If you think authors have become rock stars to readers, who do you think writers worship? I'll tell ya: Book buyers.
Enter Barnes & Noble Romance Buyer Tommy Dreiling, albeit not sporting eye liner or package-cupping leathers.
Nope, this intelligent and engaging guy knows that to move among thousands of worshipping women who'd kill for a slice of his time, it's better to go conservative and have a big knowledge of the genre - and confident understanding of what romance-reading chicks want.
"Romance popularity and sales have increased dramatically in the 13 years I've been buying romance for Barnes & Noble," says Dreiling, whose commitment to the genre is clear in the understated, yet still intense and animated ways in which he talks about his job. "And what's very exciting is that for September, we've bought 159 romance titles - and that doesn't include series."
It's his familiarity w/ readers and book trends, as well as his rep for being a stand-up guy in the biz, which made me jazzed about meeting with Dreiling on a recent trip to B&N's NYC digs. There, he told me a bit about his journey from BN bookstore manager to his current gig.
"Barnes & Noble's buyers are unique in that they have bookstore backgrounds first," Dreiling noted. He spent five years as a B&N manager before moving to corporate to work as assistant to Bob Wietrak, VP of Merchandising. Dreiling was thrilled to be given the opportunity to score romance as his first venture into buying, and he currently purchases all romances by bestsellers and "soon to be" stars.
"There sometimes is a misconception that we don't buy ‘midlist,'" says Dreiling of novels that may not become bestsellers but will make money and help develop a following and future book sales for an author. "We buy everything great that comes our way, something for lots of our stores, if not all of them. " For example, often Dreiling will buy more of a midlist book to place in the author's hometown area or another store that makes sense.
Since everyone wants to be a rock star, I wondered what Dreiling thinks is the coolest thing about his hi-visibility position. "Probably to watch as new authors in romance have a chance to become very big, very fast," he said, after giving the question a bit of thought.
"Word sometimes spreads in zero to 60, and in about one-to-two years, a large number of new romance authors break out. It's fun to see something good happen, to have an opportunity to really put authors out in the market in front of readers."
What trends do you see in romance books? What would you suggest Tommy consider taking a look at in the future?
You've got the rest of today to hook up w/ Suz Brockmann at Center Stage to talk "Hot Pursuit," Troubleshooters, Izzy, SEALs and anything else! BN mod Becke Martin's your hostess, so head over to have some fun!
Don't forget Eloisa James' manly mens @ her Review column: "Alpha Allure":
Please: Join me on twitter @michelle_rbtb! And check out my romance stuff Tuesdays at "Unabashedly Bookish!"