Tag Archive - ICRS

ICRS 2013 – Observations

by Steve Laube

americacenter-featured-full1

This year was my 32nd consecutive annual bookseller’s convention now known as ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) held this year in St. Louis. As always it is a time of conversations, meetings, and business opportunities.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, despite every attempt by the transportation industry to delay me…with 15 minutes to spare before giving an hour long “state of the industry” speech to AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association).

Sunday was filled with meetings, both casual and scheduled and two formal dinners. One was the Golden Scroll awards banquet and the other was the Baker Publishing Group dinner. Early Monday morning was a delightful SpeakUp breakfast with many inspirational stories shared by amazing speakers and writers.

Then came the convention itself. Back to back meetings for both Tamela and I as we flitted from one publisher’s booth to another, back across the street for meetings at the hotel and back again to the convention sales floor for other meetings. This ping-pong movement lasted for three straight days. But we had a lot of highly valuable conversations and presentations. Tamela was amazing as few knew she was not feeling well but she never complained (not once). It is a privilege to think of all the incredible people we talked to during those days. The creativity and the vision of each publisher and editor is quite inspiring. If you had heard what we did you’d feel a lot better about where this industry is headed.

Reason #2 – Top 3 Reasons Authors Don’t Get Asked to the Prom (or Invited to ICRS)

by Karen Ball

1066017-xsmall

Good thoughts and discussion on last week’s blog. Thanks for your honest input. Before we continue, I want to clear up what seems to be a misunderstanding of the purpose behind my blog last week. I’m not expressing my opinion of ICRS or of its value for authors. One only has to look at what is being offered there (explained so well by Curtis Riskey, president of CBA, in the comment section of last week’s blog) to know it benefits those authors who attend. And as Mary DeMuth stated, the serendipitous meetings that can take place at this show are irreplaceable.

But these blogs aren’t about whether or not an author should attend ICRS. Rather, they’re about addressing questions authors struggle with every year:

  • Is it an offense if my publisher doesn’t invite me to go to ICRS?
  • Should I be hurt or feel neglected if I’ve let my publisher know I’m going on my own dime, but they won’t even let me do a booksigning?

So this week, let’s take a look at the second reason your publisher hasn’t invited you to ICRS: The timing’s not right.

Top 3 Reasons Authors Don’t Get Asked to the Prom (or Invited to ICRS) – Reason #1

by Karen Ball

not invited

It’s just around the corner. That time of year when publishers, retailers, agents and yes, some authors, descend upon a select conference center (this year in St. Louis in late June) to attend the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

ICRS. The trade show formerly known as CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). Where publishers gather with their editorial, sales, & marketing folks in shiny and grandiose booths to regale retailers with their offerings. This trade show has been around for a lot of years. In fact, I attended my first ICRS in 1982! Oh, how I remember standing there, staring at aisle after aisle of impressive booths and sparkling product; seeing famous authors I’d only heard of walking by or signing books; attending nightly extravaganzas that rivaled anything you could find in Nashville, Branson, or Vegas. It was, in a word, amazing!

And so it remained for a lot of years. Which made ICRS a coveted destination for authors. For years, the standard thought has been if a publisher takes you to ICRS, that proves they look on you as a rising (or established) star. A crowd pleaser. THE author whose products the retailers should carry in their stores. And so every year as the time approached for the annual event the excited buzz would begin…

More Convention Highlights!

by Tamela Hancock Murray

As you know from reading our own Steve Laube’s excellent insights on this blog about ICRS, the days were busy, exciting, and invigorating. The convention confirmed our optimism about Christian publishing’s bright future.

I’ve been to the convention a number of times and have always been blessed. This year, it took place in Atlanta, a lovely city that offers hot, sunny, humid weather. My biggest challenge was trying to keep my hair presentable.

A writer following ICRS news would think this event has shrunk to nothing, but in fact, the Convention Center overflowed with exhibitors. All total, 21 writers from The Steve Laube Agency were in attendance.

