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Category : CBA
I'm finding a bunch of leftover questions regarding ICRS 2010…
A couple people wrote to ask if there were author signings… A ton of them! The convention keeps some "personality booths" busy, so conventioneers could get autographed books from the likes of Chuck Swindoll, Ted Dekker, Christy finalists like Kaye Dacus, and a bunch of other authors. The folks from the Thriller tour were all signing, and publishers had numerous authors in their booths to sign and give away books. Author signings is one of the reasons many folks show up for the convention. Author Tosca Lee hosted a "Heart of the Author" breakfast one morning featuring a dozen authors you could meet face to face, and there were various gatherings with significant authors going on every day of the show.
One person asked if there's one "can't miss" event for booksellers at the convention… If it wasn't the big Hachette party mentioned yesterday, it might have been Barbour's "Fiction Cafe." Barbour sells as much fiction as just about anybody in CBA, and they brought in Wanda Brunstetter, Kaye Dacus, and numerous others so that bookstore personnel could meet the authors face-to-face. They do this every year, and I always hear good things about it (though I'll admit I've never actually attended). Like everyone else, retailers like meeting celebrities one-on-one, so this is always a good way for Barbour to highlight their authors and books.
Someone wrote to ask what sort of awards are given out at the ICRS convention. There are all sorts of retailer awards given, some art awards, and various other ways to recognize retailers. I suppose the biggest are The Christy Awards, given to the top novels each year. This has become a big deal, getting major press in publishing, and it's nice to see. As I noted already, Lisa Samson was this year's keynote speaker, and she had good things to say about Christian fiction
Just back from ICRS 2010 in St Louis. As cities go, St Louis was really nice, so long as you don't want to do anything but look at an arch. And it was 100 degrees (though I'll admit that was, technically, outside — a place I rarely ventured). Still, the show was cozy inside the downtown "America's Convention Center," and the hotels were all within walking distance. I've never been one to grasp the charms of St Louis. I mean, the tourist guides can point out the arch, which really is nice, and there's a fine museum underneath it, but not much else. (Actual tourist guide I overheard: "And from THIS angle you get another nice view of the Arch!") The baseball stadium is downtown, which is cool. And there's a Budweiser tour. Um… some good rib joints. That about covers the high points of the city. Not exactly what you might refer to as Vacation Wonderland.
However, since the Christian book show has shrunk markedly in recent years, putting it inside a smaller venue is nice. So St Louis is probably a good size city to host something like this, assuming it survives (more on that later). It doesn't feel like you've got to walk miles to get to everything. (Some of us remember attending past conventions that were so spread out it felt like you were trodding from nearby towns.) And while the convention space is certainly smaller, sticking it here made it feel more crowded, so the mood was generally upbeat. The only downside is that the entire area around the convention center is under construction (the city had to do something, since downtown was becoming ugly and dangerous). That meant it lacked a lot of great restaurants close by, like we had in Denver, and wherever you walked you were stepping over pipes or walking under scaffolding or wondering if the St Louis Crips were holed
I'm about ready to get on a plane and fly to the International Christian Retail Show (the big religious book show) in St Louis. Since I've had several folks ask me what sort of trends we're seeing in CBA, I thought I'd bang out a handful of things that I see going on…
1. More readers (Remember when we were worried about "why Johnny can't read"? No more. We read all the time. You might read books on your iPhone. You're probably wondering who's on Facebook right now. Wait — is that your Blackberry going off?)
2. More varieties of fiction (Bonnets! Pirates! Prairie dogs! Cowboys! Patriots! Immigrants! Soldiers! Shopkeepers! And some, such as Amish books, have created their own sub-genres.)
3. More historical fiction (People enduring hard economic times long for the good ol' days when life was simpler.)
4. More graphic scenes (There's a good and a bad side to this. I'm all for realism… but what IS it with people — must every fiction proposal I see these days have a rape scene? Be different. Let your character survive something else, like a nuclear disaster, or a car wreck, or waxy build-up.)
5. More creative packaging and inclusions (We're quickly moving toward the place where each editorial team will have a specialist whose job will be to create images, games, widgets, and other stuff to enhance the text.)
6. More reformed and ecumenical books (CBA has become less the protected domain of evangelicals as we've seen the inclusion of a broader group of believers, including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. That means I'm now, finally, a Christian. It's about time.)
7. More book choices (Obviously we're seeing the rise of the digital book, but the real fight to be won is over the significance of the content in them, and how all those titles present choices to consumers. A great book requires time and effort and
Mark sent me this: “It
seems that slowly the CBA is selling out. Is this true? Is it the ABA getting
greedy? What does this signal for the future?”
It signals that the general market has recognized the value of Christian books,
Christian writers, and Christian readers. And, yes, it probably means that more
CBA houses will be sold (or come under the influence of) large ABA houses. As to the question "are they greedy?"
