Thursdays with Amanda: ICRS Recap

June 27, 2013 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

We’re going to take a break from the Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome series I’m doing here on Thursdays with Amanda to talk about Christian publishing industry schtuff…so for all of you who aren’t interested in talking “Christian publishing industry schtuff,” you’re free to go. But I encourage you to stay…because I have pictures!

I just got back from ICRS…the big Christian retail show.

This was my first ever time at ICRS. I’d heard much about it, but for all intents and purposes, I was a total n00b. Sure, I may have had some preconcieved notions about the “Jesus junk” that you may find there. And yes, I’d heard about dwindling attendance numbers. But I like to think of myself as the type of person who is able to come to their own conclusions and think for themselves, so I figured it would be fun/beneficial/entertaining and of course HIGHLY EDUCATIONAL if I shared my thoughts on the event, as seen through my unsullied eyes.


1. Many talked about how the floor lacked energy…but I don’t think that’s a result of people being “meh” or unexcited about the whole thing so much as it was the result of THE FLOOR BEING TOO FREAKING HUGE. I mean the reason BEA is so crazy and feels so energetic is because there’s no room to breathe, let alone walk. And when you shove two of the big six houses’ booths right by one another it creates an LA-sized traffic jam that in turn, generates this feeling of energy and excitement. So, I think one of the easiest things ICRS can do to help it feel more trafficked and energetic and to help create this sense of urgency is to have a smaller exhibit hall that will force people together instead of allowing them to drift apart.

2. Where are Christian publishing’s rock stars? Or Christian music’s super big names? Aren’t they what draws retailers? So why aren’t there a ton of them here!

I feel one thing that works against us when it comes to bringing in the big names for signings or appearances is the Christian community does a relatively good job of making those artists accessible at other conferences and gatherings. A majority of the authors I came across at ICRS were ones that I had already run into earlier this year. So when the names you bring in are the same names that appear at other events, it doesn’t make ICRS feel like a special, magical place. My encouragement would be for publishers and the music community to bring in the big names… especially the ones that don’t do much in the way of conferences and appearances. I imagine this would improve attendance numbers. For the record, Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, and Janette Oke were there…but I think there could have been more huge names. Especially from the nonfiction side…and as for big name musicians? There really weren’t any there aside from the few that performed during the opening events.

3. When it came to tchotchkes, Howard books does it right. They totally exploited the current first family of publishing (the Robertson family), and had beards on a stick:

Along with a limited number of duck calls (!) and a bunch of signed postcards:


But to refer back to point #2, where were the Robertsons?

4. It was really sad to see the Christian music section reduced to almost nothing. I guess growing up in the 90s in a Christian home, Christian music was huge for me and so I expected it to be huge here. But it wasn’t. The “Entertainment” section was so desolate and  I didn’t even recognize most of the exhibitors.

5. I actually had a great time, and it was nice running into a bunch of people I knew (or people who knew me) as opposed to BEA where you’re surrounded by strangers. I particularly appreciated the laid-back approach (I mean I was able to get an appointment with a publisher the day-of!) and the willingness to connect. At other events, you sometimes run into “My schedule is full” issues, and I didn’t find that here. Editors made time for me and my authors, and that’s a good feeling.

These are just some of my ICRS thoughts, and to be honest, I’m not sure how enlightening or helpful or necessary they are. But I’d say that overall I had a good time. The show was better than I expected, but I did feel there were a number of things that could be improved…not to say that I have all the answers. Just sharing thoughts from a newcomer’s POV.

What are your thoughts on ICRS? Or your thoughts on CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) in general?


Posted in CBA, Conferences, Publishing

  • Sundi Jo Graham

    Would love to have met you there, Amanda. It was my first time as well, but I really enjoyed it. I was there representing a publishing company, but had the opp to meet a few good peeps as an author as well.

  • Robin Patchen

    Love the pictures. Thanks for sharing. You hit on an old PR trick–always have the venue be a little bit too small. We see press conferences with standing room only and assume more reporters showed up than they’d anticipated, when really, before anybody got there, the PR people were removing chairs.

  • Ruth Douthitt

    Wow! Hardly any Christian music? That’s so sad since there are many Christian music recordings out there that are tremendous. Jesus: Firm Foundation being one. Well, I suppose “wide open” venue does make it seem impersonal. Thanks for the update!