Nina Grinstead, the founder of Valentine PR, joins us on the podcast this week to share how she creates strategic marketing plans for her authors. Nina talks to us about influencer marketing, utilizing different social media platforms, and how she helps her authors reach their career goals.
- Nina tells us about her PR company, Valentine PR, and she walks us through her journey from working in the non-profit sector to running her own romance-author-focused PR firm
- She explains how she creates a strategic plan for her authors that includes supporting their release schedule, tying in their backlist, and helping her authors reach their career goals
- Nina talks to us about influencer marketing and the growth of BookTok and Bookstagrammers, and she explains the best ways authors can find new readers through social media
- She discusses the difference between macro and micro influencers, and why authors shouldn’t always look to the influencers with the largest follower count when searching for people to promote their work
- Nina tells us about her favourite parts of her job and why, when running your own business, it’s so important to surround yourself with people whose skills and interests compliment your own
- She gives some great advice for authors looking to improve their marketing plans including tips on keeping your content fresh and strategies for going wide
Contact Valentine PR at email@example.com
Follow Valentine PR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
When Ashes Fall by Marni Mann
The Initiation by Nikki Sloane
Great British Bake Off
Nina Grinstead began her career as a corporate and nonprofit media specialist. She studied at the University of Texas in Austin before earning a degree in public relations and advertising from Georgia College State & University. Romance books, although not on the official curriculum, were her favorite subject then and continue to be long after graduation.
Her professional and personal lives inevitably came together in 2012, when she began blogging as a new wave of romantic fiction swept the literary world. Her knowledge of social media and her passion for promoting authors lead her to a boutique public relations firm as a publicist, where she learned the industry from the inside out. Now, Nina heads her own firm, Valentine PR & Literary Management, and is thrilled to utilize the full force of her knowledge and contacts to bring HEA’s to wider audiences everywhere.
A true southern girl, Nina grew up in Texas and is currently living her happily ever after in Georgia with her handsome husband, two beautiful children, and three rescue dogs.
Transcription provided by SpeechPad
Joni: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Joni.
Stephanie: And I’m Stephanie.
Joni: Today on the podcast, we’re talking to Nina Grinstead who heads up her own PR company, Valentine PR. She previously worked as a corporate and nonprofit publicist. And so she’s taken that knowledge, merged it with her social media expertise and her love of romance novels to help promote her client list of all romance authors.
Stephanie: So we talked to her about a lot of topics. A few that stand out are influencer marketing, which in my mind is quite complicated. It’s always changing. So she kind of talked about her approach to influencer marketing. She also talked about kind of the work that she does with her clients and the kind of plans that she puts in place in order for them to meet their career goals, which was very interesting as well. And then also, because we’ve mentioned romance a couple of times now, we talked to her about why she loves romance novels so much. It was great talking to Nina and we hope you enjoy the interview.
Joni: Okay. We’re very excited today to have Nina Grinstead on the podcast. Nina works with Valentine PR. And we’ve been asking her to come on and talk to us for quite a while. So we’re really excited about this. Thanks, Nina, for joining us.
Nina: Thank you so much, Joni and Stephanie. I’m so excited to be here.
Joni: So before we start, can you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Nina: Yes. Well, like you said, my name is Nina Grinstead. I am the owner of Valentine PR & Literary Management. We also have a sister company called Grey’s Promotions, which is just a promotions company that does not do any strategic type of marketing or public relations, but more just kind of like promotions. They get their clients release to release. So as far as what we do, we do promotions, public relations, and marketing, and a lot of strategic planning, which is probably my favorite part of the business, is talking with clients and like mapping out the years, mapping out, you know, what books are coming, what we’re gonna do with each book, looking at covers, looking at blurbs, kind of the research of, you know, what’s doing well on the market. And the market is shifting all the time. So where it was very much driven by sexy abs on a cover, now we do notice that a lot of illustrated covers are doing a little bit better in the market. So, you know, what types of books can you put an illustrated cover on because you can’t necessarily put a fun illustrated cover on a book that the woman is kidnapped and, you know, then sex trafficked or something like that. So you really do have to be very careful because you don’t want to, you know, misrepresent the brand and the book itself. But I do love the strategic part of everything.
