The president of ABA (American Booksellers Association) recently had this to say about BEA (Book Expo America):
“Newly returned from BookExpo America, I was struck by a couple of things: one that was great, one worrying. The first is the growing emphasis on the relationship between independent booksellers and publishers—a terrific thing from our perspective. The second, something that worries me, is that what has always set BEA apart—the books themselves—seems to have a diminishing presence on the trade show floor.”
Having just returned from ICRS (International Christian Retail Show), the Christian marketplace equivalent to BEA, I have to say that this shift is being mirrored at ICRS. This year, very few of the major Christian publishing houses sponsored authors book signing and speakers at ICRS. Most of these were done by small presses and self-publishing houses. Few of the larger publishing houses were even giving away books as they have done in the past. As a result, the smaller presses ended up getting more interaction time with retailers at the show. In the past retailers time was often consumed with book signings from authors of major publishing houses.
The reality is that only about 20% of a bookstore’s space is devoted to books. Research shows that 80% of the floor space of most bookstores is now focused on other products. Additionally, only 17% of Christian products are actually sold through brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores.
In essence, as the sales through brick-and-mortar stores shrink, publishers will naturally put less of their marketing dollars into this channel and more into the places where consumers are buying books. This shift is simply reflected at ICRS—the largest gathering of Christian retailers for the Christian market in the United States.
I believe there is still value in attending ICRS. It is a great place to learn, make connections, and network. Many of the authors and publishers attending ICRS with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) report that the money spent to attend the show was well worth their time. The contacts, connections, and opportunities that came their way at the show will broaden their reach and exposure for their books.
CSPA’s booth at the show was busy. Watch the video featuring pictures of our booth and author book signings at the show below:
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