Interview with Sue Grimshaw

By Theresa Rizzo

Date:  November 2011


Bio: Sue was the romance book buyer for Borders and Waldenbooks stores for more than a decade. As of April this year, Sue is Ballantine Bantam Dell’s Category Specialist & Editor At Large.

A highly sought after expert in her field, Sue has consulted with publishers for many years. Over the last decade, she has been an honored speaker for romance writers and readers at numerous conferences and workshops. You might remember her as the host of the “Borders True Romance” program where she interviewed the world’s most accomplished Romance writers. 

At BBD, Sue is working primarily with the digital end of the business and Loveswept, thus learning how to ride the waves of the changes that are ongoing of late in the romance industry.


  1. Which categories do you currently acquire?

Answer:  Loveswept any subgenre within the Romance genre. Which category has a special/constant place in your heart? Probably historical romances, although I seem to be reading more contemporary than anything as of late


  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?

Answer: 1-2 pages, double spaced.


  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: Nothing – it is all so new I like to see it all.



  1.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
     read?   What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer:  Characterization has to be key; a hook and a voice that shows the story.



  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice? 
    1. Voice – terminal – if the voice is absent the book is dull.
    2. Weak Grammar -fixable
    3. Common plot-fixable
    4. Poor character development – this could also make a submission terminal – characters are so very important to the story that if they are flat readers will not want to follow them.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)-this could also evoke a rejection.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – part of the voice so yes.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing- fixable
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building- fixable
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow- easy to fix
    10. Story starts in wrong spot-easy to fix – most of them do.
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory- easy fix
    12. Other – 1st person can be a rejection for me – no hook –or characters that no one will like.


  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: No – type of story is what draws me and is what moves up a submission on my reading list.



  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?


Answer:  None of the above – the only other factor to their having a book I want to buy is that they are willing to edit & alter the story as needed.  Believe it or not, there are some authors that are not willing to do that.



  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Not yet – too new to have developed any J



  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Just a good story.



  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: My job is my passion – what propels me is finding that special book for our readers – that’s about it.



  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: Feel what you are writing so when the reader reads it they’ll feel it too. By Sue Grimshaw <G>