Cathy Genna is the Community Relations Manager at the East Brunswick, NJ, Barnes & Noble store. A dynamic and enthusiastic advocate for the romance genre, Genna made her store one of the best-selling stores for romance in her region. In addition, she hosts highly successful romance author programs, reader groups, and book signings.
RWA will present Cathy Genna with the 2013 RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year Award at the Awards Luncheon at the 2013 RWA Conference in Atlanta, GA.
RWA interviewed Cathy to get her thoughts about receiving the award, being a romance bookseller, and more!
(1) Where can authors send congratulations or promotional items (and to whose attention)?
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Attention: Cathy Genna, CRM
Brunswick Square Mall
753 Route 18
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
(2) Tell us about your professional journey and how you came to work as Community Relations Manager of Barnes & Noble in East Brunswick, NJ.
I started working at Barnes & Noble 10 years ago as a part-time bookseller, then promoted to a head cashier. As an avid romance reader, I read any romance I could get my hands on; however, as a bookseller I also read the Advanced Reader Copies and did my best to convey my thoughts to the publisher as requested.
I often would write to the authors themselves; example like Debbie Macomber. As a fan, I wrote to Debbie often. It was in 2006, I believe, that Susannah’s Garden was released. Debbie sent me a box of goodies to give away at my store for her readers. I made a fantastic basket with the new hardcover release, with matching seeds packets, kneeing pad n’more.
This was what started my relationships with the romance authors. My district manager at the time offered me the community relations manager job, and I jumped at it!
(3) What is involved in being a Community Relations Manager at a Barnes & Noble?
I develop and execute an effective community relations program to maximize sales growth and increase customer traffic through outreach. I reinforce our bookselling culture, world-class customer service focus, digital initiatives, and merchandising standards. I represent Barnes & Noble cultivating existing business, generating new opportunities, and helping make us a cornerstone in the community I serve.
(4) How do you connect authors and readers at your bookstore?
It’s the most exciting piece of my job—I engage into conversations with our customers while they are looking for a specific author or title. We discuss what authors and genres they prefer, and I will introduce them to new authors and ask for their feedback.
I have a wonderful romance readers group headed by Elsie Hogarth and Noreen Szymanski. This group has been together for 20 years and is very connected to romance authors throughout the states and hosts authors throughout the year on the Romance Reader Group monthly meeting night.
(5) What types of romances do you like to read? And what’s on your keeper shelf?
Category romances (contemporary), historical, inspirational, mystery, paranormal and suspense.
I cannot and will not live without Carolyn Brown’s hot cowboys, Sabrina Jeffries Hellion Lord Gabriel Sharpe –Regency romances, or Jill Shalvis’s Animal Magnetism series. I love C. H. Admirand and Hope Ramsay’s charming small town America, Toni Blake, Elizabeth Boyle, Terri Brisbin, Grace Burrowes’ Windham Series, Emma Cane (aka Gayle Callen), Robynn Carr, Jude Devereaux, Tina Gabrielle, Ann H. Gabhart, Amelia Grey, Kristan Higgins, Eloisa James, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jayne Ann Krentz, Katie Lane, Barbara Longley, Debbie Macomber, Emily March (aka Geralyn Dawson), Linda Lael Miller, Diana Palmer, Nora Roberts (I still love The Chesapeake Bay Saga best), JoAnn Ross, LaVryle Spencer, Mariah Stewart, Lori Wilde and Sherryl Woods. And, yes, I have you all in trade, e-books and the audiobook version when available.
(6) Do certain subgenres of romance seem to be the more popular with your customers than others? Do you see a trend with a specific subgenre, or does it vary?
Contemporary series and contemporary single titles are number one selling. The cowboy is still going strong; historical, paranormal, suspense, Regency, erotica, urban fantasy and inspirational genre tend to vary month to month.
(7) Do you have any suggestions for romance authors who want to develop a relationship with their local booksellers?
Contact their community relations manager via phone or e-mail to make an appointment. As an author, use your additional resources like a reader that is part of a romance bookclub. Offer to be a guest speaker at one of their meetings; have it at the local Barnes & Noble. The Barnes & Noble can have a booksigning directly following the meeting.
(8) What does it mean to you to be the 2013 RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year?
It’s no secret I love the appeal of a strong hero, a man who is admirable, sexy, sometimes selfish and deceitful, yet while giving me all that a romance author can still get me to a happy ending. When I choose a book to indulge in, I look for a story that is going to immediately transport me to a new world with vivid details and sometimes a captivating plot. I’ve found with romance I have never been disappointed. I find I am never really alone when reading one of my romance novels, the characters provide me with such company that it is often hard to leave them.
To be singled out by a group of writers that I admire is a great honor considering the endless hours of entertainment they’ve provided me with. Romance authors have been whisking me away from reality for years and reminding me just how exciting life can be, without me having to actually leave my favorite chair. I am deeply moved to be recognized by such accomplished individuals for my devotion and love of the genre.
I pride myself in being not only knowledgeable, but also enthusiastic in my love for the tales weaved by romance authors. Receiving this award has served to validate all the time I have spent reading and the countless more hours I intend to dedicate to the genre. To be named for such an award won’t soon be forgotten, I greatly appreciate this opportunity and wish to give my love and respect to all the talented authors that have affected my life.