I really missed going to ICRS (International Christian Retailers Show ) but this year for the first time I was able to follow it closely as so many people were posting on Twitter, Facebook, and even emails from their cell phones right from the floor of the show. I don’t know whether that made it better or worse.

Joyce and Diana from our agency were there making appointments and will be passing on some key information which will help. That’s good news. The bad news is the fact that I understand attendance was down 20%, but in today’s economy they were apparently prepared for it. Publishers Weekly Daily reported it this way: “We came in with somber expectations,” said Bill Anderson, president-CEO of CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, which sponsored the show, trimming one full day from it. He cited the economy as the primary reason for the attendance decline. Publishers came in with similarly modest expectations; virtually all shrank or otherwise simplified exhibit space and/or brought fewer staff than last year to contain costs.

Maybe the best news is the fact that almost everybody I talk to are saying that those who WERE in attendance were there to make the most of it, were there to do business. The PW article went on to make that statement, and most of the posts I was watching from the floor were saying the same thing.

Good news indeed. I don’t think anybody will argue that publishing has been in a down cycle, along with our entire economy. One friend summed it up like this: “Mainline publishers are pulling back on advances, downsizing, taking fewer risks, and retrenching. As with any business, these decisions are in line with their bottom line. Authors are increasingly required to create a platform, spend scarce advance dollars on marketing, or cover costs for editing or travel.” Sound about right?

But all of the agents at Hartline have strong activity going and have signed a number of deals. The industry blogs, newsletters and websites that I watch are getting increasingly positive, and these positive reports from ICRS seem to corroborate even further that the industry is far more disposed to base industry plans and activities on industry projections than on national media reports of the economy in general. Every segment of the economy can be a leading indicator or a lagging indicator. I’m hopeful that publishing has decided to lead the recovery rather than follow it.

Looks good to me!