When Sylvia Day, author of many bestselling erotic romance series, was first starting out, she thought it was only a dream that she’d become as successful as she is. “I had a very realistic expectation for the level of success one could expect writing a romance novel,” she says. “Nora Roberts has been a monstrous success for many years, and I believed that she was unique. When I hit 100,000 copies, I thought that was amazing. The first time my publisher told me that my initial print was 500,000 and then a million copies, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Now I’ve sold 18 million books.”
Her latest novel, One with You, the last book in the wildly popular Crossfire series, came out in April and was on Buzzfeed’s list of “2016 Books Readers Are Most Pumped For.” The series has been optioned by Lionsgate for the movies; Day dreams of Henry Cavill and Scarlett Johansson as her perfect Gideon and Eva.
She owes it all to booksellers. She says, “Booksellers have been amazing from the very start. My first book had a horrible title and a horrible cover. They asked me why this great book had such bad marketing, and [booksellers] forced the publisher to restyle the book.” Booksellers also drove sales, she explains, by creating in-store displays and hand-selling her books to librarians and customers. She notes that booksellers were first to jump on the boom in erotic fiction in 2006 and 2012 and told customers that she had a huge backlist that they would enjoy. “They were instrumental in pushing [my books] into readers’ hands,” she adds.
One of the most successful commercial fiction writers in recent publishing history, Day has fans worldwide. For the past three years, her novels have been among the top 10 bestselling books on many global year-end sales roundups.
Day also has written under two pseudonyms. As Livia Dare, she wrote futuristic romances; as S.J. Day, she wrote romance that didn’t necessarily have a romantic resolution in every book. At the time these came out, it wasn’t unusual for authors strongly identified with one genre to use another name when they wrote in other genres. “My editor thought we should differentiate these so readers would know what to expect,” she says. All of them have recently been reissued under her real name.
Sylvia Day is signing books today at the Macmillan booth (1958), 3–5 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 13, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.