And at Valentine PR, I have a team of eight women who work with me, and my husband who runs all the finance and all of that stuff. But everybody has their roles. I really find that I like to hire women who have just strengths that maybe I don’t necessarily have. And then we all come together. We’re very team-focused. I like to think that we all collaborate, you know, to make a release happen. Everybody that works for me, you know, pretty much touches the release in some way, shape, or form. And then over on the Grey’s side, Mary Dubé, who runs that side, she’s got three women who run with her over on Grey’s. And we just formed in April. So we’re doing really good. I have about 35 full-time/part-time clients. So yeah, that’s kind of what we do over here.
Stephanie: Very cool. So I noticed on your website that you’ve studied advertising and public relations. So I’m wondering how you kind of transitioned into publishing.
Nina: Well, I’ve been out of college for a long time. I’m a lot older. Things have really changed, but when I graduated from college, I was always on the development nonprofit side. I worked with United Cerebral Palsy. I ran the majority of their Development Division in…I live in Georgia, and so I ran a lot of that. I love the fundraising aspect of the business. And I just worked with some other larger nonprofits raising money and event planning. And then I would say probably…well, in 2012, and I’ve always been a reader, but my reading more was like Danielle Steel or John Grisham. And I once was a very series-driven reader. So I remember like in college, I would tear the paperback, the little piece of sheet that had like Danielle Steel and all her books she wrote. And I would read one and I’d scratch it out and I’d go on to the next. So I would just stick with one kind of author and I read everything Daniel Steel wrote, and then I read everything John Grisham wrote.
And then about in 2012 when E. L. James, you know, hit the market with “50 Shades of Grey,” I read that and I was like, “Oh, wow, I really like this.” And I was kind of sucked into that, what to read after 50. And so I joined up with Goodreads, and I started reviewing for them. And then I started reviewing for some publishers. And I also was asked to be on a blog. And then a couple of years later, a bunch of us went and formed another blog. And about that time, I became really, really good friends with the woman who had just opened up a PR firm. And about a year into that, she said to me…or we were on the phone and I said, “Am I supposed to ask you if you want me to come to work for you? Or are you waiting to ask me?” And so we were best friends. And so it worked really well. And I really enjoyed working, I learned a ton from her.
And in April, or probably…yeah, around April, I just decided that it was time to break out on my own. We were growing at such a fastidious rate that it made sense and I wanted to do some different stuff. I was realizing that my strengths really do lie in the strategic part in the relationship building, and that’s really where I wanted to put my focus on. So what I did was I focused on that. And then I brought in women to do a lot more of the promotional aspects of the release. And it has worked really well for us. All my clients moved over with me. So I was really honored to do that. And I work with an amazing group of talented female authors in the romance industry. Some write women’s fiction but, you know, it always has an underlying amount of romance in it. And some are hybrid, which means that they do publish traditionally, and self-published independently. I do feel that my blogging experience really prepared me to be on this side. Because when we do deal with bloggers or as we call them influencers now, I really do have a soft spot for them because I remember back in the day when I was the one trying to get a review copy or, you know, from an author or a publisher or something. So yeah.
Joni: I’m curious. Given that you have a full roster of clients, are you picky about who you work with? Or are there specific things that you look for in an author?
Nina: Well, I am picky in a couple of senses. One, to work with me, you really have to have a decent-sized backlist because I do have clients that are part-time that we just work like three months at the release time, and then they don’t want to be on necessarily my roster on the times when they are writing or…I mean, I’m not gonna lie. I mean, I’m expensive. So with that, you know, they have to make the decision on, you know, where they wanna put their money. And I totally respect that. But I have to really like what they write. I also have to respect them as a person in the field. If it’s somebody who’s really…I guess I can’t think of another word, but like obnoxious or aggressive or anything online, then I do have kind of a hard time gelling with people like that because that’s so opposite of the way I am in my real life. I’m a very optimistic person. I’m a very glass-half-full type of person. Like even when a client is like, “Oh my God, this release is going so bad or not the way I anticipate,” I’m like, “But look at this.” You know, and they’re like, “Oh.” So I don’t do well with people who are really super aggressive in whatever they have on social media because those people tend to be people who can walk all over me easily because of just my personality. And most of the clients that I do have, especially clients that I’ve had for a really long time, I was a reader of theirs. So that has helped also.
