Wednesday, April 29, 2009

VIP Spotlight - Interview with Sue Grimshaw!

Sue Grimshaw has been the romance book buyer for Borders and Waldenbooks stores for eight years. Well-known throughout the publishing industry for her unparalleled knowledge of the romance genre, she has been honored with several distinguished awards including the Vivian Stephens Industry Award from the Romance Writers of America, the 2006 Ellora's Cave Award and the 2005 Colorado Romance Writers of America bookseller of the year award. As if this accomplished woman didn't have enough on her plate, she recently began a new venture as host of "Borders True Romance," a feature online video program offered by Borders Media. So far, Sue has interviewed romance phenoms Lisa Kleypas, Debbie Macomber and Lisa Jackson. The show also offers shorter segments where the retailer discusses hot new releases and shares some of her personal faves with viewers.

Special thanks to Sue from TKA for taking time to share her wealth of experience with our blog audience!

TKA: What was the first book you remember reading as a child that cemented your love of reading for life?
GRIMSHAW: I think it was “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger (believe it or not) and then S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.” I was not a voracious reader until I stumbled across the Romance genre about 15 years ago. Looking back, I am not sure why those titles resonated with me. I think it was the characters…they really spoke to me.
TKA: How does it feel to be crowned the “Queen of Romance” by the publishing industry?
GRIMSHAW: I’m just thrilled to be able to benefit the genre wherever and whenever I can. I am passionate about this business first and foremost, as I love the books. There’s a lingering stigma associated with Romance, which I believe is totally unjust. I am going to continue to work hard at educating readers about what the genre is all about so Romance gets the respect it really deserves.
TKA: How did your background as a cosmetics buyer prepare you for the crazy world of book publishing?
GRIMSHAW: Interestingly enough there are similarities. Cosmetics has many items that you purchase monthly as do romance books, so the pacing of the business from that standpoint is very similar. However, romance books are a lot more fun.
TKA: What part of your job do you love the most?
GRIMSHAW: Being a Romance buyer for Borders is my dream job; I love everything about it. What I enjoy most about being a buyer for the genre is analyzing the business and seeing the sales trends. I particularly enjoy when a book I enjoyed also sells well at Borders. It’s personally very thrilling to see this and it really provides confirmation that I do know my customer.
TKA: How do you interface with publishers, editors, agents and publicists on a daily basis?
GRIMSHAW: Daily communication with my publisher reps is pretty typical, but I don’t work with other positions you note as frequently. Attending chapter and national conventions is where I get to spend quality time with the editors and other industry people.
TKA: What romance sub-genres do you see shifting to the forefront this year?
GRIMSHAW: Soft Romance is very popular. Linda Lael Miller, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs are here to stay. Readers are looking for comfort in their books and these ladies deliver!
TKA: Will the demand for paranormals continue to hold steady?
GRIMSHAW: Most definitely. With Charlene Harris’ “True Blood” HBO series and the “Twilight” saga by Stephenie Meyer, I think we’re influencing a new reader to step out into the romantic dark side. Young Adult readers are already starting to dabble in the world of paranormal romance
TKA: Do you think any previously sluggish genres may be on the rise?
GRIMSHAW: Right now I see all genres performing well on their own. I think authors are in a unique position. They don’t have to worry about market trends because overall they are all doing well. Authors should concentrate on what they write and what they write best. Focus on the elements in a romance story that are important to readers and write away. There will always be subgenres that are bigger than others, but if you write what you enjoy it will resonate with the reader.
TKA: Could you name a few recent examples of romance authors who have struck the “right chord” with readers in terms of style, genre and marketing efforts?
GRIMSHAW: The ladies I named above are definitely on the incline. Yasmine Galenorn and Jeaniene Frost have also captured our romance and those “True Blood” crossovers as well.
TKA: What is it about their approach (or their publisher’s, as the case may be) that’s positioning these writers for success?
GRIMSHAW: Feedback from booksellers and readers typically indicate it is all about the story. I think these authors have focused on the key elements of romance – character driven stories; lovable characters; well-paced stories; well thought-out and developed worlds that are easy to visualize, to name a few things. They have focused on what their readers are looking for in a romance story.
TKA: How can a proactive author help to increase sell-in to retailers and sell-through to potential readers?
GRIMSHAW: There are a lot of things that authors can do. First, do stock signings – get to know those bookstores. Authors should also make sure that their Web sites, newsletters and blogs link through to – our online sales are booming! Get on Twitter and Facebook and tell everyone that your books are at Borders. Another thing they can do is link through to our “True Romance” show at Also, garner bestseller author quotes on their covers to influence readers to give them a try. In this economic environment authors want their books represented front of store as that is the location that gets shopped first and shopped the most. A good sales rep will make that happen and just to make sure you’re being well represented by your publishers, drop me an e-mail and we’ll make sure we’ve got it covered, sgrimsha(at)bordersgroupinc(dot)com.
TKA: A picture is worth a thousand words, and an amazing book cover is priceless. What classic elements of the romance book cover do you believe will always be in style? What are some surprising innovations you’ve seen over the years that yielded a significant customer response?
GRIMSHAW: Covers and shoppers’ responses do vary by subgenre. For example: a good torso and sexy embrace do very well on paranormal and historical romances. Contemporaries, at least the soft romances, are a little more generic with tasteful landscaping, representative of the small towns these stories typically focus on. Romantic Suspense runs the gambit – too dark a cover does not seem to sell as well. General guidelines would be to make sure the cover is representative of the book and pleasing to the eye. I think publishers really have their fingers on the pulse of covers in terms of what works and doesn’t work so authors are in good hands.
TKA: How do you think retailers will have to adapt in order to address the growing appetite for e-books?
GRIMSHAW: The appetite for e-books is already very much here. Make sure your publisher is submitting all digital formats to Overdrive, which is our uploading source for Authors want to be ahead of the curve on this – you want to be there when readers are ready to buy digital.

