What is ICRS?

I’m spending most of this week preparing for my meetings at ICRS, so I thought I’d explain it to you in case you’re wondering.

ICRS stands for International Christian Retail Show. If you’re familiar with BEA (Book Expo America), ICRS is a smaller version for the Christian publishing and retailing world. It’s a trade show, basically. The original purpose, like the original purpose of BEA, was to bring together publishers and booksellers. These trade shows eventually became large industry-wide events, bringing together people from all areas of publishing: publishers, authors, agents, booksellers, publicists, etc. There are parties, workshops, speakers, panels, readings, booksignings, and lots and lots (and LOTS) of meetings.

So ICRS is next week, in Denver (yay!) so I don’t have to get on a plane. I’ll have something like 40 meetings with editors, publishers, and even a couple of my clients. (One year at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book convention, in one week I had 90 meetings. And a lot of sausage.)

Agents typically spend considerable time gathering the projects they’re planning to pitch at ICRS, and I’m no exception. I have a killer line-up of new proposals to show, both fiction and non-fiction, and ICRS will give me a chance to hear first-hand what the editors think of them.

Unlike a writers’ conference, where editors often try to be polite and spare writers’ feelings, the editors are pretty blunt with agents when we’re pitching face-to-face. They’re usually quick with “No, that’s not for me,” or, “Hmm, that sounds interesting, tell me more.” So we come back from ICRS with a good read on how our projects were perceived, and a ton of follow-up to accomplish.

And in case you sometimes think that agents can’t possibly know how it feels when you’re trying to prepare a verbal pitch for a conference… take note: I’ll prepare verbal pitches for about 20 diferent projects. So yes, I know what it’s like!

One more thing… like BEA, the ICRS convention has been rapidly shrinking in size and importance the last few years. Several major publishers no longer exhibit at these conventions. There are always rumors that the conventions themselves are coming to an end, but they haven’t yet. Like everything else these days, they’re going to need to change with the times, but I don’t think anyone has figured out what that means.

In any case, you know where I’ll be next week! (Not sitting here in front of my computer, that’s for sure.)

Any questions about publishing industry trade shows?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Christy on June 11, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    I know this is a very old post, but it came up when I searched about pitching at ICRS =) I am an author, not an agent and this will be my first venture to ICRS. I do have one meeting set with a large publishing house but they are the ones publishing my first book due out later this year….sooo my question for you is, is it unheard of for an author to try to get meetings with editors or is this more reserved for agents? Would it be totally nutty to walk up to the booth and ask for a meeting? I have writers’ conference experience which is totally different =) THANK YOU for any insight! Christy

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  4. Rachelle on July 9, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    >Yep. I hand pick which projects to pitch to which editors, based on what I think would be right for them. Then I get out my bag of tricks and go for it.

  5. Chatty Kelly on July 9, 2009 at 8:43 PM

    >My question: you don't want a writers to pitch several books to you at one time. Do publishers let YOU pitch several authors' books at one time to them? (For instance if meeting with a fiction publisher, can you pitch all the fiction books you are representing?)

  6. Jenni Saake (a.k.a. InfertilityMom) on July 9, 2009 at 3:12 PM

    >CBA (when it was still called CBA) convention used to be one of the highlights of the year for my husband and I to travel to when we were in the Christian retail industry. Sad, but not surprising, to hear that times are changing and such conferences may be quickly becoming things of the past. Have a wonderful week!

  7. Teri D. Smith on July 9, 2009 at 2:59 PM

    >God bless your time there. Hope you hear "wow!" often.

  8. Rachelle on July 9, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    ICRS is CBA. Just a new name.

    Booksignings at ICRS (as well as BEA) are intended primarily for retailers.

  9. Jody Hedlund on July 9, 2009 at 12:59 PM

    >Thanks for the explanation, Rachelle! I've heard lots of talk about ICRS, but wasn't exactly sure what it was. And you know I'll DEFINITELY be praying for you!! 🙂

  10. Lisa Jordan on July 9, 2009 at 11:42 AM

    >I'm only familiar with ICRS through posts like yours or attendees who blog about their experiences at ICRS.

    Is ICRS open to the public? When authors do booksignings, are they signing books for fellow authors? Public fans? Retailers?

    Sounds like a fun time!

  11. Angie Ledbetter on July 9, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    >…and here I thought all this time those initials stood for I Can't Remember Squat! 🙂

    Hope the event is wonderful

  12. Billy Coffey on July 9, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    >This sounds like a very exciting and very stressful event. Prayers that all goes well!

  13. Heidi Hess Saxton on July 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM


    Over the years I've attended a number of trade shows — CBA, RBTE, and in a few weeks the Catholic Marketing Network in Somerset, NJ. However, I never attended this one. How does it compare with CBA?

