Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writer's Wednesday - Industry Insider with Marti Corn!

This Wednesday we're pleased to introduce you to a name that might sound familiar...someone who works behind the scenes in the Romance Industry and, if you're a member of RWA, visits your home every month in the form of the RWR.  A big Pink Heart welcome to Industry Insider guest, Marti Corn of Corn Creative!

Thanks for joining us Marti!  How did you get involved with producing Romance Sells and Romance Writers Report?

I met Alison Kelley and Charis McEachern, the editor of Romance Writers Report (RWR), a dozen years ago thanks to their printer with whom I also had a working relationship. I have been working with RWA ever since, acting as their primary graphic designer—creating the monthly issue of RWR and, for many years, creating all the print advertising and marketing materials for the annual conferences. It has been a marvelous opportunity to work with so many amazing talents in the association and to witness the growth and developing vision of the association.

In 1999, I was asked to design a new publication that would be called Romance Sells (RS). The idea was to provide a marketing source for RWA members to announce upcoming novels and novellas to the bookseller and librarian community. The first issue was published in 1999 with 80 advertisements. Today, the issue boasts 170 or more ads each quarter.

What exactly is Romance Sells and why is it important?

Romance Sells is a quarterly publication filled with advertisements from romance authors who are about to release, or have just released, a new title. This is a 5.5 x 8.5 booklet with a full-color cover and black and white inside pages.

The first pages include articles—a letter from the RWA president discussing relevant events of the association and pieces from booksellers and librarians on how to boost sales and readership within the romance genre. The balance and bulk of the issue is a collection of full-page advertisements broken down by sub-genre. These ads include the book cover art, sidebar information providing all the needed sales information, and space for a synopsis, marketing plans, reviews, and/or an author biography.

There are several brilliant benefits to this publication. First, it is sent to 6,500 booksellers and librarians across the nation who have specifically requested this magazine to assist in their buying decisions. I mail each of them a free copy. Instead of scouring through dozens of flyers and foldovers from distributors and publishers, they have the opportunity to peruse a potentially comprehensive listing of upcoming romance releases.

Romance Sells is only $200 for a full-page advertisement—That’s three cents per bookseller or librarian!

Because of a common design format, Romance Sells provides an equal opportunity for exposure whether the advertiser is a RITA-award winner or a first-time published author.

If many booksellers and librarians have category romances on subscription, what advantage does RS give a category/series author?

Timing is everything. With that in mind, Romance Sells is not a perfect fit for category romances since it is released once every three months. I suggest keeping a close eye on the publication date and make your decision to advertise accordingly.

Include information about your previous or upcoming books in the series. This will increase the chance for orders. Also, please consider that while the timing may not be perfect for promoting your new series release, Romance Sells is a wildly effective way to promote name-recognition.

What are the lead times for ads in Romance Sells and for the RWR?

There is about a two-month lead-time for Romance Sells. Here’s the schedule for the remaining issues this year:

Summer 2010:

Registration opens: March 23 (but the registration information is updated March 8 for those wishing to register early.)

Registration deadline: April 19

Release date: June 4

Fall 2010:

Registration opens: June 28 (but the registration information is updated June 7 for those wishing to register early.)

Registration deadline: July 19

Release date: September 3

Winter 2010:

Registration opens: September 28 (but the registration information is updated September 6 for those wishing to register early.)

Registration deadline: October 18

Release date: December 3

Regarding the RWR, the lead time is closer to three months. You may go to for more information. Alternatively, contact Tiffany Light at RWA at

Can you briefly walk us through the process of putting a RS edition together?

RWA sponsors and markets the publication to the membership. I, in turn, work directly with each author from start to finish, handling the registration process, billing, design, proofing, and finally, overseeing the printing and mailing. It is a daunting process, but I must admit, I love every moment working with these authors.

Once the previous issue is released, I update the registration information on my site. Authors, p/r agents, publishers, and publicists can then go to to register ads for the next issue. The process is actually quite simple—the form is filled out, the copy and artwork is e-mailed directly to my office, and payment can be made by check or via PayPal. I am always accessible to answer and assist at any stage of the process.

Once the deadline is reached, I begin the design process. While I design each ad, my sons join in helping by organizing all of the paperwork and creating a spreadsheet of the advertisers’ information. This takes a full 60-hour week. Stephani Fry, my liaison with RWA provides me with the articles that are to be placed. It is always a puzzle fitting everything within the confines of eight-or 16-page signatures. So, the number of ads dictates the number of pages allotted for articles. When all the ads are designed, I create pdf’s of each and send proofs to the advertisers for their review. I make all requested changes, Steph proofs the articles, and I proof the issue in its entirety once more. The issue is then ready to send to the printer. I collect the files, fonts, artwork and such and upload that data to the printer. I check the printer’s proof and then it’s off to press and then to the mail house for distribution.

At that point, I take a deep breath after spending more than 120 hours on the publication, and pour a glass of wine grateful for another issue under my belt.

And a few fun questions:

You do work for other organizations as well. How has Corn Creative grown since its inception?

I started my business in 1989. Wow, that dates me. I was living in the Washington, D.C. metro area. My clients primarily were in the bio-tech industry. Society for Neuroscience was my first big client. Can you imagine, they had 20,000 attending their conferences. This spread to more association work. So, when I moved to Houston in 1996, I was primed to work with RWA.

I thought it would be exciting to see if I could grow my studio into an advertising agency, and for a short time I had a partner and several designers. But I realized I was not able to remain in the thick of the design process and missed having the close connection with each of my clients, so I chose to return to being a small boutique studio, hiring designers project by project when needed. My main focus remains working with authors, though I do work with local restaurants, law firms, galleries, and musicians as well.

You’ve recently returned from a work trip to Africa! Can you share a bit about your experience there and why it was a dream come true?

Oh Africa! When I was young, I dreamed of going to Africa and working for an NGO. I even took Swahili in college. It has taken 25 years to realize this dream, but I was invited to Kenya by a woman who provides micro-loans to women both in Kenya and the Middle East, and of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

Many of you may not know, but I have a passion for photography. I love making environmental portraits, most particularly of women.

I spent two weeks in the slums of Nairobi and in the rural countryside of western Kenya, beside the Ugandan border, photographing women whose lives have been transformed because of the work of Pangea Network (

I also had the thrilling opportunity to meet with the Kenyan Director of Amnesty International and donated images for them to use for their Demand Dignity Campaign.

One week ago, I returned and am still processing all that I witnessed and experienced. The one thought that keeps crossing my mind is that these people who live in unimaginable conditions never ask for pity. They only ask for someone to believe in them and to offer guidance and training so that they can place food on their table and the possibility of affording to send their children to secondary school.

If you are interested, you can read my blog at I continue to add stories and will be including a body of photographic work to the site once I find the time to edit the more than 2,000 images taken.

Thank you so much for this time to allow me to talk. If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at

Cheers, Marti Corn

Corn Creative


  1. Marti - GORGEOUS pics on your site. Wow!

    Thanks for visiting with us today!

  2. I was just at the Public Library Association conference today and RWA really uses Romance Sells to help give librarians an idea of the breadth of the industry. One librarian flipped through a copy and said it was like her favorite catalog to read through. :)