Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Book Expo

As promised, here's the second half of the letter from Michael Covington (posted with permission).


Lastly, I find it fascinating to see how enamored Christian authors are with the ICRS experience. As one who has attended more than a dozen of the summer shows and an equal number of the CBA winter events (which is being replaced with more of a conference event next year), I can understand the excitement of having that many people together in one place to celebrate all of the Christian wares that Christian retailers are offering these days. Blog after blog tell the story of how many authors look forward to the ICRS week. However, just as with data, those in attendance at this show, though a viable channel for the books these authors write, only represent a segment of their respective markets and ultimately they are not the final decision maker as to whether a book leaves the shelf or not (that would be the consumer). Trade shows have become a model of the past, it’s the reason that ECPA shut down its regional trade shows two years ago. Though our members found our shows to be very beneficial (retailers had their travel/accommodations paid for if they placed a min. # of orders), they felt that many stores no longer used trade shows to place orders for products, instead preferring to order from the convenience of their stores, utilizing their inventory control systems to make more informed decisions. In fact, in my former life as a retailer we stopped placing book orders at the CBA show more than ten years ago.

For this reason, ECPA has launched the Christian Book Expo. Far from a trade show, the CBE will be focused on connecting the author with the reader. The show will be marketed to anyone who makes or influences a book buying decision. Similar to a Book Fair concept, these types of shows are in a static location year after year (the first being in Dallas) in order to build a local brand and feature hundreds of author seminars, workshops, etc. to attract the person they really need to connect with. I am sending you an article from our monthly member newsletter, written by our board chairman Mike Hyatt (Pres. & CEO of Thomas Nelson) to give you a better, and more thorough description. You can also read his comments that he made from his blog during ICRS by going to:

At this point I am only sending this to you, because of all the blogging Christian authors I have found out there, you seem to really have a grasp on the information/data side of things as well as the importance of reaching the reader (the two not being mutually exclusive). My hope is that Christian authors will grab a hold of the vision for this show and make it a tremendous event that will help to raise awareness for Christian books, wherever the consumer decides to buy them. We officially launched the show last week during ICRS and already have formal commitments from more than 30 Christian publishers to participate. Indeed, this will be the only event of its kind and could attract upwards of 10 – 15k people. The Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex is the single largest mega-church market in America and it only makes sense to hold CBE there each year. If the format is successful and the metrics work for our members, then we will look at replicating the event in cities such as Atlanta, LA, and Chicago. But, one step at a time.

Sorry for the really long e-mail, but I have a sense this may give you fodder for your “bloggees”. Oh, and a curious side-note, your publisher helped us in designing the logo for the first ever CBE.

Best regards



Final note: Although I hear from many of you BGs that you are interested in being updated about issues in our publishing world such as data-gathering systems, these kinds of posts typically don't generate many comments. I think most people read the information, go "Hm, interesting, didn't know that"--but don't think of much to comment about. Today, I hope some of you will chime in and help me thank Michael Covington for taking the time to write this letter that is informative to us all. Thanks, Michael!

"Sneak Pique" for tomorrow ... The Photo from ICRS. You'll see it here first, folks.


Sheryl said...

Thank you Michael (& Brandilyn) for the great info. I am excited to hear about Christian Book Expo, and hope there will be one in the South Florida area at some point.

I was able to attend ICRS (then CBA) a couple of times when I was working in our church bookstore. But Michael is right, we placed few orders at the show. My favorite part was meeting authors & getting a suitcase full of books. :-)

Connecting with the readers is definitely the key. Word of mouth is a tremendous tool. When a reader loves a book, they are usually eager to pass on the info.


Tina Helmuth said...

The CBE sounds like a great idea. Thanks, Michael for taking the time to write a very informative email.

Jason said...

Thanks for the info Michael, and to Brandilyn for passing it on. It really is interesting to see how the market and process changes over time.

"You heard it hear first, ONLY at Forensics and Faith..."

Ed J. Horton said...

Great information! Thank you both--Michael for sharing and Brandilyn for facilitating. I'll look forward to hearing more about CBE.

Richard Mabry said...

I'll add a note of appreciation to Mr. Covington for taking the time and expending the effort to communicate the issues so well. And, of course, thanks to you, Brandilyn, for posting the note.