Convention Time!

by Steve Laube

Last week was the 2011 International Christian Retailing Show (ICRS) in Atlanta, Georgia. Tamela Hancock Murray and I  had a busy time. Statistics released declared that professional attendance was up 9.7% to 1,748, primarily representing buyers. Total attendance was up 5.83% to 4,918. International attendance was up 16.17% to 431 attendees from 61 countries.

ICRS Observations 2010

Some have asked for my thoughts on this past week’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis. I’m glad to answer.

This was my 29th consecutive booksellers convention. At its height there were approximately 14,000 in attendance, many years ago. That is no longer the case. Statistics released indicate total attendance was 6,812. Registered pick-ups in attendance was  4,747 (flat compared to 2009); professional attendance was 1,675 (up 4.5% over last year); and international attendance came in at 390 (up 4% over 2009). I’m not sure if they combine exhibitors and retailers in that first number of if the exhibitors (publishers, etc.) are included in the second number. As an agent we are considered “professional” attendees.

Apparently the national average retail trade show attendance is down 16%, so the convention is feeling pretty good about this year’s showing.

I’ll admit to being skeptical about St. Louis as the locale. In my nearly 30 years of attendance it had never been in that city. I was pleasantly surprised. I was fortunate to be staying at the hotel directly across the street from the convention hall which made moving from one thing to another very easy. I was also impressed by the number of fine restaurants in the area, most within walking distance. I had the fun to host two author-related dinners and both restaurants were excellent.

Since I don’t go to the convention with tourism in mind I have no idea what I might have missed, other than traveling to top of that Arch. However I spoke to the husband and son of an author who thoroughly enjoyed the area and filled three days with a wide variety of activities.

For me the event began with the Christy Award reception on Saturday night. Our agency had three authors who were finalists. None received the top award, but being recognized as a finalist is an honor in and of itself. I love the Christys and what it represents. If you ever have someone criticize Christian fiction as being vapid or poorly written, challenge their assumptions by suggesting they read the finalists. I predict they will be chagrined to have made their accusations after having a chance to read some of the incredible writers represented among the award finalists.

The rest of the week was a series of scheduled meetings and “hallway” or “aisle-way” conversations. I had thirty scheduled appointments and probably ended up with over 50 significant conversations when the time was done. Even had the chance to discuss deal points on a new contract that surfaced during the convention (that almost never happens).

I was also privileged to hear a hour and a half presentation by Hachette Digital. They are working very hard to maximize the opportunities created by the digital revolution. I came away feeling like some very smart people are working hard on doing smart things in this world. They were open to questions and suggestions. Very impressive. Thank you Rolf, for the invitation.

Tuesday was an odd day in that every meeting was in the hotel until late afternoon. I did not actually hit the convention floor until 4:00. That was something new for me since, in the past, most meetings took place on the convention floor or in Publisher suites. This was also the first year that not a single appointment took place in a publisher’s suite!

Because the convention itself was smaller in scale it fit in the hall very well. There were always people visibly roaming the aisles all the way until the closing announcement on Wednesday afternoon. It “felt” busier because of that.

The International rights section was a hive of activity. Goodness. There was never a dull moment in that space. It is incredible to think of the marvelous activity of great Christian literature and its impact around the globe.

I’ve had some disagreement with a colleague or two over whether the ICRS convention is a dinosaur that will soon disappear. I tend to remain positive about its place in the industry and truly hope it does not go away. There is simply no other single event where so many industry-related people gather in one place. I can think of a half dozen conversations that would not have happened if were not for this event.

For publishers it has become an Author-Relations event, not much of a sales opportunity. The stores have already placed their orders for forthcoming books and music. And while there are fewer Christian stores, many major big box retail buyers were in attendance. Therefore while actual orders may not be placed at the show, the seeds for new sales were being planted.

Since both Chi Libris (fiction) and AWSA (women speakers and authors) organizations have their retreat in the days before the convention, many authors are there. I believe we had at least 12 or 13 of our clients who were there for at least part of the event.