Stephanie: So you mentioned that you talk about…or like the thing you enjoy the most is like strategic planning. So how do you approach working with an author in terms of strategic planning and publicity and marketing? How does it all fit together? And what’s your approach when you get a new author coming in who has a big backlist or a great many titles to sell?
Nina: Okay. So one of the things that we do is we do look at what their publishing schedule is moving forward this year. So let’s say that they say, you know, we’re still at the beginning of the year. So let’s say they say, “Nina, I have three books coming out this year.” So we look at those books as a series. If they’re standalones, can we tie it to another book? You know, what are some of the ways that we can tie in a backlist to it or whatever? And then when we’re not doing that, I’m turning around and looking at their backlist. You know, they published these books in 2013, well, we obviously know that the market has changed from there. Can we freshen up a cover? Can we freshen up a blurb? A blurb is the easiest thing to freshen up because it’s of no cost or anything like that. So, you know, what are some of the things? Can we do a BookBub? Can we do a sale? Can we do a first and a free and try to get people to move through a backlist series? It’s all in just kind of what they want and what they’re moving ahead for. One of the things that I try to ask all my clients and we sort of kind of did this at the end of 2020 was, you know, what are your goals for this year? And everybody’s goals are different. You know, some are like, “I really wanna grow my Instagram.” Some are, “I really wanna make X amount of dollars this year. I really wanna try to hit a list this year.” So everybody is at a different place in their career because I do have some authors who have hit, you know, “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “USA Today,” they’re like, “You know, that’s great, but now my focus is this.”
And I’m seeing more and more authors who’ve been at this for a really long time now saying, “I’ve really wanted to write this type of book, and it’s a passion project of mine, and now is the time because I’ve built my career. Now let me do something that, you know, I really wanna do.” And a lot of things, when we look at, you know, authors little things, it’s like, “Do we need to update their websites? Are their bios done? Are their books all linked up?” You know, updating back matters is…that costs nothing if you’re, you know, using a program yourself, but that’s sometimes…a lot of times authors who don’t update their back matter, and they do a sale or whatever, they’re not leading them through to their new books. So, you know, I notice right now, a lot of people have been posting, especially with the pandemic, a lot of people were kind of struggling with reading and what they were gonna read. And a lot of people, me included, went back and were rereading some old favorites of ours. We’ve been calling them or when people are posting them like our OG reads. And so if I pick up a book that was published back in 2014 and the author has written 10 more books, but none of those books are in their back matter of the book that I have, then how do I know which book to move on or what else they have?
So some of those things are just really important, and we don’t always think about them. But it is really important, you know, to be able to lead your readers because a lot of times, your readers don’t know where to find you. You know, my mother who’s a huge reader, she is no more gonna join a Facebook group. She’s not gonna follow anybody on Instagram. But if she reads a book, and there’s the next book, maybe the next chapter or the blurb is in the back of the book, that’s how she’s following through. So you have to look at your reader base as a whole, not just who you’re talking to on a daily basis.
Joni: So I think that the way people find books is everchanging. And I think a big part of that today is influencer marketing. You mentioned bloggers and influencers. Do you have any tips on the best ways for an author to approach book influencers?
