ICRS 2013 – Observations

by Steve Laube


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.


Lee Hough – Lifetime Achievement Award

A highlight for me was Monday night and the Christy Awards where I had the privilege to emcee. It was so meaningful to have Lee Hough attend with his wife Paula as he received a lifetime achievement award and said goodbye to his beloved industry and long time friends (he has terminal cancer). It was touching to have him make the trip. To let us say our words of love to him as well as to see us all one more time. The few minutes alone I had with him will be treasured forever. We love you Lee.

But as the emcee I was tasked to keep the event moving and it did with breathtaking speed. It is to Donna Kehoe’s credit (the head of the Christy Awards) for designing an evening that included all awards, all special recognition, speeches, and dinner and ended on time only 2 ½ hours after it began. Amazing.

Congratulations to all the winners, but am particularly proud of my client Susan May Warren for winning her first Christy Award! She said beforehand that she knew she wouldn’t win because she had been nominated five times before without a trophy.

Karen Hancock Hall of Fame award 2013

Karen Hancock (L) receiving Christy Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe (R)

And to both Karen Hancock and Lynn Austin for being inducted into the Christy Hall of Fame. I remember “discovering” Karen at a writers conference in 1998 but not taking her book idea to committee for another year, waiting for the right time. That book, Arena, became her first of four Christy Awards.

The convention itself was interesting on a number of levels. The announced statistics said registrations were down. But those that came were there. Not like Orlando where someone might register but leave during the event to go to Disney World. It was the first year in many where the convention floor fit the room it was held in. In the past the exhibit hall was too large for the event and made it seem small. Not this year. It was also the first time in years where there was only one entrance into the convention which added to the feel of movement and attendance since there were people milling around all the time.

For the first time in 32 years I did not walk every aisle of the convention exhibits. Simply ran out of time with our appointments. Even on the last day we had half a dozen meetings which kept us engaged right up to the closing announcement. So I was unable to see first-hand any of the “duck call” items that I heard were on display (thank you Duck Dynasty).

There is no other time where so many in the industry gather at the same time. In one moment you can be talking to a retailer and the next to a famous author and the next to a key acquisitions editor. As a bonus you get to see the newest wares of the industry (book, music, and gifts). I describe it as the world’s largest Christian bookstore….but you can’t buy anything….you can only look. I collected nearly 40 catalogs and spent an evening going through them looking at cover designs, titles, concepts, and author names. Nowhere else could I have that type of immersive experience. I can’t wait to go to ICRS next year in Atlanta!

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Questions About Editors, Countries, and Awards

This blog is a continuation of my question-and-answer session in response to queries posted on a recent post.

1) Would you be able to get access to briefs from editors on what they are looking for and suggest to the author if there are any mutually interesting topics or genres?

Yes. Between the three of us, our agency has 81 years in publishing experience. During this time, we have forged individual relationships and true friendships with editors, publishers, marketing people, and of course, authors. We are first on many editors’ lists when news strikes. Because of our reputation for working with top authors and our knowledge of the publishing industry, many times we have been informed exclusively of opportunities for our clients.

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ICRS Report 2012

 This was my second ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) as an agent with The Steve Laube Agency. Once again, the show proved to be a marathon of information, entertainment, new connections, and strengthened friendships.

On a personal note, this year marked my younger daughter’s eighteenth birthday so our family devoted Sunday to her celebration. Armed with a new camera, she took many photographs at the Harry P. Leu gardens in Orlando.  These gardens are gorgeous!

The bulk of the show is condensed into Monday and Tuesday since the floor closes in mid-afternoon on Wednesday. Our schedule was packed on both days, and once again I enjoyed attending meetings with Steve Laube. To combat hot and humid weather, our hosts plied us with soda, tea, and water. I told Steve that Christians have added new meaning to the term “social drinking!”

The people we spoke with agreed that the floor seemed more sparse than usual, and some publishers occupied smaller booths than in the past. However, most of the best and brightest publishers were represented, often by their executives and owners. Amid hugs and laughter, Steve and I gleaned information we will use as we strategize how to present properties that best fit their current needs and interests. We were glad to have our first face-to-face time with Daisy Hutton, the recently-appointed Vice President and Publisher of Fiction at Thomas Nelson Publishers. She had already signed one of my clients before the show, so it was great to meet her in person. She will be the ideal successor to Allen Arnold’s excellent work.

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Christian Book Awards

Congratulations to our client Mesu Andrews (represented ) for winning the 2012 Christian Book Award for best New Author!

Here is the list of winners:


Nearing Home, Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson)

Category: BIBLES

ESV Student Study Bible (Crossway)


Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, Glen G. Scorgie (Zondervan)

Category: CHILDREN

The Story for Children, A Storybook Bible, Max Lucado, Randy Frazee, and Karen Davis Hill (Zonderkidz)

Category: FICTION

The Queen, Steven James (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)


The Law of Happiness, Dr. Henry Cloud (Howard Books)

Category: NEW AUTHOR

Love Amid the Ashes, Mesu Andrews (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)


Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, Greg Paul (Thomas Nelson)

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Christy Award Finalists 2012

We are quite excited to announce that our agency has a number of finalists in this year’s Christy Awards. (Click here for the list of this year’s finalists.) Congratulations to all finalists. Below are our clients who have been honored and a link to their publisher’s site for more information on the book.

Susan May Warren – My Foolish Heart (Tyndale) – Contemporary Romance

Ronie Kendig – Wolfsbane (Barbour) – Contemporary Romance

Ginny Yttrup – Words (B&H Publishing) – NOMINATED TWICE – Contemporary Standalone & First Novel

Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee – Forbidden (Center Street) – Visionary – (we represent Tosca)

Lisa Bergren – Waterfall (David C. Cook) – Young Adult

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Author Accolades – Dec. 5, 2011

We are very pleased to announce that we have two client’s whose books have been named as “The Best Christian Fiction of 2011” by The Library Journal.

Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee’s Forbidden (Center Street) – we represent Tosca

Tracy Higley’s Pompeii: City on Fire (B&H Publishing Group)

Also Debbie Ulrick and Liz Tolsma are part of the Log Cabin Christmas collection of novellas which is #7 on the ECPA Fiction bestseller list for December.

Congratulations to all!

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Special Announcement


Congratulations to Kathi Macias, author of Red Ink (New Hope Publishers) for being given the 2011 Golden Scroll book award for Novel of the Year presented by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). This is a tremendous honor.

We are also thrilled to announce that seven of our agency’s clients have been named as finalists for the Carol Award presented by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Congratulations to:

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A Year in Review

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Christmas glow is still present and since the publishing world is, in essence, on vacation, it is a perfect time to to reflect on the past twelve months.

This was a hard year for many as the economy touched everyone in some way. And yet, despite the ominous cloud of doom and gloom, there were many exciting things to celebrate.

On a personal level our middle daughter was married at the end of June. What a joy to see God at the center of the ceremony. And our oldest daughter had a blast playing keyboards for Alice Cooper (singing “School’s Out”) in front of 50,000 people at the ASU graduation ceremony in May.

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Christy Awards

Tonight 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.

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