kinds of reader recommendations and other goodies. Who knows? Maybe yours will be one of her greatest hits.
In other words, make Sue and her romance bookseller posse your new BFFs,
Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives
Simon & Schuster/Pocket
Look for it in bookstores