Words of Encouragement

It all started with you.”

Steve had stopped by the Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) booth at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) to say hello. He also wanted to update me on how he was doing.


Two years ago, Steve had attended the International Christian Retail Show with CSPA and had hosted an author book signing for his book and two other authors he published. He wanted me to know that the journey to where he is today had all started at that ICRS show two years ago.

Steve reported that the books he had written had been picked up by a large Christian publishing house as a result of the networking he had done at the show two years ago. In addition, he was in the process of creating a new line of books for another publishing house and had been placed in charge of acquiring authors for this new imprint—also as a result of connections he had made at that show.

Steve went on to thank me for the gateway opportunity that Christian Small Publishers Association provided him and for the seeds we had sown that had grown into fruition with his publishing endeavors.

I was grateful for the update, feedback, and encouragement from this author and publisher. After all, when I hear that CSPA is fulfilling its mission—to represent, promote, and strengthen small publishers—my heart is energized to continue leading CSPA and providing the many benefits and opportunities we do to help give small publishers and independently published authors a boost in bringing word of their books to Christians.

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Audience Development

“If you build it, they will come.” While this may be true for a Field of Dreams, it does not translate to publishing a book. “If you publish it, they will read it” is not an axiom. Rather, getting people to read a book that has been published takes work.


Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) seeks to equip publishers in marketing their books. One of the ways we strive to do this is by offering an annual seminar for publishers and anyone interested in becoming a publisher at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

This year, our seminar, Publishers’ Institute: Tools for Success, focused on helping publishers enrich and expand the audience for their books. The buzz word circling the publishing world for this concept is “audience development.”

The seminar covered three areas of audience development:

  1. Acquiring foreign rights for your books (and as a side, CSPA now has two foreign rights agencies’ services available to our member publishers).
  2. Developing your audience to create a self-sustaining system that grows.
  3. Marketing trends to take advantage of to enlarge your audience.

If you want to find out ways that you can develop and enlarge an audience for your books, then I recommend that you listen to the audio version of this year’s Publishers’ Institute seminar. It is available on CSPA’s website at this link (http://www.christianpublishers.net/?page_id=8) for you to order and download. The cost is just $16 and this will give you access to both the audio recording of the speakers as well as to each speaker’s PowerPoint presentation.

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Representing Authors and Publishers

Gateway to the West, the Arch, the Mississippi River, a free Zoo, and the Cardinals are all thoughts provoked by the mention of St. Louis. This year, when someone mentioned St. Louis, my thoughts were of the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

As we have done for the past ten years, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) attended ICRS and represented some of our member publishers and their books at the show. In addition, we hosted twelve author appearances with book signings over a two-day span. Needless to say, CSPA’s booth was busy.

Watch our slideshow of images from the show, our booth, and the author book signings to get an idea of what it was like.

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Reflections on ICRS 2013

Our world is changing. Advancing technology is driving much of the change. The book publishing and selling industry is not immune to these changes.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has been attending the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) since 2004. I, personally, have been attending since 2005. The show has greatly changed over the years. One of the biggest changes is the shift in focus for the retailers attending the show. What once was books and music has become gifts and films. Most of the exhibitor sponsored events at this year’s ICRS were advanced showings of Christian films.

CSPA Booth 1830

Three years ago, in 2010, ICRS was held in the America’s Convention Center in St. Louis. The venue this year returned to St. Louis. Being in the same place three years later, really struck home to me the changes that have occurred in the industry and with ICRS. The show’s energy and flow was definitely different than three years ago. As I reflected on this, I realized that there have been some major changes in the industry in the past three years. These include:

  1. Family Christian Stores, the largest Christian chain retailer, moved from a regular purchasing model with payment within 60 days to an all consignment model. They now buy directly from publishers and stock all their merchandise on consignment.
  2. Cokesbury, another large Christian retail chain and one that had been more friendly to small publishers, closed all their physical bookstores and moved to an online only store.
  3. The sales of digital books went from a miniscual percentage of books in 2010 to one-fourth of all book sales this year.
  4. Print book buying has shifted. The majority of print books are now being purchased online. In 2012, 43.8% of books bought by consumers were purchased online, while only 31.6% of books were purchased in all large retail chains, independent bookstores, other mass merchandisers, and supermarkets.

These changes raise the question: Is there still value in attending ICRS?

I believe there is. However, ICRS should no longer be viewed as a venue to get Christian retailers to stock your books in their stores. Rather, ICRS provides other rich opportunities for small publishers and authors.

1. ICRS is a great place to learn.
In addition to the learning that takes place on the show floor from viewing the competition to see what they are doing so that you can stay on top of trends, ICRS provides a large number of opportunitities for learning in the many seminars at the show. In addition to Publishers’ Institute (sponsored by CSPA), this year’s program included seminars on using social media, getting interviews with the media, an author bootcamp, reaching the Catholic market, technology tools and trends in marketing, and using events to connect with consumers.

2. ICRS is a great place to land interviews with the media.
Many radio and TV programs attend ICRS looking for fresh guests. Authors can connect with the media and be interviewed in person at the show. I, personally, was not looking to acquire media interviews at the show, however, God brought to me media personnel who were interested in hosting interviews about CSPA and what we do. God ordained connections happen at ICRS.

3. Numerous opportunities for networking are available.
ICRS offers many opportunities for small publishers and authors to network with a wide variety of industry personnel from other authors, to distributors, to sales and marketing people, to retailers, to other publishers. These networking opportunities can lead to collaborative efforts among authors, among publishers, and between various other professionals in the industry to help publishers and authors expand their audience and market reach. A number of publishers and authors reported to me that they had made contacts and began negotiations for special sales agreements and collaborations at the show.

4. ICRS offers international sales opportunities.
If you are willing to sell to overseas retailers and distributors, opportunitites exist to connect with international people to sell your books. ICRS hosts a number of International attendees seeking good Christian materials for their home countries. One exhibiting publisher shared with me that almost all of his business transactions at ICRS were with international retailers.

While ICRS may no longer be the avenue for authors and publishers to directly acquire bookstore sales, the show still contains many valuable opportunities for small publishers and authors who choose to attend the show. At CSPA, we are constantly evaluating the services we offer our members to ensure that they still have value. At this time, we feel that ICRS still has value for small publishers and authors. Therefore, we are committed to attending ICRS in Atlanta next summer in 2014 (God willing). We hope you will join us there.

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