I've never attended the ICRS, nor will I probably ever attend one, although I suspect that in its present form I should feel about it the way I feel about the circus--everyone should see it once.

I look forward to a new format in the future that will provide opportunities for authors, publishers, and the most important folks in the chain--booksellers--to fellowship and work together.

Nicole said...

"For this reason, ECPA has launched the Christian Book Expo. Far from a trade show, the CBE will be focused on connecting the author with the reader. The show will be marketed to anyone who makes or influences a book buying decision."

I'm of the opinion that the statistics don't realistically reflect the "heart" or desire of the readers in some important ways. There is virtually nothing in the stats to indicate that a lot of Christian men who read fiction (and there are plenty of them) don't realize there are an enormous amount of "man pleasing" novels written by real Christian men and some written by Christian women (i.e. BC's murder mysteries) available to them. Hence, they read mostly from secular fiction.

You can boo/hiss me if you like, but the "Awards" portion of Christian fiction really doesn't seem to promote sales, and I don't think it's "necessary". I read a ton of Christian fiction per year, but there were only two on the Christy list this year that I'd read (one of them won) and one more that I plan to read. I read a category's winner of one year's and was disappointed in a severe hole in the plot. When I mentioned it to a judge, he discarded the concern.

I'm of the opinion that there are some real gaps in marketing Chritian novels. I've worked in a Christian bookstore, talked to customers, and recently my old manager about marketing. There's a definite disconnect with readers.

Anything that furthers "real" stats or connecting with real readers would be an improvement. JMO.

Cara Putman said...

Thanks, Michael and Brandilyn. I've seen some posts on the Book Expo idea and think it sounds great. I know as a reader, I would love that kind of chance to meet my favorite authors. Move over Oscars and Grammys, I'm much more interested in writers. :-) And as a beginning writer, I love the idea of a place to connect with readers, too. I look forward to hearing more about the event as plans progress.

Becky said...

I'm excited about the book expo idea, too, especially mention of it coming to LA. I think the West coast is under represented when it comes to marketing and promotion, of Christian fiction, anyway. Thing is, there is a much less resistance--to either the Christian message from unbelievers or to genre stories from Christians. The main thing is, too many people just don't know the books exist.

Michael, thank you for taking the time to inform us through your correspondence with Brandilyn.

And Brandilyn, I appreciate your balanced blog--giving us info on all aspects of publishing.


Kristy Dykes said...

The new format of the CBA winter event sounds innovative and success-filled. People love coming to hear authors speak.

Thanks, Brandilyn, for the up-to-date, detailed info you always give. Thanks, Michael, for your informative email.

Julie Carobini said...

Thanks Michael for the detailed letter. As a newly published author trying to better understand our industry, I found your comments fascinating. I'd love to participate in the CBE. Thanks Brandilyn for this post.

Jenny said...

At the risk of sounding like a parrot though sincerely meant, thank you Brandilyn and Michael.

I had to opportunity to go to CBA several years ago in Orlando and my favorite part was meeting authors whose work I hold dear. From an author standpoint, I've learned so much more talking one on one or in small groups with an author in a relaxed situation than I have in a classroom setting--this is not to say I haven't gained anything from classes but that there is something about that one on one that is special. I know the CBE won't necessiarly be geared for intimate connections, but getting to meet an author face to face does increase the chances of reading that author's book--I read every book I picked up from an author at that CBA convention and found I often wanted to read their other work--tracking it down or waiting impatiently until it was released. Bringing that kind of excitement to the general reading population, to me, is the way to go. So, all this to say, I'm excited about the CBE idea.
Abundant blessings!

Patricia W. said...

As an aspiring author, ICRS sounded a bit too much for me. But the new CBE sounds like something new authors, veteran authors, and readers alike can enjoy.

Thanks Michael for sharing this with us.

Lynette Sowell said...

I think it's a great idea. I found that many of the readers who read what I write DON'T have on-line access. At least judging by the tear sheets that the publisher sends me copies of. All of the readers who took the time to fill in the tear sheet and mail it into the publisher don't have computers. This is where mail contact (as opposed to on-line contact) helps. I wrote them each a short note and enclosed some bookmarks. Anything to touch base with them. I've always wanted to go to the ICRS, but I'm considering checking into the CBE since I'm so close to Dallas.