Tamela Hancock Murray
Two weeks ago I enjoyed the privilege of attending ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) as part of The Steve Laube Agency, marking my third ICRS with Steve.
As usual, our schedule was packed but seeing our colleagues is why we attend, so a full agenda is welcome. Year after year, reports say ICRS is getting smaller, and indeed we did miss seeing some of our editor friends. However, we were able to maintain great connections with over 35 interesting and productive meetings. Authors are looking for good news and I can say there is plenty. Editors are still actively acquiring all types of fiction and nonfiction. Standards are high, but then again, they always have been. Talented writers who are willing to work hard will find opportunities in today’s market.
I can’t call feasting at several dinners and banquets “hardship” duty. I had a great time at the AWSA awards lunch, the Speak Up! breakfast, and the Baker Publishing Group dinner, and was especially thrilled to be at Susie May Warren’s table on Monday night when she won her Christy Award!
American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) announces their Carol Award finalists at ICRS. Our agency is well represented with seven authors as finalists in eight categories. I’m beyond proud to be the agent for three of them!
You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House, Editors: Karen Watson/Sarah Mason)
At Every Turn by Anne Mateer (Bethany House, Editor: Charlene Patterson)
Impressed by Love by Lisa Karon Richardson (Barbour Publishing, Editor: Rebecca Germany)
Saving Hope by Margaret Daley (Abingdon Press, Editor: Ramona Richards)
When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason (Revell, Editor: Andrea Doering)
Judge by R. J. Larson (Bethany House, Editors: David Long/Sarah Long)
Daystar by Kathy Tyers (Marcher Lord Press: Editor: Jeff Gerke)
Prophet by R.J. Larson (Bethany House, Editors: David Long/Sarah Long)
So why do we continue to go despite the reported shrinking of the size of ICRS? Because it is an important piece of the puzzle for us — the building and maintaining of relationships. I enjoyed my time with the editors, and was able to make meaningful connections with many authors as well. Several of our authors were invited to sign their books and some were interviewed by the media.
As an agent, I have the opportunity to talk to a number of authors, from dewey-eyed beginners to wizened veterans. Some still think that agents only are around to sell their books and ask for a few contract goodies. But anyone who could have shadowed Steve and me at ICRS would have seen we do so much more. Editors and executives approached him time and time again for perspective beyond the proposals or authors we discussed. I listened as he shared with authority views on topics ranging from the economics of successful publishing to the nuances of three-point versus five-point Calvinism. I enjoyed sharing my views on the romance fiction market. Our goal was to “dig a little” (his words) to find out what was under the surface and to solidify our already warm industry relationships.
Authors who engage a great agent are working with a professional who cultivates real relationships with publishers and exchanges ideas and information. Because we work with different authors, we are able to gather the latest information on the real worth of any given project, what a house can and cannot do for any particular author, and editors’ personal tastes and preferences.
Like Steve, I can’t wait to go again next year!