Nina: Well, the approach that we take is, obviously, we have big lists because when we do a signup or anything like that, our author shares them. Then they join our groups and to be on our master list to get signups and stuff like that. Another thing that we do, we’ve built a really good Instagram and bookstagrammer following. And a lot of times, one of the easiest things to do is like let’s just say you’re an author and you’re writing a book that you feel like…a comparable book might be, I don’t know, Christina Lauren’s “Unhoneymooners.” One of the best ways to find new readers for that is maybe like go to Christina Lauren or any author that writes those books. Go to their tagged posts on Instagram and look at those bookstagrammers who were doing pretty pictures of the book or holding the book up or reading it or reviewing it. And then reach out to them and just say, “Oh…” Obviously, the most important thing is you need to know your audience. Look at the books that those bookstagrammers are reading. And if they are kind of whatever you’re promoting, then you definitely wanna reach out to them and just say, “Hey, I’m so and so and I have this book coming out. Would you like a digital copy? Would you like a paperback?” You know, stuff like that. That’s a really easy way to find… Now, the gate that you run into is if they don’t follow you on Instagram, then obviously you fall into like some weird place in their DMs, but you just have to hope that they’re checking those and, you know, just develop a conversation with them.
Another thing that I always encourage authors to do, and not all of them do this, is when somebody posts about you, and I know that it’s hard. I just know that it’s so hard to do this. If somebody is posting about you, thank them, like their post. Just say thank you in some way because I remember when I was a blogger and an author would go, “Oh, I love this review. Thank you.” Anytime the author needed anything or a book came out or anything like that, I was like, “Oh, yes, I’ll promote her. She thanked me. She saw that review.” Now, that could have been her assistant saying that. I wouldn’t have known. You know what I’m saying? But things like that are just really important. These people are taking the time to read your words. So, you know, just be, you know, be kind with them because it’s always great to be recognized, even if it’s a like of a post.
Joni: What do you think are the most interesting or successful new platforms that people are using? You talked about Instagram. I know that you have a TikTok. I imagine there are still book blogs.
Nina: Yes. I do think that some of the things that are…you know, back in the day, Facebook was really the place to be. And there were Facebook groups, and every author that pretty much that I worked with does have their own Facebook group. Their readers are in there, which is great. But I do see more and more people moving off of Facebook and going to Instagram. Like we’ve talked about, TikTok is really a place that people are going as well. Twitter used to be a bigger avenue for books. I don’t necessarily think that a lot of people sell books on Twitter. I don’t think that…you know, Twitter’s just a different kind of animal right now. So, you know, I don’t go to Twitter at all. I go over there and I don’t know Twitter very well, which is kind of scary within itself. So I don’t really know how to navigate Twitter very well. But I think that just over the more recent years, one of the reasons why Instagram has become so big and it’s funny, a client of mine, Monica Murphy, told me about four years ago, she goes, “I love Instagram because everybody over there is really happy and they’re posting pretty pictures.” And it’s so true. And so I got over there and I was like anytime I was having a bad day, I’d go, “I’m on Instagram. You know, everybody’s making me happy over there with their coffee.” I don’t even drink coffee, “But their coffee and their books.” And you can’t help but be happy over there.
So I think bookstagrammers are really moving towards that. I think maybe a little bit also is because where Facebook now is getting…there are so many things that are kind of lost and you’re not necessarily seeing everybody’s feeds. And on Instagram, it’s a lot quicker to kind of go through and see posts and stuff like that, and the pretty pictures that people are making, and they’re having fun making those pictures. TikTok is definitely growing. There’s a huge group over there. They’re called BookTokers. And I’m spending a lot…I can assure you, I’m the oldest person in these booktoker things, but I’m over there. I could not tell you how to create a TikTok video, but I hired a 15-year-old girl who comes over every weekend and she just goes through my bookshelf. She picks out a book and picks out some random song that I’ve never heard of and then does these cute little videos. And then she puts them into drafts. I come up with a caption and tell her the hashtags. And it is interesting because she’s 15. And so a lot of times, she’ll pick up an erotic book and I’m like, “Oh, don’t tell your mom that you’re making this TikTok video.” So anyway, but they’re really resonating over there on Tik Tok. You know, we just broke a thousand followers. So I know that that’s not big to some, but for me, it was really big. But yeah, I sit at night and just scroll through TikTok and there are booktokers. And they’ll say like, “Have you read this age gap romance?” And then I’ll just comment and I’m like, “Have you read this age gap romance? If you haven’t, DM me,” and they do.
