I feel like I should preface my writing today with an apology to everyone who was unable to attend CBA Unite, the annual Christian Booksellers Association convention. Reading about how wonderful it was will make you sad that you weren’t there, but the good news is that it’s a yearly event. So go ahead and mark your calendars for June 25-28, 2019 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. Believe me, you’ll thank me. I promise.
We kicked off our day by attending Author Boot Camp sponsored by IngramSpark . We were there for the sessions on selling to bookstores and marketing. Obviously, it was geared for authors, but most of the information was equally applicable for filmmakers.
I frantically took notes, trying to record all the words of wisdom, but the biggest takeaway I got was that you’re not just selling a book (or movie); you’re selling yourself and the stories behind the story. You need a strong website and a social media presence. You need an author (or filmmaker) bio, endorsements, and resources that provide more information.
When contacting booksellers you need to “follow up or forget it”. This applies to marketing in general. It takes multiple hits to sell. Do it once, do it again, and again, each time just a little different. You have to ask for the order, or sale, or media hit, or endorsement… Tell them specifically what action you want them to take.
Tips for selling included “know your marketplace”. You need to know who your audience is and how to reach them. And you need to “work your TALE off when you get the opportunity”.
During the Q and A time someone asked about how to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. This led to a discussion of bestseller lists in general which I found quite interesting. There’s a lot more that goes into making those lists than I had a clue.
My favorite quote of the day was, “If you talk about your book when it’s published, you get congratulations. If you talk before it’s published, you get participation.” I love that! it’s so important to build a following rather than waiting until you have a finished product, then trying to grab interest.
Following the author boot camp we were invited to a free lunch sponsored by Xulon Press. We knew they were having a lunch but didn’t think we’d be participating. We especially didn’t expect it to be so elaborate. But Xulon put out quite a spread and made sure there were plenty of people to enjoy it. It was delicious!
Next on the agenda was the Pitch-A-Thon held in conjunction with ICVM. ICVM stands for International Christian Visual Media and is the industry organization for Christian filmmakers. They hold a Pitch-A-Thon as part of NRB convention, but this was the first time at CBA Unite. Authors, screenwriters, and filmmakers had opportunity to meet with publishers and distributors for five minute pitch sessions. If you’ve never participated in a pitch session before, you need to. Not only is it a way to make new connections and possibly sell your work, but it’s a great practice to hone your elevator pitch and discover if you’re adequately expressing your project in a way that creates excitement.
One thing we’ve learned about attending industry events is the importance of mingling and networking every chance you get. You never know who you’ll meet. It would be so easy to go off to yourself and rehearse your “speech”, but a better use of your time is to get to know everyone you come in contact with. I was amazed by how many friends we had in the pitch line – Ginny Priz and Paula Mosher Wallace, my friends from CWIMA; George Escobar, who we first met at the Roanoke Arts and Entertainment Workshop in 2013; Wayne Faust who we interviewed at NRB in February; Craig von Buseck, a fellow faculty member from the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference. Then, while we while we all hung around, we made new friends – Nathan Blair, Keith Mitchell, Leland Klassen. We also caught up with Tom Thompson, an author we first met at NRB several years ago and whose book is now going to be turned into a movie.
An industry event wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the expo hall. There’s something about the excitement of new products and upcoming releases that’s contagious. My favorite product was Neckglasses. They look like necklaces but are actually glasses. How cool is that? Word around the house is that I’ll be getting a neckglass for my birthday, so I’m pretty pumped about that.
At the expo hall we had the privilege of meeting Jacqueline Horner, wife of Jeff Horner one of our Summer of ’67 actors. She’s with R.H. Boyd Publishing, and we had a delightful time meeting all the representatives at their booth. Several of the ladies had daughters wanting to get into film acting so we were able to direct them to a couple of upcoming casting notices they might be interested in.
We concluded the day with a distribution panel discussion that was part of the CBA/ICVM joint events. They covered release windows, theatrical options, and how best to get the most eyeballs on your movie.
Just telling you about the day doesn’t begin to capture the real essence of CBA Unite. The best part of the event was the people. From the friendly faces at the registration booth to the speakers and sponsors, attendees, and exhibitors, everyone there was joyful and kind and genuinely interested in meeting and aiding others. A spirit of helpfulness and support permeated the halls of Opryland as Christians from around the world joined together for the purpose of spreading the love of Christ through books, films, gifts, products, and content.
Now, if you’ve made it this far, I’ve got exciting news for you! Xulon Press didn’t just feed us, they also gave out books. They gave me a pair to keep and a pair to give away. If you’d like to win Don’t Just Speak It, Write It and Becoming a Bestselling Author, comment below and share why you’d like books. I’ll pick a random winner on Monday, July 16, so don’t wait.
One final note: Tomorrow, Thursday, July 12 is the last day to catch Summer of ’67 at Regal Hollywood Stadium 27 at Hundred Oaks Mall in Nashville. Next up is Showplace Cinemas South in Evansville starting July 27.