The gift section was humming the entire show. And that will always be. Many gifts are such that they have to be physically held or seen in person before knowing if they are a product the retailer can sell. If ICRS goes away the retailers will have to rely on the general market Gift Shows which would not have as many vendors and their selection opportunities would decline.

All the usual suspects of kitchy art, gifts, and toys were there. Nothing made me exclaim, “you’ve got to be kidding.” So that either means I’ve become immune after all these years or there were simply fewer products to see. (Years ago, my all-time worst observation was a clown making balloon art. He was methodically putting together a six foot high brown crucifix with a flesh colored Jesus on it…all made out of long thin “clown” balloons. From the back of the adoring crowd I muttered a little too loudly, “My kingdom for a pin.” And then walked away shaking my head.) In general I don’t mind most of that material since I sold a lot of it during my days as a Christian retailer. For many people the items are a real blessing in their church or home. But that balloon art exhibition was over my line.

I enjoyed taking pictures of client’s book covers and displays and emailing those to them. A lot of fun for those who couldn’t attend.

Bottom line? Publishing is alive and well. Publishers are still looking for great content and great authors. The Christian retail business is small, but those who survived the “crash” are still working hard and serving their communities. It is nice to see there are those still dedicated to the call of being booksellers.

I can’t wait to get to work each day to find out what’s new in this terrible, horrible, wonderful, exciting, frustrating, exhilarating business.

2009 ICRS Observations

2009 ICRS ConventionLike many going into the 2009 ICRS convention (aka CBA or the Christian Booksellers Association convention) I was wondering what would be found. It was great to see that instead of the projected doom and gloom there was light and hope. (Yes, that is Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber in the photo to the left – courtesy of Christian Retailing Magazine.) A few observations:

1) The total convention exhibit floor was about 30% smaller than in past years and the middle section, housing CBA’s events and displays was HUGE. In fact you could walk through the entire book section very rapidly for the first time in years. Everything seemed condensed.

2) The net effect of the smaller sales floor was that you felt the crowds. There was noise, energy, and excitement in the air. This was a major change over previous years where it always felt so quiet.

ICRS / CBA Bookseller’s Convention

cbasmall

Today is the official opening of the convention in Denver. This year will be my 28th consecutive ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) or CBA as we veterans still call it (Christian Booksellers Association Convention). I absolutely love the experience. I’ve attended as a retailer, as an exhibitor, and now as an “industry professional.” I find it amusing that each name badge is color-coded to help exhibitors know whether the person in their booth is a bookseller (and thereby a potential customer) or a browser, like me. What makes it particularly fun is that the “agent” color is black….the color of an agent’s soul.

PRO: There is nothing like the experience of walking the floor of the world’s largest Christian bookstore. Everything is there, the good, the bad, and the outrageous (like the balloon art crucifix or the painting of a junkie shooting heroin into the arm of Jesus). The spirit is electric. It can be overwhelming, but ultimately it is a picture of God at work. As a writer you can meet key people, network with fellow writers, collect catalogs (those that aren’t digital), and simply increase knowledge of what the industry is all about.

CON: Unrealized expectations. Too many writers think the convention should be all about them. It isn’t. Disappointment is palatable with some folks at the end of the experience. Their publisher didn’t pay enough attention to them; not enough people came to their signing; no editor was available for an appointment…etc. Go to the convention with modest expectations and the chance of disappointment with be minimized.

Christy Awards

christy_award-125Tonight was the tenth annual Christy Awards which honors the best in Christian fiction. We were very proud to have six clients as finalists!

To my eternal delight two clients won!

Marlo Schalesky won in the contemporary romance category for her book Beyond the Night (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group).

Tracey Bateman won in the contemporary series category for her book You Had Me at Goodbye (Faithwords).

Since neither Marlo or Tracey could attend, I had the privilege of accepting their awards and reading their speech. A thrill and an honor.