ICRS 2012 – Observations

By Steve Laube

This year’s ICRS (International Christian Retailing Show) was a great time of celebration and doing a lot of business.

First I have to celebrate with Four award winning clients!

AWSA (Advance Writers & Speakers Association)
Fiction Book of the Year

Susan May Warren – Heiress (Summerside)

The Christy Awards

Ronie Kendig – Wolfsbane (Barbour) – best Contemporary Romance

Ginny Yttrup – Words (B&H Publishing Group) – best First Novel

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

I am so honored to represent such wonderful writers! It is especially meaningful having traveled the journey of each book with each author. Ask the authors for the story behind their story!

As for business, we had a lot of great meetings with publishers, editors, and authors. Tamela Hancock Murray and I had 23 scheduled appointments on Monday and Tuesday. It meant flitting from place to place in record time, especially since some appointments were on the convention floor and others were at one of the main convention hotels. (See Tamela’s post later this week for her perspective on the event.)

We also had over 20 of our clients in attendance which made it fun to say hello and enjoy some short “hallway” conversations.

This was my 31st consecutive booksellers convention. Tamela was a witness that when we walked into the convention hall for the first time I audibly gasped. I stood there in a stunned posture for a moment because, for the first time in three decades, I could see both ends of the convention hall from where I stood. It felt so small! But after a few hours it became evident that virtually every publisher and distributor was there, but their footprint was smaller. In other words instead of having a massive display booth, the publisher had a third of the floor space as they have had in the past. This shrank the total square footage of the event. It is interesting that every year we comment on how small the convention feels. But everyone was in agreement on this year’s event.

In addition there were fewer gift product booths than I remembered and really only one big music booth (EMI). I suspect the entire event could have been held in a super-sized hotel ballroom instead of a convention center.

The International Marketplace was a buzz of busyness as usual. They really should expand that section of the sales floor because there was barely enough room to move around and not enough places to have meetings.

The tone and attitude of the industry was one of “we have survived the worst.” And one of enthusiasm and excitement about new properties and new opportunities, especially in the digital arena. Since our agency has had an author in the Tyndale Digital First program and one of Tamela’s clients is the launch author for Zondervan’s new digital fiction program (see last Thursday’s post), we had a number of conversations about what works and what doesn’t in this fledgling category.

We were very glad that a couple publishers brought a full roster of editorial staff to the event. This allowed us to have some one-on-one time with acquisitions editors we normally do not get to see at conferences or even during visits to publisher’s headquarters.

All in all I would say this was a great year for further cementing great relationships and for building a number of new ones.

11 Responses to ICRS 2012 – Observations

  1. Avatar
    Lindsay Harrel July 23, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    That sounds like a wonderful experience. But wow, that’s a lot of meetings! Is that normal for a conference to meet with so many publishers?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

      A conference? No. This was not a conference but the annual booksellers convention. The public cannot attend, you have to get a badge from your publisher, or enter as media, or as a member.

      But this is normal for the convention each year.

  2. Avatar
    Robin Patchen July 23, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    I’m wondering why it’s getting smaller. It was my understanding that the CBA was a growing area of the American book market. If that’s the case, then I would think the ICRS would be growing, not shrinking. Is it simply a matter of companies tightening their belts, or is there something else going on?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

      The media is saying that Christian books is a growing area, not Christian retail. Christian bookstores have been hit just like every general market bookstore by the Internet and the Economy. Quite the one-two punch. Many are doing quite well because they were able to adapt or continue their community relationships such that the public continues to shop at their store.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanne July 23, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    Having never been to ICRS, it’s interesting to get a glimpse of the event. I’m curious too, why did the booths, etc, take up less space this year. Please forgive the naivete of this question, but what happens at the appointments agents schedule at ICRS?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

      Booths are sold in 10 foot sections. So instead of buying 12 sections, a publisher might have purchased 8, or even six. A couple publishers don’t even attend anymore and save money in both convention expense, but also in staffing, travel, etc.

  4. Avatar
    DavidDrury (@DavidDrury) July 23, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Thanks for this update.
    You’re one of my favorite industry watchers, Steve (and you also happen to be an industry doer, too!)

  5. Avatar
    S. Kim Henson July 23, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Congrats to all the winners. I love reading success stories.

  6. Avatar
    Susan Basham July 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Congratulations! You know great books as is evidenced by all your client winners. May you be blessed with continued success.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 23, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

      We have been blessed over the years in working with some incredible talent.

      • Avatar
        Julia Denton July 26, 2012 at 9:55 am #

        Thanks to you and Tamela for giving us an insider’s view of an event some of us know very little about. I’m fairly new to the world of Christian publishing, so you’re helping to educate me. Your descriptions give interesting details and are refreshingly free of the snark that I’ve read elsewhere about this event, and left me feeling more positive about the CBA. Congratulations to all your winning authors!

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