Trade Show Value

Are you thinking about attending a book industry trade show such as Book Expo America (BEA) or the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)? These venues present wonderful opportunities to learn about the industry, network, and promote your books.

I encourage you to listen to these testimonials from three members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) who attended ICRS with us this summer in Orlando. Hear what they have to say about their experience at the show.

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Learn to Promote Your Books Better

“I know that you can’t just write a book and say I’m not going to have anything to do with marketing. If you don’t care enough about it to try and figure out how to get it in the hands of other people, nobody else is going to either.”

This quote by best-selling author and mega-church pastor David Jeremiah sums up an important principle in marketing and promoting a book. If you as the publisher or author don’t care enough to figure out how to get the book you have produced into the hands of readers, nobody else is going to either.

So many authors I speak to just want to find someone to do the marketing for them. The truth is that no one is as passionate about your book as you are. No one else will carry the same devotion and dedication to promoting your book as you.

Each year, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) presents a Publishers’ Institute at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). The purpose of this seminar is to educate and encourage small publishers and independently published authors in creating and promoting their materials.

This year, Publishers’ Institute: Marketing for Success focused on helping publishers and author successfully promote books as well as find specialty sales for these books. For those who could not attend, the seminar is available as an audio download for just $12.00 on CPSA’s website just click on this link:

Attending or purchasing the audio version of Publishers’ Institute is money well-spent. Don’t just take my word for it. Watch this testimonial from one of this year’s attendees.

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BookCon: A Success!

In a struggling economy and changing book publishing and buying landscape, BEA (Book Expo America) the industry’s largest book trade show tried something new this year to breathe fresh life into the event. BEA added a consumer day to the final day of the show. They named this event BookCon and opened it to the reading public.


For $30 individuals could purchase tickets to attend BookCon (similar idea to the existing Comic-Con show). This final day of BEA show featured authors appearance, book giveaways, and other events for book lovers. The event was so successful that BEA had to cap the attendance at 10,000 individuals. As a result, they are looking to add an additional day to BookCon next year at the end of BEA for a three-day trade show and then a two-day BookCon event.

Interestingly, a number of years ago (I think 2009) ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) attempted a similar event. This event, Christian Book Expo, was held in Dallas. It turned out to be a complete flop.

I wonder if CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, will attempt a similar idea for the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in the next few years. After all, CBA generally follows BEA’s lead. For example, a couple years ago, BEA added a conference for self-published authors, uPublishU. CBA then added a conference to ICRS for self-published authors, Author BootCamp.

In a struggling industry with fewer Christian retail stores and larger consolidation of publishers (leaving fewer publishers to exhibit), CBA will have to do something to try to reinvigorate a trade show that has shrunk considerably since its heyday in the 1990s. It would not surprise me at all to see CBA attempt an event similar to BookCon with ICRS.

However, should CBA add a consumer day, I think getting the numbers would be more of a challenge as the Christian subset is a smaller portion of the reading public. I am sure holding the event in New York City helped boost BookCon’s attendance. ECPA felt Dallas was the right city to hold their Christian Book Expo in due to the high numbers of Christians in the city, yet the people did not show up.

Do you think CBA should add a consumer day to the International Christian Retail Show (a BookCon for Christian consumers)? If so, what city do you think would draw the biggest Christian reading crowd?

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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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