We have forms that are really awesome that when we reach out to a bookstagrammer or a TikToker that says, “You know, would you like us to send you a book? What’s your Kindle email address? What genres?” And so they put all these genres. So I just gobble up books and just send them on and then they open them and they read them and it’s a great way to find, you know, a new audience because those TikTokers are not on Facebook. They’re not there. So it’s a great way to find some new readers and they’re hungry for books because they’re reading at such a fastidious rate because they’re not going out like they used to. You know, there’s just not as much to do. And the fact that they’re reading is wonderful.
Stephanie: Do you look at like follower count or is that not even something you consider?
Nina: It is a little bit of what I consider. I hate to say that that plays into it, but it does. Obviously, the author or whatever, whatever you’re promoting, any business would know this. Obviously, if you have somebody who has 10,000 followers, they bring a little bit more to the table than somebody who has 8,000 followers. But I do notice when we’re talking about some of these micro and macro influencers, there are some Instagrammers who have followings of 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 who their followers are so dialed into them that they have just as much push or pull as some of these larger micro-influencers with 100,000 followers or whatever. And I think a little bit of it is because the smaller bookstagrammer still has that capability to talk to everybody on their posts and on the feeds. It’s obviously easier to answer a hundred comments than it is to answer 3,000. I think that some of the smaller ones still have a great amount of pull, but a lot of people look at…that’s not the first thing they look at. And part of what we do is kind of like the research and see what their comments are like and what they’re saying about the books and stuff like that. And on Instagram, Instagram is…I mean, I don’t know if y’all know. I’m sorry, TikTok is very different because you can have a TikTok post go viral, and then all of a sudden, you’ve gone from having 200 followers, now you have 150,000. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that every one of your posts now coming through is gonna have that kind of…but it is being shown, obviously, to a little bit more people. So I just want people to be talking about the books. So that’s what I’m looking for the most.
Joni: That’s awesome. So you work with a lot of different authors and have presumably done a lot of different marketing campaigns. Is there any that have surprised you with how well they’ve done?
Nina: Oh, I knew you were gonna ask me this question. You know, I will say probably two that I’ve worked on just off the top of my head. Marni Mann wrote a book back in…God, I think it was January 2019. It was called “When Ashes Fall.” You kind of go into it thinking that it is a love triangle, and there’s a big twist in the book. And I knew the book was special. I knew the book was special. The cover was special. It really meant a lot to Marni when she wrote it, and it really did just do superbly well for her. And it continues and continues to do well. It has a twisty element. There’s an ugly cry. Some things happen and then you’re like, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting that.” So I knew that book was special and I knew that it was going to or I hoped that it was going to catapult her into kind of like a new readership. And it really did. And that book did so well almost just by word of mouth, the organic.
And then another series that did really well which you can see the book right there is Nikki Sloane’s, “The Initiation.” It’s a “Filthy Rich American” series. She stepped up with that series. I mean, amazing. And her writing, just the writing in it, she’s just worked so hard at, you know, just all the time, her books are just…they’re just great. But this book was just…this is a trilogy, and it was just amazing. And people started reading it. Obviously, with a trilogy, you know, you have to work through all three books. I mean, it still today just is a fan favorite because it’s just very…it’s different. It’s very erotic. Okay? For anybody listening out there right now, it’s very erotic. And there’s some things in there that you go, “Whoa.” But it resonated with readers. They absolutely loved it. Nikki has a way of writing eroticism that doesn’t feel salacious, but just…yeah, it kind of had everything too. It took a while. Again, it’s a trilogy with a cliffhanger ending. So, you know, a lot of people were like, “Oh, I’ll wait till the very end to do it.” But when they waited, they were really screaming about it. But off the top of my head, those are probably the two that kind of really stuck out for me.
Joni: Yeah. It’s kind of interesting that really no matter how many different ways we find to advertise and market, at the end of the day, the thing that sells most books is word of mouth, and it is to get people talking about it. So really all of these different ways are just different ways to make people read the book and tell their friends how great it was.
Nina: Yes. And it really is because at the end of the day, if you read a book and you tell Stephanie, “Oh my God, I love this book, you have to read it,” that plays more importance than a bookstagrammer with 25,000 followers who you don’t really know. You know what I’m saying?
