Tag s | ICRS

ICRS 2013 – Observations

by Steve Laube

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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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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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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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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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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.

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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 …

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2009 ICRS Observations

Like 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.

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ICRS / CBA Bookseller’s Convention

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.

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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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