— good grief, they're running a for-profit enterprise. If "greedy"
means "are they focused on making a profit," of course they're
greedy. But I'd argue that CBA houses, for all the carefully-couched terms
about having "ministry" and "doing the Lord's work," are
also focused on profit. So maybe we should view this as a greater partnership,
rather than a sell-out. Sure, there are some questions to face down the road –
who will do commentaries and reference tools that aren't necessarily commercial
but still have value to believers? What happens when a company faces a decision to publish a book at odds with believers? How will
Christians respond when a company publishes some heretical tome? But, for those
not in the know, those very questions are faced by some of us every day. Time Warner
Book Group was a marvelous company that did many wonderful books when I was there (as well as before I came and after I left). We probably
also published some books Christians would find offensive. But you know what? I
was not responsible for every decision in the company. I was responsible to do
good books with solid Christian content that will sell in the marketplace. I
was comfortable with that role, and I believed in the company. So no, I don't find the blending of Christian and general markets a "sell out."
Suzy asked, “How do you handle it when
you have a change of editors (and editor styles)
bit ago, Shawn wrote and asked about the Christian industry. Here’s his
question: “Is the biggest trend in religious publishing the fact that none of
the Christian publishers are owned or run by ministries anymore?”
I've been saying for quite
some time that the biggest trend in Christian publishing is the distribution —
AWAY from independent Christian bookstore/gift centers and TOWARD general market
bookstores. That has both an up and a down side, of course, but it's not
something a cabal has been planning — it's simply the marketplace at work.
Christian readers would prefer to spend $12 for a book at Wal-Mart (and don't
underestimate Wal-Mart in the Christian retailing market) than $20 for a book
at Betty's Angel Book Shoppe. That has caused Christian independents to go
under by the dozens, and it is rapidly forcing a reshaping of CBA as we know it.
Along with that has been the sale of three CBA publishers. Time Warner (my
former employer) had its stock price stuck at $17 for three years, so in an
effort to get some things moving (and to hold off Carl Icahn), the board
decided to get out of the book business. They sold the Time Warner Book Group
to Hachette Livre, a French publishing conglomerate that owns Hodder in
England, Car & Driver and Elle magazines in this country, and
numerous publishing ventures around the world. So I lost the cache of saying I
work for Time Warner, the largest entertainment company in the world…but, of
course, I was able to say I'm a publisher with Hachette Livre, the
third-largest publisher in the world. On the heels of that came the sale of
Thomas Nelson — interestingly enough, moving from a publicly held company to a
private one. Then Simon and Schuster, who was already for sale by Viacom, and
who has not had a Christian imprint, decided they needed CBA exposure.
Our guest blogger today is Cindy Carter, the Recognition and Resources Manager for the ECPA…
Thank you, Chip, for allowing me the opportunity to be a guest blogger on your site and to introduce your readers to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association [ECPA].
ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) is the trade association for Christian publishers with nearly 150 members worldwide. It is our mission to equip the Christian publishing industry with programs and services that enable them to more efficiently and effectively “make the Christian message more widely known.” Our programs aim to build industry awareness, and to enhance ECPA members’ access to markets, education, expertise, information and peers.
One of the ways that ECPA builds awareness of quality Christian literature, is through the annual Christian Book Award program, which recognizes and promotes the year’s finest Christian titles in six categories. Here are the 2010 winners:
Christian Book of the Year: The Hole in Our Gospel
by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson)
Bibles: Glo by Immersion Digital (Zondervan)
Bible Reference: The New Moody Atlas of the Bible by Barry Beitzel (Moody Publishers)
Children & Youth: B4UD8 by Hayley and Michael DiMarco (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)
Christian Life: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson)
Fiction: Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Inspiration & Gift: Grace Notes by Philip Yancey (Zondervan)
This collection of six books represents the industry's ‘best of the year’ and the program’s retail partners have agreed to promote them to their consumer bases.
60; Those partners include Christianbook.com, Berean, Family, and Parable, along with Amazon, Borders and Barnes & Noble. I highly recommend that you consider these titles for your personal reading and for gift giving.
ECPA also recognizes and celebrates the impact of Christian titles through our Gold, Platinum and Diamond Sales Award program by honoring titles that have sold 500,000 (Gold),
Next spring, everything about the marketing and selling of Christian books is going to change. The ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) is going to host the Christian Book Expo in Dallas, March 20-22. Modeled after the very successful Guadalajara Book Fair and the Los Angeles Festival of Books, I think this is going to be the next big thing for Christian publishing.
Why? Because of the direction the organizers are taking. Instead of being focused on retailers, the focus of this show is going to be on authors and content. The public will be invited, and the whole idea is to expose readers to authors and their work. Think about this: there are going to be 180 workshops at the Expo. They are planning readings, and performances, and dozens of speakers. There are going to be mini-events where authors discuss contemporary and theological issues. There will be activities for families, and an entire area dedicated just to children’s books. They are planning 11 different panels, with world-class participants, to explore what the authors have to say about today’s significant social issues. (The panels are going to be sponsored by Christianity Today.) And they’re expecting major media, the participation of every ECPA publisher, as well as most general market publishers who produce Christian books. I think this event is going to raise the awareness of Christian publishing in this country. Best of all, this will be a books only event, meaning all of us get to focus on authors and their works.