Stephanie: I mean, I feel like I read so much that anytime…I don’t look at anything else unless someone’s like, “Oh, you need to read this.” Then that takes precedent over anything else. I’m like, “Fine.”
Nina: Yeah. And I noticed that my reading changes so much. When I first kind of started out, and again, I did come with that kind of 50 Shades and I kind of gobbled up all those very erotic kind of BDSM books because I didn’t know anything about that world. So, you know, that was what I was reading. In fact, the blog that I worked on, my first one, they brought me in to be like the dark reads reviewer. And now I find that I don’t really read that so much anymore. You know, I can read one every once in a while, but that’s not necessarily… One of the trends right now that I’m really, really loving is some of these books with kind of older women in them, older still being younger than me, but like turning 40, turning 45. You know, something has happened, maybe they’ve divorced. Maybe they’ve lost their spouse, whatever. How you’re finding kind of love kind of middle age. And some of them are really cute because they’re kind of age gap romances where, you know, the guy is a little bit younger, whatever. And the woman is like, “Oh my God, he’s, you know, 29 and I’m 35.” You know, whatever. But I really am kind of enjoying that because I am loving seeing that women can love again. And I think we all can love again. And I think that a lot of times in romance books, you have to…for you to make the reader fall for the second guy, you’ve got to kind of villainize the original guy in some way. Whether he was dead, or he’s divorced, or whatever. And I don’t necessarily think that that’s true necessarily in real life. I think you can love again. And, you know, I certainly hope that everybody can find love a second time around.
Stephanie: It always surprises me that what you just mentioned isn’t as popular as it would be considering I feel like romance readers are 35 and above. Like the majority of them are over 40, I would say, maybe. That might be true, but it’s like I’m surprised that only recent years, and I guess it’s because of self-publishing, that people are putting out books that they wanna see themselves and particularly on the author’s side.
Nina: Right. And I think that for a long time, that necessarily was the case. Now, I will probably tell you that my favorite genre age group is new adult. I don’t know why. I don’t have any idea. My kids are that age. They’re 26 and 21. So I don’t know why I like being stuck in their drama-filled world when I live it already, but I love that age. And I don’t know. Is it because I’m nostalgic for kind of that type of life like, “Man, I wish I was in college again, now we’re empty nesters?” So, you know, it’s like I love the love triangle, a cheating book. Those are some of my favorite and I have people who will not read a love triangle or a cheating romance. It’s always interesting that somebody can go, “Oh, yeah, I can read, you know, a dark captive kind of romance, but I can’t read a cheating book.” And I think it’s because from just my kind of research over the years and talking to people, it’s because we can’t imagine ourselves being kidnapped and, you know, then becoming…you know, in a sex club or something. But we can always imagine our spouse cheating on us, our boyfriend cheating on us, or our significant other cheating on us, or we’ve had that happen to us before. So sometimes when we’re taken to a different world, it doesn’t bother us as much because it’s not real to us.
Joni: That makes sense. What are some of the things that you’ve noticed that your most successful authors do? Like what are some things that authors should be doing at a minimum to really do well?
Nina: I think that my most successful…and that that’s always kind of like that term, you know, what makes you successful, what author is more successful than the other? But I do think that my authors who find the most success are consistent. They’re consistently releasing books. Now, I don’t mean you have to be releasing books every month. But if you train your readers, you know, you’re going to release four books a year, then release the four books a year. I think to make a successful author, they have to, you know, be dialed into their audience in some way, shape, or form. I think they have to keep everything fresh. Their website needs to be updated. Like I said, their back matter, you know, stuff that… It’s always continuously selling books. You’re always having kind of like a sale. You’re always promoting. If you’re not promoting a front-list title, you’re promoting a backlist title. You’re also finding other avenues to find new readers.
