What I learned at ICRS

book signing
At the book signing table with Nora St. Laurent of Book Fun Magazine.

I spent last Sunday-Tuesday in Atlanta at the International Christian Retail show. I’ve been to quite a few writers’ conferences, but this was my first event where the focus was on selling books rather than writing them. And it was a hoot.

I went to hopefully connect with retailers who might stock my novel. I did a book signing, some interviews with on-line magazines, joined a panel talking about trends in Christian fiction, and just generally talked to everyone I met. Folks who know me will tell you I’m not shy, but by Tuesday mid-morning my social super-power was beginning to flag.

I also had a chance to meet/see lots of authors whom I admire. I even snagged some of their books during the signings (they give the books away–it’s a marketing thing). I saw Phil & Kay Robertson from Duck Dynasty, but didn’t get to meet them because I had an interview (I’m sure they’d understand). I enjoyed wonderful meals with colleagues and got to attend the Christy Awards and cheer on friends old and new.

And here’s what I took away from the experience:

  • Christian authors are WONDERFUL. It would be easy to get competitive over limited shelf space, awards, and attention, but everyone I met was generous, kind, thoughtful, encouraging, and just generally supportive.
  • Christian retailers are WONDERFUL. They wanted to know about my book, they wanted to know about me, they invited me to sit with them, talk with them, and hoped they’d have a chance to sell my books.
  • Book signings are FUN. Okay, we were giving the books away so it wasn’t a tough sell, but still, everyone was so nice and they could have skipped my book to make room in their suitcases for someone else’s. Made me feel like the real deal.
  • My publisher is AWESOME. From the marketing and sales folks to my editor to the president of Baker Publishing, they all made me feel like part of something bigger than me. Actually, something bigger than all of us since the focus is on God.
  • My agent and agency are AMAZING. I always love seeing Wendy and this time I also got to hang out with Janet and Mary. Such lovely, sweet-spirited ladies who can also lower the boom if needed. Seeing them cheer on agency-mates up for awards was a treat.
  • But most of all, I learned that if I’m willing to leave it all in God’s hands, this being an author business will ENRICH me. I was tempted to stress over things like late shuttles and distant hotels and not knowing what I was doing half the time. I was tempted to try to leverage everything into book sales and attention for my book. But seriously, it would be laughable to think I’ve come this far on my own, so why would it be up to me now? Apparently, God has a plan and I’m just happy he included me.

10 thoughts on “What I learned at ICRS

  1. mom

    Terrific and glad it was such a positive experience. If I had known they were giving away books, I’da been first in every line! 😉

  2. Thanks for writing this, Sarah! Both this year and last year I’ve looked over the news and photos from ICRS and wondered whether it would be a worthwhile event for a new author. I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  3. Oh, what a blast!
    Except for the Robertsons, I bet they’re still weeping into their ice tea.

    This was great and it gave me a better look at ICRS.

    And the “lower the boom” part? Hahaha! I tell my husband that the Bookie agents are elegant, sweet, smart, savvy, kind, loving, encouraging …sharks. And I’m glad I get to swim in their pool!

  4. loribenton

    Sarah, thanks for posting. I’m beginning to “see” what all I missed. Connection with you and seeing Wendy again in person, and all the other fellowship… while I find ceremony and large crowds daunting (I AM shy) and very quickly draining, those moments of personal connection… I do cherish those. And I agree, Wendy is a blessing in so many ways.

    1. Another plus for ICRS is that it’s not quite so jam-packed as a conference. I had down time to go back to the hotel and recoup. While I’m not shy, I do get drained from all that interaction and it was nice to be able to take a breath.

  5. Thank you for this little glimpse into ICRS. What an awesome experience! It was so much fun seeing your pictures and cheering you on from behind the computer screen. It’s incredible to watch someone living out their dream–especially one I can relate to so closely. Praying for amazing favor on your story!!!

    1. I didn’t realize how many folks were curious about what goes on there. Goodness knows I didn’t have much of an idea! So glad I had the opportunity and so glad I could share it. These things are SO much more fun with a crowd!

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