Welcome, Sue Grimshaw romance buyer for Borders, to our Mysteries and Margaritas.
Mary: First before we start with the interrogation… er I mean questions. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Sue Grimshaw, not the buyer of Borders. We’ll get to that.
Sue: I was born and raised in the Midwest. I’ve been married to my husband Bill 19 years. I am a voracious reader of romance and when I’m not reading I enjoy biking, skiing and just being out of doors.
Mary: Skiing? Let's hope for snow then when you come to Utah! Now, please tell us a little about your hard job with Borders. What is it like reading romance books for a living?
Sue: Not only do I read as much as I possibly can, but I also spend quite a bit of time at the computer researching trends and analyzing our business. I am also responsible for marketing, merchandising and promoting the romance genre, which now includes the Borders True Romance Blog (www.bordersblog.com/trueromance) and our True Romance videos. They are fun- filled days where I have something to do every minute. I also have the opportunity to travel visiting conferences (RWA, RT and Romcon) and speaking at RWA chapter groups.
Mary: Do you suggest what books for Border to buy, or do you actually buy the books? If so, how do you select them? I know Romance Sells goes to libraries and book stores, are their other publications?
Sue: It is my responsibility to choose and buy the Romance books for all stores. (I have another person in my department who works with me on allocating the orders to the stores.) Publisher reps visit us monthly selling roughly 5 to 6 months in advance of the release of a new book. During these appointments, we determine the buy based on review of the author or category trends, promotional ideas and the like. Sometimes a buy is based on author history and sometimes not. Publishers usually indicate who they are promoting and then we’ll see if that makes sense for our business.
Mary: As you probably have guessed, I’m an aspiring writer. I’ve published a few books with small presses, but now I’ve contracted with an agent, I hope to publish with a large press. Most small presses have Print on Demand books, and it’s a struggle to order them in, with the return factor, etc. Do you ever order small press books for Borders?
Sue: Small press is usually ordered through a distributor and it is primarily based on what sort of discounting is offered, returns policies and such.
Mary: Yes and if there is the POD has not returnable then you cannot order, I've found that out. I have taken many a workshop on marketing, as we all have. A few years ago we had the local buyer from our Utah Borders visit our Utah RWA meeting. He gave us a hand out of what Borders expected to see in a ‘press packet’. I spent a lot of money compiling one and sending to all the Borders and your competitor. I received several rejections-yes from bookstores-implying that my book was self published. Do you consider authors published with small publishers self-published and if so, why?
Sue: Any author published through a publisher is a published author in my book. Therefore, small publishers published authors are published, not self published. If an author pays to have her book published, that is self publishing; if an author is published where the author does not give an advance to be published, her book is then considered published. The challenge we face is the book needs to be available thru one of our distributors. . . and available at a fair market price. Small publishers sometimes are not as competitive & that is where we need to make a business decision & it maybe to not carry a book. Very confusing is it not.
Mary: Yes it can be confusing, even for myself who is published with a small publisher. I must say this has been a fun interview . Sue has a blog called True Romance I got caught up in reading everything—for two days—watching her interview with Nora Roberts, etc. Everyone needs to check Sue’s blog out. Sue, how do you keep your blog fresh? How do you consider a guest blogger?
Sue: The blog has been a lot of fun and I am fortunate that viewers are enjoying the content we offer. There are lots of people in house that work with me on the format and such and I think the key to keeping it fresh is having guest bloggers. We are always looking for guests to post, whether an author, reader or bookseller, as everyone has a view of romance and we like to hear from them all. The goal has always been to create a community for romance readers and I think we’ve done just that.
Mary: Sue will also be a guest Key Note speaker at the Utah RWA annual Heart of the West Conference Out, Out, damned Plot—A conference in five acts. I’m very excited about her visit! Sue when you visit a conference, what do you usually do? Do you listen to pitches at a conference, if so, do you then refer that person to an agent or editor? Or do you only take pitches from published author’s who pitch their book to you for Borders? How do you pick the conferences you attend?
Sue: Typically I’m asked to hold a workshop to talk about the state of the industry and trends and more -- and of course to promote Borders. I’ve only listened to pitches once and it is mainly to give authors a bit of practice more than anything. Of course, if something sounds interesting I may take it back with me. I typically travel once a month either to a convention or chapter group meeting. In terms of picking the conferences I attend, my travel expenses need to be fully funded. Other than that I will go anywhere.
Mary: With the knowledge you’ve gained over the years in this industry, what advice do you give new authors? And what advice do you give veteran authors vying to keep their place in the spot light?
Sue: I give the same advice to both new and veteran authors: write the best book ever including creating strong, emotional characters that endear the reader from page one and draw them through the story. So many times I’ve heard from readers that they’ll follow great characters anywhere.
Mary: As I mentioned, I watched your interview with Nora, can you tell me what author you’ve met that caused the most butterflies in your tummy? And were you lucky enough to interview that person?
Sue: Nora by far would be the answer to those questions. I was just exchanging emails with an author and mentioned how much I envy authors and their storytelling. It just amazes me how someone can put so many words on paper and make them work, obtaining emotional reactions from their readers. If only I could be that clever . . . !
Mary: And as an author I strive for that success! I see you on Twitter, a lot, do you find Twitter a good marketing tool? Do you use Facebook also?
Sue: Sheila Clover of Circle of Seven introduced me to Friend Feed which links up the social networks. Now I Tweet and FB and who knows what else I’ll do! It has been a lot of fun and it’s a great marketing tool too.
Mary: Is there anything I’ve not thought to ask that you think would be beneficial to add to this interview?
Sue: Let me thank you for being so supportive of Borders and for interviewing me today. Borders is such a staunch supporter of Romance and I am pleased that you’ve given us this opportunity to chat about it.
Thank you, Sue Grimshaw, for agreeing to join me on Mysteries and Margaritas. I know that everyone will have a wonderful time getting to know you!