I have several authors who are exclusive on some platforms. And now they are realizing, “You know what? I need to go wide. I need to reach a different audience.” And there’s a lot of ways to do that. I mean, obviously, you know, Joni, you and I work constantly all the time getting people, you know, more dialed into Kobo and things that they can do. That it is research. You know, knowledge is power, I’m always emailing my client saying, “Hey, have you heard about this?” You know, I’ll tell you something that’s really coming up also are these reading apps, which kind of blow my mind, you know, how these younger people are kind of reading these books. But it’s definitely…you can’t just keep relying on what you were doing three years ago or four years because the market back in 2013 and then 2018 are not what the market is now. I mean, it’s a different market altogether.
Stephanie: I’m so glad you brought up Kindle unlimited exclusive programs just because I feel like your authors kind of like are…they’ll do different things. So it’s interesting to see your perspective in where they wanna go with their career.
Nina: And it’s funny because when I worked for the other publicity firm, I would say my client base was probably more 50/50, maybe 60% more KU. And now my client base is probably more 80% wide and 20% KU. Some of those straddle the fence being wide and have books in. But we’re noticing that there are…now, they’re very successful on KU. We can’t take that out of the mix. They still have to pay a mortgage and put food on the table. And if that’s where they’re finding their success, then that’s great. But more and more of them are saying to me, “I don’t want all my eggs in one basket. What can we do?” And this is where I find that my strength is. You wanna be on Kobo? Oh, okay, hold on a second. I find Joni. Joni and I have conversations all the time. We’re always talking. What’s going on over there? You know, Laura, I’m always talking with her. What’s going on over that? How can my clients have more visibility on your platform? I’m doing that with all of the platforms. I mean, if my one biggest strength is building relationships, then here I am. You know what I’m saying? It’s like I have a call later this afternoon with Pinterest. You know, we’re gonna be talking about running ads on Pinterest and what pins work. You know, it’s just definitely finding all the different avenues and what you can do because you can’t just rely on, you know, what is happening in the here and now or you can’t rely on what you’ve been doing before. You have to evolve.
Joni: I feel like this is a good time to ask then. If somebody is listening to this and they think, “Oh, like, I could really use Nina’s services,” what is the best way to reach you? And are you even looking for clients right now?
Nina: Well, you can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s our email. I wouldn’t say I’m not bringing on new clients. It just really depends on what they’re looking for. But when we started Valentine’s, and I’m going back to kind of what I said at the very beginning of the conversation, but when we started Valentine, we noticed there was a hole in the market for great promotions that were affordable and, you know, it’s a whole package type deal. You get graphics. You know, you get all the things that you would need for promotions for a set price. So because I am only one person, and I can only take on a certain amount of clients, we created this company, and it’s thriving because there are so many people who A, you know, just can’t afford me, or B, I can’t take on, or C, don’t want me but they want, you know, this aspect. So we really do try to be everything we can to an author who’s releasing. So that’s good. I mean, it’s just on a case basis. It really depends on what they want and may need. So I don’t know. I don’t think this has been brought up yet, but I really only deal with romance novels. So romance, and it can be paranormal, it can be LGBTQA. You know, I’m bringing on more clients that write in that genre. We’re doing a lot of male-male, we’re doing women loving women, les-fic. So we’re really stretching our wings and that’s been fun because it’s been fun to find these, you know, new readers who do read in different genres than your straight-up contemporary or, you know, paranormal romance.
Stephanie: That’s a good lead into our next question, is what are your guesses or like predictions for the romance genre in the next five to 10 years? You kind of have already mentioned what you’ve seen, but where do you hope to see the romance community go?
Nina: You know, I think romance is always gonna be around. I really do. I think that the greatest thing about romance, and this is why so many women and men who do read romance is because every book ends in a happily ever after. And it’s always funny because, you know, we write these blurbs and we do all these things. And you’re like, “At the end of the day, the couple has to get together. It’s not a romance.” I don’t think that it’s gonna go away. I don’t think that there’s gonna come a time that people aren’t gonna be like, “Oh, I don’t need happy in my life. I don’t wanna read a book where two people don’t end up together.” So I think that it’s gonna continue to grow and evolve. And I’m just so, so lucky and fortunate to be in this world with these amazing women. And they’re paving the way so much in so many different ways. And I think romance just really has a lot to do with it because we’re showing women stronger in their lives and in their books. And sometimes you read these books and you’re like, “Wow, this is a really strong heroine,” because for a long time, it was all about the man. And now I feel like I’m seeing more and more reviews or people talking, “Oh, she was a great heroine. I love the main character. She was sassy, but she still wanted romance in her life.” So I think we’re here to stay.
