My mouth dropped open, my jaw nearly hitting my sternum. I didn’t know what to expect at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Atlanta, but it wasn’t this. When the doors opened onto the exhibit hall it was overwhelming. The room was huge. It wasn’t a room. It was an indoor football field. A football field completely covered with booths.
I first heard about ICRS over a year ago when my previous publisher suggested I attend ICRS in St. Louis. I was interested and looked it up online, but the timing and cost were prohibitive.
When my second book was accepted by another publisher we looked at how soon we should get the book out. I was determined not to push like I had for the first book. I wasn’t going to become a nervous wreck. It would come out when it came out, and that was that. However, the publisher pointed out that if we hurried the process along, it might be available for ICRS and he could market it to all of the buyers. This is only a once a year opportunity!
That sounded good to me. However, I still had no idea what happened at ICRS. Maybe you have wondered, too.
Here is my best explanation. The publishers come and set up booths. All of the producers of the art, gifts, and what my husband likes to call “foo-foo” that is sold in Christian bookstores come and put out their displays. Then the buyers come and look. They are from small Christian bookstores and large chains. They come and see what they can see. They buy.
The publishers pull out all the stops. They have authors there signing and giving away copies of their new releases. People walk around with suitcases on rollers to haul away all of the books they accumulate.
We bought a rolling duffle to take with us, but we had no idea we would be offered free books everywhere we went. Ooh-la-lah! It was amazing. For a couple of book junkies it was. . . remarkable.
But, we weren’t there to buy books. We were there to talk to any book-buyer we could find. My goal was to tell everyone about my second book, The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Torn Map. I had copies to give to interested parties. I had over a thousand business cards I was anxious to get into the hands of people who would stock my book in their store.
I have learned that it is not easy to get a book into stores. Sometimes it requires going in person and convincing them they need to carry it. I’m just one person with a limited amount of time to devote to that process. Here, right within reach were hundreds of book buyers all WANTING to hear about books. Amazing.
The second day we discovered the media floor. We were advised to go speak with a man from a local radio station. It was an opportunity to get my book into the hands of someone who could really spread the word.
On the media floor we also met with Mary Nichelson, one of the people who reviewed my first book. She had agreed to review the second one and when we realized she was there, we jumped at the chance to spend some time with her.
We also noticed a couple of other media outlets who focus on the markets I’m targeting for my series so we stopped by, leaving books and business cards.
Another unexpected highlight was the educational opportunities tucked into the day. While these marketing presentations were geared to bookstore owners, there were many helpful ideas for the market savvy author. We especially appreciated a talk about marketing through Facebook.
After two days of walking the floor of the exhibit hall we were exhausted but exhilarated. Not only had we seen a LOT of wonderful books and met some wonderful authors and buyers, but we had made some potentially profitable contacts. I will certainly want to go next year.
My husband just reminded me that in order to go next year I should have another new book. I guess I should be careful what I wish for. . .
Miriam Jones Bradley has lived from sea to shining sea but spent most of her life in the Great Plains. She and her husband, Dr. Bruce Bradley, now make their home in Newberry, South Carolina. She is the author of The Double Cousins mystery series. Miriam attended Write2Ignite! 2011.
Remember: Write2Ignite! Conference 2012 – March 16-17, 2012 at North Greenville University