    I was senior editor at Servant Publications for a number of years before going freelance, and for the past two years co-chaired the Catholic Writer's Conference Online (we're doing a "live" version at CMNC August 4-7, which is why I'm going). If you're interested in participating in the online conference, we're always eager to get agents perspectives! Just drop me a note at hsaxton@christianword.com.

    Keep up the good work — this is a tremendous resource! Thanks for being so generous with your expertise.


    Heidi Saxton
    Extraordinary Moms Network

  14. Tara on July 9, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    >Thanks for the info. I think it's good for writers to get some of the inside scoop on what agents go through for their clients. Best of luck!

  15. Yat-Yee on July 9, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    >Best wishes for you and your clients. May you get lots of "Hmm, that sounds interesting, tell me more" followed by "send it to me."

  16. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on July 9, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    >Good morning, Rachelle!

    Having spend almost 20 years participating in technical conferences as an electrical engineer, I hear what you are saying about the talk of down-sizing or eliminating conferences. Beginning in the early '90's we were hearing the same thing in our industry. While significant changes did occur over the years, not one conference was eliminated entirely.

    I found that the synergy, creativity, energy, and personal interaction experienced at the conferences could not be replaced by any other type of gathering – physical or electronic. The company for which I worked felt that it was so powerful a tool for growth that it spent thousands of dollars each year sending employees to the conferences.

    Many times we were able to pick up the phone and talk to someone we had casually met at a conference to solve a problem or to get an educated opinion on an issue. You cannot get that kind of experience anywhere else. I am sure that you have had similar experiences.

    Enjoy the conference. I will be praying for you.


  17. Rachelle on July 9, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    >Sue, thanks for your perspective! You're right, CBA is the Christian version of BEA. However, to be totally accurate, ICRS is really not meant for unpublished writers to pitch editors or agents at all, regardless of whether you're talking CBA or ABA. That's what writers conferences are for. The big conventions are more about gathering people who are already in the industry to network with one another. Of course, that doesn't stop hopeful authors from showing up and trying to get meetings, or counting on serendipitous meetings, which do sometimes happen.

    Livia, the big conventions are already being replaced by digital technology, and different kinds of meetings. Read Mike Hyatt's blog from earlier this week where he explains why Thomas Nelson is not exhibiting at ICRS, and what they are doing instead to foster relationships with retailers.

  18. lynnrush on July 9, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    >I wish you the best of luck at the convention. I hope you have a great time!

  19. Sue Dent on July 9, 2009 at 9:14 AM

    >To be accurate, ICRS is primarily, if not only, for those looking to be published by a CBA or ECPA affiliated publisher. Those authors writing for the general less overt and targeted general market, Christians included, need to consider this before putting out the money to go. Not a bad conference if a CBA or ECPA affiliated publisher is what you're looking for. 🙂

  20. Anne L.B. on July 9, 2009 at 9:08 AM

    >Rachelle, and to think some might see you as just another pretty face to query! Sounds like you earn your keep as a hard-working agent. Your clients are truly privileged.

  21. Marla Taviano on July 9, 2009 at 8:15 AM

    >Messaging you with our travel plans!

  22. Jeanette Levellie on July 9, 2009 at 7:53 AM

    >Rachelle: I am so glad I read this post today, because it changed my image of you. I never dreamed you'd go near a sausage! Particularly after reading about you ordering a salad in a noodle house…

    Thanks for making me laugh!
    Audience of ONE

    May the Lord help you on your pitches.

  23. Livia on July 9, 2009 at 7:51 AM

    >What do you think these conventions will be replaced with?

  24. Richard Mabry on July 9, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    >I know of at least one positive result that came from your pitches at last year's ICRS. Hope this one is a great success for you and the fortunate authors whose projects you'll be presenting to editors there.

  25. Cliff Graham on July 9, 2009 at 7:01 AM

    >Thanks Rachelle, your tireless efforts to keep us updated are very much appreciated.

  26. Rachelle on July 9, 2009 at 6:57 AM

    >CKHB —
    Good question! Yes, there are other categories of publishing that have their own conferences. The biggest ones that come to mind are children's publishing and comic/fantasy/sci-fi.

  27. CKHB on July 9, 2009 at 5:53 AM

    >Do any other genres (not sure if that's the right word here) have their own conventions/expos/trade shows?

  28. Sharon A. Lavy on July 9, 2009 at 4:23 AM

    >Thank you for explaining ICRS. I've been reading about it on my writer loops and wondered about it.

    What a great way for you, an agent, to learn what the publishers are looking for or not interested in. That information should be very helpful for all of you in the months ahead.