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Interview with a Buyer: Sue Grimshaw, BGI

2003_borders_logo.gifSue Grimshaw is the romance buyer for BGI. She buys for Borders, Borders Express and Waldenbooks. Since she began her position with BGI, Ms. Grimshaw has increased romance book sales for BGI by 20%. She is a fan of the genre and is devoted toward getting the romance books into the hands of the romance buyer.

Can you share a little about how you came to be the buyer for romance for Borders?

Prior buying the Romance genre I bought for our non-fiction and children’s categories. Five years ago when our Romance Buyer left the company for a job in NYC, I jumped at the opportunity to interview for the position & thankfully got it! I am a voracious reader of the category and read anywhere from 3 to 5 books per week. I totally love the genre and enjoy seeing authors succeed.

What is your role as the romance buyer for Borders/Waldenbooks? I.e., what exactly is it that you do!

The merchandising structure in the company begins with the buyer who reports directly to a category manager, who manages various categories in a segment of our merchandising business. Each buyer has a seasonal/financial plan that they build and adhere to. The decisions are made by the buyer then supported by the category manager.

My position includes all of the responsibilities pertaining to buying: purchasing and marketing books, placement in stores, financial plans, industry support, which includes but is not limited to attending conventions and chapter group workshops. It is a marvelously, exciting job that I would encourage anyone interested to pursue.

Are you (and others like you) the one to whom the marketing people at a publishers house gear marketing strategies? In other words, if you order a ton of vampire romances, would the marketing people tell the editors to push authors to write more of the same? Or do you just get presented with tons of vampire romances because something else pushes editors to push authors to write these?

I do work with publishers, editors, agents, and publicists where much of the conversation includes discussion of the marketing and positioning of romance authors and their books. Although I hold weekly calls with various publishers regarding trends and authors, the national conventions are where strategy discussions are primarily held.

Generally, what sub genres seem to be selling well? Where do you see market growth/contraction for sub genres in the future?

Paranormal Romance continues to show double digit increases; Romantic Suspense is another area of growth. The exciting thing about this genre is the trends are evolving and keeping the industry on its toes. There is no telling where the next trend will come from but, one thing is for sure, the reader is the one to dictate it and our job is to recognize that and react accordingly.

There have been reports that historicals are in a decline. Is this merely cyclical? Or asked another way, is there still hope for the historical?

I certainly hope there is more life in historical romances as that is my favorite sub-genre! Most of the sub-genres within the romance category are cyclical at one time or another.

What do you think is the reason behind the push for more erotic sex scenes in all books, other than inspirationals?

This would be a good question to ask the publishers.

What covers do you think have the most impact on readers today? Ie., the stepback, the clinch, the male chest, the female back?

In general, the sexier the cover the more interest we see from our customers, especially in the paranormal and historical sub-genres. Male torsos continue to be best sellers and a good stepback never hurts.

How do you decide what books to feature in the Waldens Romance Reader/ Top Picks, etc.?

This decision is based on what we think our customers will be the most interested in, along with the popularity of the author, the strength of the authors backlist and how much the publisher is behind the books.

What books are you looking for to stock in the stores? Does it differ from region to region? How can readers affect what is stocked in their stores?

To put it simply, I am looking for books that I think our customer base would be interested in. Our customers have the power to influence the books that are carried in their neighborhood store. If a store is showing that customers in that area are very interested in paranormal romance titles, then we may have a larger paranormal sub-section in that particular store than in a store were the customers are more interested in, let’s say, historical romance titles.

We are able to special order books for customers in our stores if we are not currently carrying them.

Do you think the internet, such as blogs, websites, and email are having an impact on romance book sales?

Romance readers are voracious readers and love to learn about their favorite author as well as about new releases. Many authors have responded to their fan base by having websites and hosting blogs. By participating in blogs and posting on websites, fans are able to share their favorite books with other fans.

What do you think of the hybridization of romance or the marketing of books not really a romance as romance?

I would suggest speaking with the publishers about this as well.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

5 Comments

  1. Kristen Painter
    Jan 22, 2007 @ 09:31:55

    Great info, great interview. Nice to know paranormal isn’t slowing down. I love reading and writing the genre. And I want to say, I hope historicals make a comeback too! Like a lot of romance readers, I cut my teeth on historicals and am always looking for a good one.

  2. Robin
    Jan 22, 2007 @ 11:26:30

    Fabulous interview, Jane! Considering the fact that Grimshaw seems to defy some of the stereotypes bandied about concerning corporate buyers, does she have any views on the chain/indie divide?

  3. sybil
    Jan 22, 2007 @ 15:12:35

    I want to be Sue when I grow up!

    As far as paranormals goes… who here is all that interested in new paranormals?

  4. Shay
    Jan 23, 2007 @ 22:49:29

    I wonder what is meant by “paranormal romance”? At the risk of opening up another can of worms, I haven’t seen that many paranormal romances(as in: hero, heroine, one or both are ‘otherworldly’, romance worked out in ‘otherworldly’ world, HEA, next book has different couple) released in comparison to the numbers of urban fantasies(narrarated by female protagonist first person POV, or could be multi-POV third person, ‘otherworldly’ issues, no true HEA, next book features same characters) I’ve seen on the “upcoming” pages. Jackie Kessler said in the other post that she assumed her book was an urban fantasy but Kensington put “paranormal romance” on the spine–which leads me to question the use of “paranormal romance” when it is the “urban fantasy” that is being gobbled up by readers.

    I’m interested in very well-done urban fantasy, but my interest in actual paranormal romance has waned.

  5. Dear Author.Com | In Praise of the Man Titty
    May 08, 2007 @ 03:18:00

    [...] books. It sells more copies than books with houses, flower gardens and lovely ladies. According to Sue Grimshaw, Buyer for Borders Group Inc., “the sexier the cover the more interest we see from our [...]

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