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ICRS–A Few Thoughts

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Another good night’s sleep, and I might be recovered from my whirlwind trip to Atlanta for the 2007 CBA International Christian Retailers’ Show. But here is a description of the trip along with a few off-the-cuff thoughts on the experience.

Three of my coworkers (the new copy editor, the associate editor, and our permissions editor) converged at my house at 8:00 Tuesday morning. Just as they all arrived, the driver from Enterprise arrived to pick us up in the rental car. After twenty minutes at the Enterprise office, and filling up the monster gas tank in the brand-new (temporary tag still in the rear window, only 1,200 miles on it) white Dodge Charger, we hit the road and headed south. It was a very fun road trip and an opportunity to get to know my coworkers much better.

We arrived at the Westin hotel in downtown Atlanta around 2:00 p.m. (Eastern time–Nashville is on Central time), though had to make a loop around a couple of blocks to find the entrance. We couldn’t check in, but they valet-parked the car and held our luggage for us. We only had to wait a couple of minutes for the charter bus serving as a shuttle to take us the mile or so through downtown, past Olympic Centennial Park to the Georgia World Congress Center–right in the heart of where the Olympic events took place. This is a HUGE convention center–and while we were there, at least two or three other conferences were taking place in other buildings.

Our company’s booth was at the extreme far end of the floor from the entrance (got lots of exercise). We met our publisher and she walked us around to some of our competitors’ booths and showed us some of the things they’re doing editorially and artistically with their books. I did run into a friend from ACFW, Kim Sawyer, while we were walking around, but didn’t get to really see anyone else I knew, as they were all there Monday and Tuesday morning.

After wandering around and seeing the sights for a little while, we went and stood out in the extreme heat and humidity waiting for a bus to take us back to the hotel. When we got checked in, the associate editor and I had been put in a room on the 54th floor! I knew it was a tall building, but I didn’t realize just how tall—a whopping 70 floors. Melinda read in the folder of materials in our room that it’s the tallest hotel building in “the Americas.” We had a nice view from our room (but discovered the next morning we could still hear the traffic from the streets below).

That evening, none of us knowing Atlanta at all, we stopped at the concierge desk and asked for recommendations for a place within walking distance where we could eat for under about $25-30. He called around a few places, all of which were packed with an hour or more wait time. He finally found one that could seat us “immediately.” So we rushed up the block to Azio. There were ten or fifteen people sitting there waiting to be seated, but because of our wonderful concierge, we were immediately taken back to a table. It was really loud, but the food (and cocktail) was great. My bill, including the 18% gratuity (for splitting into separate checks) was only $26.

After dinner, we sat in the hotel’s bar area and chatted with the publisher, VP, marketing folks, and a few folks from our corporate office for a while. I was so exhausted (because I never sleep well the night before traveling) that when they all dispersed to either go to bed or to go meet up with some other friends in another hotel, I decided to go to bed.

After a fitful night’s sleep (I don’t sleep well away from home, either) and Starbucks and a muffin for breakfast, we loaded up on the bus and headed over to the show. Not much was going on Wednesday morning. Most of the book signings were lesser-known nonfiction or children’s book authors. I wasn’t interested in wandering through all of the “Jesus junk” aisles (more than half the floor), so I found a bench and just sat and people-watched for about thirty to forty-five minutes.

At twelve-thirty, we departed for the hotel to pick up our luggage and car and got back on the road. The heavens immediately opened up and let forth buckets of the rain that has been much-needed in both Tennessee and Georgia . . . but made the bad Atlanta traffic just that much worse, so coming home took almost an hour longer than it should have. But we rolled in to town around 5:15–early enough that I was able to return the rental car last night instead of having to get up extra early this morning to have it back to them by 7:30 a.m. to not get charged for an extra day.

And then, I crashed. Even after a wonderful night’s sleep last night, I’m still exhausted. Legs are a little stiff from all of the extra walking I did (and I did do an up and down all the aisles brisk walk through the conference floor—probably about a mile and a half—yesterday morning before the show opened. My feet, which were encased in dressy flats that have good cushioning, still haven’t forgiven me, even though I’m wearing my favorite pair of broken-in Keds slip-ons today.)

Thoughts on the show itself . . .

I was rather disappointed. Mostly because I missed most of the people I really wanted to see—those authors I know who were signing books on Monday and Tuesday. That would have made it fun for me. In my role as a copy editor, there really wasn’t anything that I could see at a tradeshow that I don’t already know about the Christian publishing market through ACFW. It was amazing to see how much marketing Zondervan did (even our KEYCARDS at the hotel were Zondervan logoed!). They had a huge banner running along one of the balconies in the outer mezzanine area of the conference center with their authors’ names—and I was happy at how many of those names are people I know. Same as with the books on display at the publishers’ booths. I just smiled to myself each time I saw a book cover or poster with a name I recognized.

It was interesting to see how many really small publishing houses they are and what types of books they do—most of them are denominational houses putting out books that are more doctrine/Sunday school/Bible study based. I was familiar with the names of all of the houses that publish fiction—something I’ve learned through being an active member of ACFW and attending the national conference every year.

As someone who isn’t really involved in the decision making of what books to publish, how to market them, and studying the competition, the ICRS experience really didn’t do anything for me. As an author and as someone who is interested in becoming a fiction editor, I know that continuing to attend the ACFW conference every year will keep me much better informed on what’s going on in CBA fiction than just attending this tradeshow. ICRS really is more focused on the buyers for bookstores who are looking to see what they want to carry in their stores. Yes, I did really want to go to the Avon Inspire launch (at lunchtime Tuesday before we arrived) and a couple of other events like that (all took place before we arrived), but I don’t think that I would have missed a crucial career-growth opportunity by not attending. I’m glad I went. I’m really happy I’ve had the experience so that whenever I hear people talking about it, I have a point of reference. But it’s not something that at this point in my career I feel I need to go back to.

I’m so happy to be home . . . and excited to go see the new Harry Potter movie tonight at 6:30!

3 Comments
  1. Thursday, July 12, 2007 12:51 pm

    Welcome home! We missed you!

    I enjoyed reading your experiences about ICRS. I have a feeling it might be different for you when you’re signing your best-seller. (Maybe even next year!)

    Did you come home with many books?

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  2. Friday, July 13, 2007 8:33 am

    Ooo, isn’t that fun to think about? You could be signing next time around–it could happen! Yes, I’d also like to know which book s you came home with, and which ones you’re going to pass around to your crit buds 😉

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  3. Friday, July 13, 2007 9:30 am

    Well, because all of the fiction booksignings were going on before I arrived, I only ended up coming home with one book—a nonfiction book about speaking in tongues. But the guy who gave it to me was emphatic that it was for ME and only for ME. Not for me to give to someone else. Plus, walking around with a Vendor tag on, made me feel a little weird about going around looking for handouts as I was there representing the publisher for whom I work.

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