Joni: Love that. And our final and favorite question.
Nina: Oh, God.
Joni: What have you been loving lately? It can be a book, movie, podcast, anything that you’ve been enjoying.
Nina: Oh, okay. I don’t watch hardly any TV at all just because I’m reading all the time. And you’re all gonna die when I say this, but when I watch TV, I’m always watching “The Great British Baking.”
Joni: Bake Off?
Nina: Bake Off. Bake Off. Because my husband and I really are in love with Mary Berry.
Joni: Mary Berry is fantastic. She’s a national treasure.
Nina: She is. Yes. My husband said to me the other day, he said, “I wish she was my nan.” I thought it was funny because that’s such a British word to use, you know, nan. You know, I’ve already said that I love the age gap romances and the new adult. I’m liking things that are making me laugh. I still like books that make me cry. If I know that a book can make me cry, like, I’m definitely jumping in on that one. The bullying romances are kind of hot right now. Sometimes I read them. Mafia is really hot, and I do like mafia, but I can’t go scary, or, you know, horror-ish. And so sometimes I struggle with some because those can be pretty graphic.
Stephanie: I was thinking about why you like new adult, and I’m like, “You know why? It’s because they don’t have a real job. All they have to do is go to school. They don’t have to pay for anything.” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s why it appeals to me.”
Nina: Right. It does. It does. Because I think a lot of times, we go, “Oh, I would never wanna go back to high school.” And I probably wouldn’t wanna go back to high school, but I’d go back to college in a heartbeat.
Stephanie: Oh, 100%.
Nina: 100%, yeah. I do everything the same way, you know, because I would never wanna change that path that got me to where I am now. But man.
Stephanie: I didn’t know how good I had it until it was too late. I was like, “You had to go to school and do…that’s all you had to do and you got a four-month vacation.” I’m mad at myself.
Nina: Right. I look at my daughter who’s just about to graduate from college this year. And, you know, everything that they’re doing pretty much is on Zoom. And she’s living in a house with three girls and she’s in her sorority and they do…And I’m just like, “What do you have to complain about? Your dad Venmos you money every time you ask. You don’t have a job because you’re…” And she’s a straight A student, so I can’t complain. I give her a hard time. And then she’ll say something like, “Oh, I need a new dress or something.” I’m like, “You’re not going anywhere. You all are shut down there.” But yes, whatever. Yeah, I would love to go back. So it’s definitely…and maybe you’re right, Stephanie. Maybe that is why we read that.
Stephanie: I think that’s why I do. Is your daughter gonna join your business?
Nina: No, she’s not. She’s an interior design major, and she’s moving to Nashville in May. So she was very lucky to get an internship. So yeah. We’re very proud of her. So now I do… Two of my employees that work with us, one is my sister-in-law and one is my younger cousin who is right out of college and she knows… Again, we have so many different people on our staff. I mean, I have to have the younger people because, you know, I’m so much older than everybody that I don’t know the new technology and I don’t know a lot of the new things. So you gotta kind of have people on your team that complement you.
Joni: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us. This has been really fun. I really appreciate it.
Nina: Well, I’ve loved being with y’all. I really have. We can sit here and talk forever. So yeah.
Joni: We really could.
Nina: Y’all have a wonderful day. Thank you so much for having me. It was a real honor to be a part of this.
Stephanie: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in working with Nina, we will have a link to her website on our blog. Or if you’re interested in learning how to grow yourselves, visit kobowritinglife.com.
Joni: This episode was produced by Stephanie McGrath and Joni Di Placido with assistance from Rachel Wharton. Music was provided by TearJerker. Editing is by Kelly Robotham. And big thanks to Nina for being our guest today.
Stephanie: If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.