Redemption Press Blog

Thoughts on ICRS Unite 2016

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the Unite 2016. The Christian Booksellers Association big event for bookstore buyers and publishers of books, music, and products for the Christian market.

I remember 20 years ago when I first started attending the event as a publisher, there were two football fields of products, and it took literally hours to get from one end to the other, and man, were my feet sore about half way through the trek!

This year it took about 15 minutes to get from one end to the other. What used to attract 15,000 buyers and industry professionals now brought a little over 2,100, an almost 30% decline from last year’s numbers.

Sad it is, but proof that what I’ve been saying for a long time is all too true. Bookstores are going away, and the price tag that comes with doing big displays to sell books isn’t worth the investment for the publishers who underwrite the costs themselves. Only publishers like Xulon, who charge authors outrageous prices in hopes of finding new outlets for their messages, have the big, glitzy booths, because the authors are paying their way.

At the busiest time of the convention, Monday morning around 9am, the grandiose Xulon booth was eerily empty. Bookstores know the reputation of publishers like this and rarely place orders on the floor. Yet authors are led to believe the investment they make is sure to be a profitable one.
Interesting that down the lane a few aisles was Harvest House with 200 square feet of booth space, and right across the walkway was the booth for Tyndale Publishers, Focus on the Family, and NavPress, all together in a total of 300 square foot booth. Compare that to Xulon’s 1000+ square feet.
Think about it, if the ICRS venue were really profitable for sales of books, the publishers who underwrite their own way would have the large, splashy booths. But they know better. The only ones doing that are spending OPM (other people’s money), and giving authors unreal expectations of what their investment will return.

Christian Retailing had this to say about the state of the industry:
ICRS attendance reflects what is happening in the marketplace. Three new CBA stores have opened since December 2015, and 27 have closed, including eight stores in Oregon’s Tree of Life chain. Within the same time period, there has been a slight (1%) decline in sales of Christian retail, according to the CBA’s State of the Industry Report.
Which just proves my point. If you’re going to publish and need a strategy to promote well, you’re going to need a way to bypass the bookstores and go directly to your readers. And that’s what we help you do! It would be a lot easier and less work for us to hype a bookstore strategy like Xulon, but that’s just not in your best interest.
We want to help you be successful, rather than encouraging you to spend money on a strategy that is on its way out.
Oh and one more thing. We only work with about 100 new authors a year. Compare that to the 3,500 new authors Xulon adds to their ranks each year! So tell me, with a company like that, do you really think you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve, and the expertise of folks who’ve been in this industry for decades? I think not.

We’d love to have a conversation with you to see how we can help you develop a realistic and effective plan to get your message into print and out to those who need to read it.

Give us a call today! Toll free at 844-2REDEEM (844-273-3336)

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Meet the Publisher

I've been around Christian publishing since 1987 when I helped our ministry self-publish an important resource for Vietnam veterans and their families. That book went on to be picked up by a royalty publisher and has since sold over 250,000 copies with a million in print.

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