This past weekend, I headed across the state to see my RWA sisters in the Tampa Area Romance Authors chapter, where we had the privilege of spending the day with Borders’ head romance buyer, Sue Grimshaw. What an amazing day and what an amazing lady. It’s no secret why romance sells at Borders. And speaking of secrets…but I digress.
If you haven’t met Sue, just drop what you’re doing and grab a dictionary, look up classy, smart, beautiful, funny, and completely on top of her game, and you should find this picture of Sue.
If you’ve been in and around the romance publishing industry, you’ve probably heard of Sue, who, in addition to her buying and consulting responsibilities, is now hosting a fantastic video series called “True Romance.” On the show, Sue interviews authors and proves she has her finger on the pulse of bookselling in general and romance publishing in particular. All this knowledge translates into a keen understanding of the Borders’ romance customer, and a masterful job of reaching and keeping that loyal reader. Sue treated us to a detailed overview of how she works with publishers (in a word, closely), and helped nearly fifty published and unpublished writers of TARA gain an understanding of what we can do to ensure our books sell at Borders and Waldenbooks.
Sue recommends that all authors add a link to www.borders.com on their web sites, encouraging readers to visit this gorgeous online store that is growing by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. Like other online retailers, borders.com has an affiliate program so that authors can receive compensation for sales that come through their site links.
More good news came when Sue informed us that the Romance Expert program is on track in a big way. In fact, over sixty Borders and 190 Waldenbooks stores have booksellers in store designated as Romance Experts (and more in training) and these are the fine people we want to be sure receive Advanced Review Copies, promotional materials, and basically all kinds of love. Romance Experts know what’s out, what’s coming, what’s hot, and what’s happening in romance publishing, and they hand-sell books. Sue will be working with the RWA website to get a complete list of Romance Experts posted and regularly updated, so writers should be on the lookout for that. She also recommended mailing promotional packets in “groups” if possible (for instance, all the published authors in one chapter bundle their ARCs, bookmarks, and excerpt books and mail to the Romance Experts) to save time, money, and reduce the individual packets that the Experts receive. Great idea!
Authors are also encouraged to arrange “stock signings” in local Borders and Waldenbooks stores, which is simply a matter of contacting the manager and setting up a time to pop in and sign books of yours they have on hand. Autographed books sell very well, and the relationships authors develop with the managers and sales staff are invaluable. Local authors are welcomed at every store, and Sue reminded us how critical it is to meet and greet the Borders employees in our hometowns and nearby areas, certain that those personal contacts translate into more sales for the authors.
After lunch, we headed to a Borders in South Tampa where management had set up a gorgeous signing table, complete with roses and piles of books to sign. Here’s store manager Mart Sadler, TARA Board members Vicki Lane and Kathy Carmichael, Romance Expert Gypsie, and Sue Grimshaw.
Sue took us on a guided tour of the store from an insider’s perspective, explaining the placement of featured books on the front tables, holiday and event tie-ins, and how the romance section is typically arranged. (And what a healthy, well organized section it is! It’s clear that Borders loves romance, and no wonder our genre sells so well in this chain.)
During our in-store field trip, Sue plucked a number of random books and gave her perspective on covers — which is part genius, part marketing, part voodoo. Her guidance is heeded by many publishers, as she can spot a winner with an uncanny and well-trained eye. (Yellow is not fabulous, but half naked men are, I’m relieved to know.)
Then this group flexed our fingers and uncapped our pens for a lively booksigning. From left to right, bottom row: Diana Peterfreund, Julie Leto, Terri Garey; back row: Kathy Carmichael, Roxanne St. Claire, Karen Rose, Joan Johnston (waving!), Debby Mayne, and Virginia Henley. (Somehow Elissa Wilds and Susan Kearney didn’t make it into this shot!)
The crowd was plentiful and even the Tampa Tribune turned out to interview us, taping all of the authors reading brief excerpts from our books for video clips on the newspaper’s website. (Not up yet, or I’d link!) After the signing, all of the authors enjoyed a fantastic dinner with Sue, where a little wine flowed…and so did our secrets. Not deep, dark secrets, but some fun and surprising ones.
Come on! Do you really think I’m going to tell you which New York Times bestselling author spent her seventeenth birthday in a Guatemalan jail? Or what up and coming paranormal author was once a Wilhelmina model? Or who at that table once wore the banner of Miss Wisconsin, or (my personal favorite) which futuristic writer lit herself on fire and jumped into a pool of water?
Not a chance. But I will douse your burning (no pun) curiosity with a free book giveaway! I was lucky enough to end the night as a guest of lovely, talented, and fabulous Julie Leto (who cleverly managed to regale us with tales, yet not reveal a secret!). Julie is celebrating the latest release in her Phantom series. To thank her for her hospitality, I am giving away one signed copy of Kiss Of The Phantom to one commenter daring enough to share (what else?) a surprising secret with us today! Fire (ha ha) away!