Bookselling and Back Again With Author Stefanie Sloane
Stefanie Sloane fell in love with romance novels while working for the largest online book retailer in the world. She eventually decided to use her newfound expertise at picking winning stories to write her own. Today she describes how she went from being an "Amazonian" to being a debut author with the release of the first book in her Regency Rogues trilogy The Devil in Disguise.
If you would have told me when I was in college that in the very near future, I was going to be intimately involved in the building of the most successful online bookseller in the world, I wouldn’t have believed you. First, because I had no idea what “online” meant. Second, because I was a college student and couldn’t see past the well-worn pages of my favorite Jane Austen novel. Third, really, no clue about the internet.
And yet, I went on to do just that. In 1996, I became the 30th Amazon.com employee and within the span of three months worked my way from the special orders department to the editorial department—and yes, I was surprised as anyone that I had managed to put my English degree to good use. There’s a lot about my nearly six years with the internet giant that, quite frankly, remains hazy. Long hours, intense projects, and the even more intense personalities of my fellow genius co-workers made the days and nights fly by faster than you can say “Jeff Bezos.”
But there’s something that I will never forget about my time at Amazon: I fell in love with romance novels. It’s true. Despite my childhood spent at the knee of bestselling author Lois Faye Dyer, I’d never become the rabid reader of the genre that so many of my fellow females had. Sure, Sweet Valley High installments and books by big names in the field could have been found strewn about my teenage mess of a bedroom. But so could many tombs of historical fiction, classics, mysteries, and a fair amount of nonfiction too.
I was a reader. Just not a devoted romance reader.
That all changed at Amazon. I can still remember the staff meeting where book category assignments were handed out. Everyone jumped for Literary Fiction, Memoirs, even Home and Garden. But crickets could be heard when my boss mentioned Romance. As the lowly editorial assistant, technically I wasn’t supposed to volunteer for a category. Besides, I’d just come from a particularly masochistic dental appointment and my pounding headache was a bit distracting. But I screwed up my courage, raised my hand, and took on the task. After all, my mom was a romance author, as were many of her friends. Surely I could find my way through the genre with their help and represent the talented authors in the fine fashion that they deserved.
Whoa. It was so much more than “finding my way through.” It was awesome. Turned out, I was really good at selling books. From picking the titles to be featured, to planning the promotion and marketing and virtually hand selling the books to literally thousands of customers, I had a talent that I’d never known I had. And I loved my job. Sure, it was difficult in so many ways, challenging, and incredibly frustrating at times, but there was my mom and a few fellow and dear Amazonians to get me through. And I was reading and writing for a living! For someone outside of New York City, this was almost unheard of at the time. And paid to do it? Even more unbelievable.
As the hundreds of review copies began to line my office walls, publisher meetings took over my calendar, and late nights morphed from dinner and dancing to reading and writing reviews, I could feel the shift in my head. In my heart. These were books that not only tickled every turn on, but satisfied the soul. Quenched desires of both the carnal and cerebral alike. Maybe that’s the moment when I first entertained the idea of writing a romance novel. I’ll be honest: I’m not really sure if it was or wasn’t, but it certainly would make sense. But what matters the most is that the seed was planted, my passion for the genre blossomed, and I haven’t looked back since. No matter what people say about Amazon.com, any time I reflect on my time there, I feel incredibly blessed—just as I do now, as I step confidently into the author arena and make my debut with the Regency Rogues trilogy.
Funny how I’ve come full circle—for there is so much about being an author that mirrors that of a bookseller’s job, especially in the digital age. We plan, we strategize, we listen to what readers have to say, and we aim to deliver the most accomplished product possible. And we love books—reading them, writing them, and sharing them with others.
From bookselling, and back again, all within the space of a handful of years. It’s been a fantastic journey and I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend. Please, join me for the ride!
- Stefanie Sloane
Make sure to check out the author's debut historical romance novel The Devil in Disguise in stores Tuesday!