Saturday, October 24, 2009

An interview with Sue Grimshaw of Borders
By Patricia Sargeant

Sue Grimshaw of Borders graciously visited my local writers chapter, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, Oct. 17, 2009. I'd meant to recap my notes from that meeting for my Oct. 19, 2009, Crime Sistahs Blog post. As usual, I had the best of intentions but didn't quite follow through. My apologies. However, I hope you agree late is better than never. I've finally typed - and proofed - my meeting notes and have shared them below.

Although Sue is the national romance buyer, this includes romantic suspense. However, she doesn't buy African American titles in any genre. That's handled by another buyer, a gentleman. Sadly, I've misplaced the e-mail Sue sent me with the other buyer's contact information. I'll contact her again and share his contact information with you.

I found Sue's information about working with book sellers and the method book buyers use to evaluate new releases interesting, and I believe it translates to other genres. Sue works a lot with editors and encourages authors to e-mail her at if they have questions about promoting their books or would like her input on their covers.

So, here are my notes from the October meeting. I hope you find them interesting.

What’s a typical day like for Sue Grimshaw?
Sue said there aren’t any typical days with perhaps the exception of Mondays, which tend to be more consistent. She reviews sales by category then by title, focusing on the top 100 to 200 titles. Waldens and Borders try to grow debut authors and introduce their books to readers.

Regional buyers purchase local authors and individual stores highlight their local authors. Sue suggests authors get to know book stores’ general managers. If the general managers know you’re a local author, they’ll promote you.

Wednesdays and Thursdays, Sue meets with publishing representatives to discuss upcoming releases. Borders works about six months in advance, and purchases titles about two to three months in advance. They discuss with publishing representatives which authors and what genres are important to the publisher. During the meeting, they review book covers. Many times covers are changed after a discussion with the rep.

Additional observations on purchasing considerations:
- Publisher’s promotional support is very important. What is the publisher willing to do to push the title and grow its author? Does the author get the front of the store? Does the author have a cover quote? Will the publisher provide the manuscript for review?
- Borders looks for exclusive opportunities, such as receiving the release’s first chapter to post on its Web site before the title is released.
- With debut titles, Sue looks at the release’s genre/subgenre and comparison authors. Who does the debut author write most like?

Additional cover observations:
- Yellow typically is not the strongest color for a cover.

- Cover quotes from bestselling authors or authors who are on their way up are hugely important in considering whether she’ll purchase a release. Make sure the author’s quote is pertinent to your book and that the quoting author writes in your subgenre.
- For debut titles, covers are closely scrutinized. Studies show authors have about 20 seconds to catch a reader’s attention for their book.
- Face outs are really important.

How can authors best work with Borders to promote their books?
Get to know the store managers on a personal level even before you sell. For example, do your writing in Borders café.

What are readers looking for?
Readers are reading more back-to-back series. That’s what they’re reading the most. A lot of customers chose to read the releases as one big book. They’ll wait until the last book in a trilogy is released, for example, then read all three books together. The series doesn’t have to be a trilogy. Authors could have just two connected books. Borders will restock an author’s backlist if the author needs to keep their presence on the shelf while waiting to launch back-to-back releases.

Do pseudonym help authors?
Buyers are always looking at an author’s past sales history. However, when an author takes a pseudonym, it’s understood the author is trying to start fresh. In that case, buyers toss out the sales history and work with the author to start over.

What can you tell us about Borders' affiliate program?
If you provide a link on your site for visitors to purchase your release from Borders, sign up for the affiliate program. You’ll receive money for books purchased from Borders through your site. Check out Borders Web site,, for more information.


angela henry said...

Great interview, Patricia!

Patricia Sargeant said...

Thanks so much, Angela.



Lafreya said...

Great interview

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