Here’s something that might surprise you: The Guadalajara Book Fair attracted 525,000 people last year. The LA Festival had 140,000 attendees earlier this year. The fact is, people are still interested in books. And since last year was the biggest year ever for selling religious books, it’s fair to say that people care about Christian books (even if CBA and their retailers convention is struggling to survive). So
I’ve had a bunch 0f questions about the future direction of publishing, especially the future of CBA (the Christian Booksellers Association). Let me try to tackle some of the questions that have been posed to me or posted in the "comments" section…
Carol asked, "How is the much-touted Christian Book Expo different from the current ICRS?"
ICRS (the International Christian Retailing Show) is a collection of everyone who sells into religious stores. It includes jewelry companies, art distributors, t-shirt and tie manufacturers, card companies, music and entertainment corporations, and all the wacky stuff from Testamints to Gospel Golf Balls. There’s a sense that the show has lost its momentum. Next March, the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) will host the Christian Book Expo in Dallas. Many are viewing it as an alternative to ICRS. The focus will solely be on books, it will be open to the public, and they are hoping t0 line up major media for the authors at the show.
I have long advocated Christian publishers focus on BEA (the annual general-market book show) by sending editors, setting up media, and asking the folks who run it to put all the religious publishers in one location. But BEA just doesn’t thrill the old CBA crowd. Too expensive, too much competition, and too much liberal nuttiness to make Christian publishers comfortable. (They all attend, but it’s more of a sales show, so they don’t bring many authors or editors.) Will the new Christian Book Expo work? Beats me. But when your current plan isn’t working, you need to try something else. One of the weakest aspects of ICRS this year was the lack of media, so the ECPA types have decided to focus on a Bible-belt city, try to draw commercial crowds, and make it a "happening" that will attract TV/radio/print people. I’ll be hoping for the best.
Another person asked, "Will the new ECPA show make up
Dana wrote to ask, "Was ICRS really as bad as everyone is making it out to be? Were numbers down all that much? I recieve emails from CBA (the sponsoring organization), and they shared some pretty good news to their membership."
You know, I don’t take any pleasure in predicting the demise of CBA. I’ve been a member for years, am supportive of its goals, and have established some wonderful memories at the annual book show. But no matter how you spin it, the numbers are terrible. Ten years ago the convention drew just under 15,000 participants. This year the number was half that. And the number of "industry professionals" who attended the show was half the number of what it was ten years ago. The floor space is obviously shrinking (and word is many publishers may pull out or significantly reduce their floor space even more next year). So, yes, it’s a significant downward trend. No matter how they try to spin it, the show is in deep trouble (in my humble opinion).
Sheri asked, "From walking the floor at ICRS, can you tell us about some of the book trends you’re seeing?"
We’ve continued to see growth in fiction, and particularly in fiction sub-categories. (So while we used to just see "romance," we’re now seeing "historical romance," "contemporary romance," "romantic suspense," "romance with characters named Fiona," etc.) We’re also seeing more emergent writers. More reformed writers. More spriritual journey writers. More charismatic writers. More writers with professional platforms (MD’s writing on health, or investment guys writing on finances, for example). More "social justice" and "green" books. More audio titles. A continuing movement toward celebrity. The beginnings of narrative nonfiction titles. Fewer books from pastors. Few homeschooling books. Very few education titles. Few men’s books. Few humor writers. Few Bible studies. Almost no CBA gift books. More small presses starting up (hoo-ray!). And a handful of companies (Moody is
There are a handful of leftover things happening in the world of publishing that should be mentioned. In no particular order…
1. The Christy Salon: In case you didn’t hear, at this years’ Christy Awards (given for the best religious fiction), they featured a "salon" — a discussion of experienced people talking about the history and future of Christian novels. It was an interesting discussion, with Dave Lambert of Simon & Schuster, Karen Ball of B&H, and Carol Johnson of Bethany House (who was also given a lifetime achievement award at this dinner for her 20+ years in the industry). The most interesting part of the salon was the talk about the books that have shaped contemporary Christian fiction. Once you got past Grace Livingston Hill and Catherine Marshall (the Christies are named for her novel), the panel suggested these books have had the most influence: Jeanette Oke’s Love Comes Softly, Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, Bodie Thoene’s Gates of Zion, Jan Karon’s Mitford books, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind. It was pointed out that each of these books broke the mold. Each was different from the current popular reads, and each had a publisher who believed in them and worked to promote them. Interesting to think about in our "me-too" world of writing.
2. The Man We All Must Thank: I was glad to hear people in several venues say nice things about Jerry Jenkins. The fact is, we all know Left Behind doesn’t qualify as "great literature," but Jerry’s books hit at the right time, changed Christian fiction, and opened up the rest of the world to the whole notion of religious books. Borders, Books-a-Million, and Barnes & Noble used to have one shelf devoted to religious fiction. Now they have an entire aisle. The New York Times used to not count Christian books when compiling their bestseller list — but they couldn’t ignore