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Blogger Lucienne said...

Sue, thanks so much for being here. Wonderful interview!

It was a pleasure to meet you at RT.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Yasmine Galenorn said...

Sue, thanks so much for being there for the romance community--you've been such a help to authors and readers alike.

Yasmine Galenorn

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kristen Painter said...

Great interview! And not to echo Lucienne, but it was really nice to meet you at RT. Are you Twittering yet?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 1:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Candace said...

I can't wait to see True Romance! I bet you are awesome. And thank you for all you do!!! Candace Havens

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 3:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Louisa Edwards said...

Great insights! Thanks for all you do for the romance industry.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 3:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Melissa Mayhue said...

Great interview, Sue! Don't forget to let us know when you get the Twitter account up and running...we'll retweet you everywhere!!! :-)

~ Melissa

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 4:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger B.G. Sanford said...

Sue............a wonderful interview! I throughly enjoyed it. While I'm here let me mention my new book, "Beth:Love Along The B.G.Sanford," and just released by Eloquent Books. It's the story of one woman overcoming all odds and two disasterous marriages find true Love......Along the Way. It's an amazing story you won't soon forget. If so inclined, it can be ordered off the internet or have your local bookstore order it for you.
Good Reading........

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 4:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Maureen McGowan said...

What a fabulous interview. You all asked exactly the kinds of questions I wanted answered. Thanks to both Sue and TKA.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 9:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deborah Blake said...

Great interview. It was nice to read someone saying something positive about the state of the industry (and mentioning a few of my favorite authors along the way--waving to Yasmine).
Well done.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 9:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Judi Fennell said...

waving hi to Sue! Always a treat to see you at RT!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Autumn Jordon said...

Sue, Thank you for taking the time to share information. Hope to meet you at Nationals in DC.

Autumn Jordon
2009 Golden Heart Finalist

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Cindy Spencer Pape said...

I always find your insights helpful. Thanks so much for being such a strong proponent of the genre.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 11:07:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a wonderful and insightful interview. Seeing your mention of YA being on the rise is reassuring, too.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 9:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger A.C.E. Jaunty™ said...

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Friday, May 8, 2009 at 4:17:00 PM EDT  

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