Good News from a Trade Show
July 17, 2009 | Written by admin
That was the heading of yesterday's email from PW Daily, a daily digested version of Publishers Weekly.
What? Good news? In publishing?
I'll admit that as I (Sandra, here) prepared for and traveled to ICRS this year, I was hoping for a more upbeat experience than last year's episode of gloom and doom. Not expecting, necessarily, but hoping.
I was relieved to find that my optimism was rewarded. Attendance on the floor seemed up from last year despite a
report from PW of a 20% drop in attendance from 2008. Maybe it was because there were fewer exhibitors. Or maybe it was because the overall exhibit space was smaller. But, it at least gave the impression of increased activity and attendance. And at events such as this, impressions matter.
I recall a dismal scene from the show floor last year when I rounded a corner and saw one of CBA's most noted authors sitting at his signing table … doodling. I happened upon this scene at time when I was wandering the floor, seriously praying about the future of CBA, and wondering what had compelled me to enter the industry just as a tsunami was threatening to hit.
A good sign this year, though, was that signings seemed steady and well attended. There were lots of lines, a few even snaking around the aisle-ways. One of my authors was there at the invitation of her publisher and they had to pull books from the shelves to meet demand. One house intentionally held four signings at one
time; one on each corner of their booth – an example of
the kind of new thinking which probably helped in giving the show a more
upbeat and positive feeling.
Most industry professionals I talked with sounded authentically hopeful about the show's survival – even in spite of lower retail customers in attendance. The handful of sales people I spoke with reported they were taking modest but steady orders. Lean times call for modest expectations, and I think, for the most part, this is how publishers approached the show. They sent fewer staff, kept their expenses down, brought less product with them in the first place.
As far as meetings with editors (always my favorite part of any industry event) most expressed that publishing spots are still fewer and pushed out, and that decisions are still taking longer to make with far more deliberation than ever before. But, a majority of the folks I met with said they are actively looking for fresh approaches to perennial topics and strong voices in fiction to lead the way by taking our message of hope and invitation into the general readership.
This is strictly from my gut (and I've not had breakfast yet at the time of writing this, so consider yourselves warned) but I think the tide of CBA is shifting away from being dominated by the Bible Belt sentiment of what's acceptable material for Christians and what's not. (Please read carefully that I said Bible Belt, not Bible!)
This was perhaps forecasted by my agreement with a June 4th Newsweek article by Lisa Miller in which she noted "evangelical Christians are less willing to identify themselves as a coherent group embodying one set of values."
If that's the way the tide is turning, I'm glad I dived in. Hooray and Hallelujah! Change is coming and I, for one, think embracing it instead of fighting it always brings good news!