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ICRS Observations 2016

On the last week of June Dan Balow and I attended the 2016 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Cincinnati. It was my 35th consecutive year attending…which only means I’m old…

By now you may have heard some reports regarding the low attendance, which are true. There were only 2,114 registered attendees, nearly a 30% drop from last year. Fortunately the convention hall was the right size for the event. We didn’t feel like we were swimming in an ocean of empty space.

A few observations from my perspective as a literary agent, which is admittedly different than the perspective of a retailer or publisher or author.

1) Every single meeting we had was invaluable to our agency and to our clients. Unfortunately there were fewer than in past years. We made some invaluable connections simply because were were in a face-to-face meeting and not as slammed by time restraints.

2) With the convention center being one block away from the major hotels it was easy to get from an appointment on the sales floor to an appointment at a hotel and back again without having to sprint or cut short a meeting. It has been years since it was this convenient.

3) There were fewer editors in attendance which was disappointing. But again, those we did see were invigorating meetings. Very few fiction editors were there partly because the Christy Awards were done differently this year and there wasn’t the normal draw for novelists and their publishers.

4) There is no other place or event where the entire industry gathers at the same time. I enjoy walking slowly through the various exhibitor displays, no matter how big or small, just to see the variety in products and ideas. Non-book products can be instructive in predicting trends in the market and in design.

5) It was a delight to attend an early Monday morning SpeakUp breakfast, hosted by Gene and Carol Kent (Carol sporting a sling for her broken arm…let Gene tell you that story.) Despite the three hour time difference in my body clock it was great to hear many inspirational stories from some of our industry’s best speakers and writers.

6) “Hallway Conversations” are also invaluable. These are those unscheduled discussions that occur just because you are in attendance. Sometimes they can have big dividends in the future.

7) Thanks to a generous invitation from Carl Dobrowolski of Goodwill Rights Management Corp. over a dozen of us attended a nighttime Cubs vs. Reds baseball game at the Great American Ballpark (formerly Riverfront Stadium). We saw major league baseball history that night when Kris Bryant hit three home runs and two doubles. Something never done before in a single game in baseball history! So while that had nothing to do with our industry, it was great to make some new industry friends.

Conclusions

I count the event as a success. It would be easy to complain about attendance and modest appointment opportunities, but the valuable meetings we did have made up for quantity with quality.

 

Next year it will be in Cincinnati again from June 28-30, 2017 (Wednesday-Friday).

 

 

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Tamela’s 2015 ICRS Report 

As Steve Laube reported on Monday, ICRS was enlightening, entertaining, energetic, and frenetic. (I ran out of “e” words.) One “s” word I looked forward to upon my return home? Sleep! As a member of AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association), I entered ICRS infused with a great amount of …

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ICRS 2015 – Observations

Last week the industry gathered in Orlando for the annual booksellers convention (I.C.R.S. – International Christian Retail Show). This was my 34th consecutive event and this year had some new benefits. I’ll run through some of the highlights and then make some observations. 1) Like last year, Tamela Hancock Murray and …

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ICRS 2014 – Observations

A couple weeks ago the industry gathered in Atlanta for the annual booksellers convention (I.C.R.S. – International Christian Retail Show). This was my 33rd consecutive event and have enjoyed every one. If I may I’ll mention a few of the meetings we attended and then make a few observations. 1) …

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Another Productive ICRS!

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!

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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.

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

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.

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

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…

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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 over 20 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.)

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More Convention Highlights!

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.

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