The overwhelming feeling expressed by those involved with the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) Christian Book Expo, held at the Dallas Convention Center, March 19th – 22nd, is a sense of disappointment at the low turnout.
Michael Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers as well as Chairman of ECPA, who has been twittering throughout and reporting at greater length on his blog, got straight to the point in his closing reflections on the show:
The attendance at the show was abysmal. There’s no way to spin this or ignore it. We only got a fraction of the audience we were anticipating. According to ECPA (as quoted in Publishers Weekly), only about 1,500 consumers showed up. Frankly, we were hoping for 15,000 to 20,000.
Yet by the end of his analysis he remains cautiously optimistic:
I am not sure publishers are going to want to try this again next year. With the current economic realities we are all facing, we really can’t afford to try too many things that don’t promise an immediate payback. That doesn’t mean that Christian Book Expo is a bad idea. It may just mean that we have to re-launch this at a different time with a different model.
Hyatt is not alone in remaining hopeful: both Tyndale House and Baker were amongst the exhibitors and are cited by Christian Retailing as remaining upbeat and expressing interest in the possibility of future shows:
Tyndale President Mark Taylor said CBE was a “bit of a gamble” in putting together, but would be “interested in doing this again.” Dwight Baker, president of BPG, echoed those sentiments, saying “we’re not giving up on this event.”
The article continues with mention of a decision last year by Thomas Nelson “to redirect some of its marketing strategy away from trade shows and to the new consumer show model” — but the strategy quite clearly didn’t work out as hoped for. Here in the UK we perhaps need to be asking questions about what — if anything — this may imply for CBC, the Christian Booksellers Convention: is this year’s model, a combined trade/consumer event, a better way forward or a recipe for confusion?
For links to more Christian Book Expo reports and updates, follow @CBE2009 on twitter.