Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another Book Market in Trouble?

This past weekend, the Christian Book Expo held its first event designed to connect publishers and authors with readers in the evangelical Christian market. To put it bluntly, the event flopped.

Could the problem have been where it was held? Not likely since it took place in Dallas, Texas, what Publishers Weekly calls, “the buckle of the Bible Belt and a top market for Christian publishers.”

To be fair, the event was planned two years ago, before the market downturn. And, despite having only a minimal marketing budget, it was designed as three days of panels and programming like a conference. It appears that “minimal marketing budget” pretty much consisted of word of mouth via Dallas churches.
“We can’t afford these kinds of risks,” said Dennis R. Hillman, publisher at Kregel Publications. “In a year like this the last thing we want to do is something that has no payoff.”
Michael S. Hyatt, president and CEO of Thomas Nelson seems to believe there will be an event next year. Others are not so sure.
“InterVarsity Press will be looking for a more concrete, specific marketing plan for the event – with some strings attached – before we would consider setting aside money to participate,” said associate publisher Jeff Crosby. “Viewed in total, the event was a major disappointment.”
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  1. The Christian Book Expo need not be another disappointment if these guidelines questions will be considered in planning for a future related event:

    1. Aside from the panel discussions and conference-like programming, did the Book Expo present interesting side events like book displays, Christian books signings, religious publishing trends, and

    2. Did the Book Expo carried interesting theme(s) that encourages attendees to actively discuss and participate?

    3. Were well known and highly respected Christian scholars, clergy, and motivational speakers invited to share their valuable insights about Christian book publishing?

    4. Was the venue and facilities for the Christian Book Expo conducive for a large audience? Was the event atmosphere promoted and fostered Christian goodwill and interaction?

    5. Were the event participants and attendees given their due share of importance in manifesting their related concerns about Christian book publishing?

  2. The whole situation underscores the the value of promotion or lack thereof. Word of mouth? What happened to go tell it on the mountain?

    Christian/Inspirational writing has been building readers for some years and this would have been a perfect forum to ecourage those writers of Christain based books to continue and pull in aspiring authors as well, with well placed workshops and celebration of the current authors successes. It could be handled as any other writing convention.

    What a shame it flopped. Hopefully, the planners learned some valuable lessons--especially if they funds from publishers.

  3. Helen, what other book market is in danger?

    Also, off topic, I've been using your advice of putting my blog after my comment but in some blog places (not blogger others) it means my comment doesn't get posted. Has anyone else had this problem?


  4. Are book expos intended to connect authors with readers or publishers with booksellers? Although Christian books is not my area of interest, why would I, as a reader, go to a book expo of any kind?


  5. That's a shame but obviously not well planned. With two years to plan they could have rounded up sponsors, free radio and TV PR and certainly the Internet. Twitter and Facebook alone could have provided much more publicity than word of mouth.


  6. Yeah, I did not hear about it until a few days ago - not much press for such a big event!

    Ironically, I just read a blog from a group of Christian authors that had a wonderful time at the event and thought it was a success... Different perspecitves I guess!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  7. My mom, a born salesman, always said, "If you don't tell people about it, they won't know." Promotion is key. Even in a recession.

  8. Remind me, when I plan to stage my first expo, not to hire whoever the publicity agents for THAT event were.

  9. I thought the Christian book market was doing well. Perhaps it still is. It could be that this event just wasn't well advertised or promoted. According to the Publishers Weekly article, they had hoped for 15,000 to 20,000 people, but only 1,500 attended.

  10. Lauri, I had that problem once on a blog. I had to omit the Url in order to get the comment to post. Don't remember who's blog it was or what host, though.

  11. I understand if their budget was did not allow for a major to do, but there are SO Many ways to advertise these days for very little money. The internet alone provides such opportunity. Craigslist, online writers forums, email lists... It's a shame because there are a lot of christian authors out there looking for publication opportunities. So sad.

  12. That's true, Jenny. And it seems like the Christian market was/is hot. If they do this next year, I'm sure they will correct their mistakes!

  13. I'm not an expert on planning conferences, but I'd suggest they could downsize it to maybe a day or a day and a half instead. Maybe three were too much and too expensive.

    Morgan Mandel

  14. I think they need to look for more options and plan it wisely. There seems a lot of trouble when you just put everything in risk.


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