Recovering from ICRS
I’m back! Coming to you “live” from Colorado once again. I know dozens of people have already blogged about ICRS but honestly, when I got home I was SO exhausted and I am so buried with follow-up that I haven’t been able to even THINK about blogging. I’ve managed to get my thoughts together so I’ll talk about my impressions in three posts this week.This was my sixth ICRS (in my earlier years I went to the BEA, Frankfurt and London book fairs). But this was my best ICRS by far. I felt like I got a lot of important business done, far beyond the amorphous value of “networking,” connecting with old friends and making new ones. This was my first ICRS as an agent so it was my “official” face-to-face introduction to the editors and publishers (most of whom I already knew to some extent) in my new role. And it certainly was my first opportunity to pitch them in person.As an agent there is more work involved—it’s totally proactive. When I was an editor, I basically had to show up and people would pitch me. But when you’re the one doing the pitches, it’s a huge workload (and a very heavy bag!) I prepared sixteen projects to take with me… 7 nonfiction, 4 devotional, 6 fiction. That way I had a good variety to choose from as I sat with each editor/publisher and talked with them about what they’re looking for.I have to say I’m extremely pleased with the positive responses to so many of my clients’ projects. I had dozens of requests for proposals, which is really exciting considering almost all my clients are first-time authors. The next couple of weeks will be jam-packed with following up all those requests. (And please understand that the responses from publishers during this time of year are understandably slower than normal because of  the barrage, and  people taking vacations. This is the time for patience.)I was booked with back-to-back meetings, literally. I never had a chance to “walk the floor” so I didn’t get to see and/or snicker at the “Jesus junk” being peddled. Sorry, I have nothing to report on that aspect of the show! When I was on the show floor, I was always moving fast to get to my next meeting so I was tunnel-visioned. But all my meetings were awesome and I picked up on a few trends you might like to know about:→ A couple of houses mentioned specifically that they are looking at fantasy & sci-fi (so things are looking up, Becky). Notably, Karen Ball at B&H and Andy Meisenheimer at Zondervan both aren’t opposed to looking at it. Be aware that the number of slots compared to the number of people writing fantasy/sci-fi is still hugely disproportionate. Still, fantasy/sci-fi writers have reason for hope.→ Almost every publisher I spoke with mentioned they are starting to consider books with Catholic themes and/or from Catholic authors. Be aware that many evangelicals hold a belief that Catholics are not Christian and cannot go to heaven (this is an issue that obviously exists in the world, quite separate from anything to do with publishing). So for a CBA publisher to include Catholic themes is a somewhat risky move, with the potential to alienate a portion of the Christian book-buying audience. However, most publishers seem willing to take the risk. I get the impression that they are tired of being part of the great divide (protestant vs. Catholic) and instead prefer to be a force for productive discussion and harmony. I am SO pleased about this!→ Platform continues to be king when it comes to nonfiction. There is the occasional book that will sell on the strength of the idea, but the big houses really need their authors to help sell their books.→ Most pubs are looking for people of different ethnicities to write books. The CBA is aware of the general lack of diversity and is trying to change that. I was asked specifically more than once if I have any Latino or African-American authors. (I do.)→ Biblical fiction may see a resurgence. Several publishers said they’re looking at it, including FaithWords, Tyndale and Guideposts. Bethany House is publishing it, but mostly from their well-known authors.And in case all this talk of “doing business” depresses you… take heart in this: ICRS is a business gathering, but it is filled with believers and so the spiritual aspect of the show is profound. It’s not uncommon for people to have deep discussions of faith in the midst of meetings or meals. A normal sight is people praying with and for each other, sitting on benches or tables around the convention center. Each gathering and event includes prayer and many include worship. This is one of the greatest things about this business… having the privilege of working with other believers. I returned exhausted, but uplifted as well. This is an industry full of people with true hearts for Jesus, and I am so honored to be a part of it.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.