Back to Work: Thoughts on ICRS 2009
July 20, 2009 | Written by admin
You take a week to go to books shows and writing conferences, and you suddenly discover you are DAYS behind in blogging. Sorry.
Last week was the International Christian Retail Show (also referred to as "ickers"), and I've already had several people write to ask what it was like. Surprisingly, I found the show very upbeat. I mean, I was expecting to see doom and gloom. Christian bookstores are closing, the numbers at the show are down again, some publishers have pulled out completely, and I thought this might be the last year we saw a CBA show.
I was wrong. There was good energy at this show. It was certainly smaller, and again it is no longer a "book" show exactly, but the folks who were there seemed to give it a thumbs up. Some houses were writing orders, which was a nice surprise (selling books on the show floor had become a rarity, since most stores order books online or through sales reps nowadays). While the overall number of international guests seemed way down due to the economy, international sales orders were still being written, according to everyone I talked to.
There are still struggles. Several publishers have pulled out and the ones remaining are far less engaged than they used to be. No publishing house brought many authors. The days of lavish publisher parties are over (dang!). In many ways I still think this could be done on a weekend, instead of taking the better part of a week. And I wonder if we might all be better off with a big meeting of publishers, authors, agents, and media at a nice hotel some weekend — sort of a longish wine-and-cheese where we can all talk business and get stuff done. But still, ICRS surprised me with some vigor this year.
A trend: A new look in book covers. Take a peek. We're seeing a new vision for CBA novels. More texture. Fewer creepy looking evil guys. Fewer models looking off into space with the wind blowing their hair into a rat's nest. Check out the covers at Zondervan and Tyndale and Baker at their corporate websites. It's a positive step.
And, as always, I've had at least a couple dozen people write to ask about the dopiest thing I saw at the show this year. Longtime readers will recall that past winners of my coveted "CBA Weenie Award" have included:
-Gospel golf balls (complete with John 3:16 printed on them!)
-Armor of God Pajamas (complete with "Helmet of Salvation" nightcap)
-Standing on the Promises Insoles (your feet NEED bible verses)
-Pope Soap on a Rope (gave me no hope, I couldn't cope, was the color of taupe, sold by a dope)
-Vials of ash from Sodom & Gomorrah (don't wait! get one for your gay friends now!)
-Praise Panties (preferably the red ones, embroidered with "His Love Endures Forever")
But none of these were there this year. Last year's winner, Heroin Jesus, was back (if you don't know, it's a truly tasteless painting of a junkie shooting drugs into his arm, with Jesus standing over him and extending his own arm, so that the drugs are shot into Christ's veins… um, no, I'm not kidding, and no, it doesn't make any sense, even with the out-of-context bible verse about "he who has done this to the least of these has done this to me" as an attempt to sanctify it, and no, I have no idea why this particular dipstick was allowed to return). But it was back for a repeat, complete with a sign about how his art has "changed the face of Christian art." I'm not sure how, unless it's turned Jesus into a shill for crappy art with faux depth. (True story: The guy also has painted pictures of Jesus in the ring, wearing boxing gloves. Beating the devil into submission, no doubt. I'm dubbing that one Rocky Jesus. Yo, Adrian!)
But what you really want to know are what are this year's weiners?
-So you want to play the drums, but are worried that you don't have enough bible verses plastered on your hat, your t-shirt, your pants, your jewelry, and your shoes (to say nothing of your insoles)? Now you can get Stick with Jesus Drumsticks for all your performing needs. I think they come with special powers, so that white people who use them can actually keep the beat.
-And, of course, you want to brush your teeth, but worry that, unless standing there in your Armor of God Pajamas, you might be doing an activity without spiritual value. Not any more, now that you can buy a Jesus Loves Me Toothbrush. Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth, except it's been brushed by a verse-covered toothbrush.
-For those who are completely incompetent when it comes to music, you can now get karaoke for Christmas carols, called Christmas Caroloke. I know I really struggle trying to remember the tune to "Silent Night."
-One of the big sellers on the floor was The Message Ball — which is a soccer ball covered with bible verses in very small print. That's it. I'm not kidding. The eager young sales team was tossing them around, and stores seemed to be buying them. Uh, I'm not sure how they would work in an actual game ("I was going to kick it, coach, but suddenly I saw the words 'repent and be baptized,' so I decided then and there to fall to me knees…"), but it certainly made for lively conversation on the floor. Remember the rainbow-haired guy who used to show up with "John 3:16" signs in the endzone of every big game? Now you can take that can-do spiritual attitude onto the field with you, and share the gospel right before kicking somebody in the shins. Yes!
-However, this year's winner of the CBA Golden Weenie Award goes to the I Love Jesus Zipper Pulls! It just wasn't close. The idea of being able to have Christ on your zipper, and to gauge your spirituality by whether or not the zipper is up or down, trumps all the other finalists. So there you have it. Only 163 more shopping days until Christmas! Get your religious crud now!