Christian Book Expo: Day 2

Yesterday, the Christian Book Expo floor opened. We had 66 publishers, scores of authors, and dozens of book signings and author events. The attendance was lighter than I had hoped. However, given the fact that this is a consumer show and most consumers are working during the day, it wasn’t a complete surprise. Hopefully, attendance will pick up on Saturday.

max lucado signing books at christian book expo 2009

Regardless, I thought it was a very productive day. We sold books steadily out of our booth all day long. Our friends from Family Christian Stores staffed the cash registers, which was a huge help. Meanwhile, Gail and I met with literally dozens of authors throughout the day.

We also had several author book signings in our booth and sponsored several discussion panels. We had:

  • Max Lucado, bestselling author with 60 million books in print, including 3:16 and Facing Your Giants, which is perfect for the economic challenges we are facing;
  • Rich Stearns, CEO of World Vision and author of The Hole in Our Gospel, a book about the moral scandal of poverty and injustice in our world;
  • Andy Andrews; author of the New York Times bestseller, The Traveler’s Gift, and the just-launched The Noticer;
  • Colleen Coble, bestselling novelist and author of some 35 novels and novellas, including her most recent, Cry in the Night;
  • Donald Miller, author of the New York Times bestseller, Blue Like Jazz, along with Searching for God Knows What and Through Painted Deserts; and
  • Patsy Clairmont, one of the funniest people I know, mega-popular Women of Faith speaker, and author of the newly released Catching Fireflies: Teaching Your Heart to See God’s Light Everywhere.

Gail and I had dinner with Colleen and Dave Coble. She is the model of how every author should relate to his or her publisher. She is always grateful, teachable, and positive. Honestly, it makes us all want to work our tails off for her.

After dinner, the four of us headed over to the evening event at the Dallas Convention Center. Again, the attendance was low, but the event was exquisitely produced. We were treated to short talks by Max Lucado, Liz Curtis Higgs, Henry Blackaby, Lysa TerKeurstm and Michelle Hammond. In addition, we listened to Cindy Morgan (one of my all-time favorite artists), Travis Cottrell, and Heather Headley.

Gail and I got back to our room about 9:30, but were too wound up to sleep. So we headed down to the hotel lobby and bumped into David Moberg and Dave Schroeder, two Thomas Nelson colleagues. We ended up visiting for another hour. It was good to catch up and debrief on the day’s events.

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  • Kevin Alan Wells

    Intense debate is asking me to break this comment up, so …

    Part 1:

    I feel part of the reason for the low attendance is how the event was marketed.

    For one, advertising. I'm a Christian writer living in Dallas yet the only channels I heard about the event through were three writer/agent blogs. Two of those only mentioned the event this week.

    I think another issue is how it was billed – what the heck is a book expo anyway? Why do I want to pay $30 plus parking and the downtown hassle to go shop for Christian books I can't afford right now and really don't need? If there is a book I want, I'll save time, energy, and money just buying it from Amazon. …is the thought 'book expo' brings to my mind. …

  • Kevin Alan Wells

    Part 2:

    I think the event would be experiencing a better turnout if the focus had been billed toward interaction with the various personalities in attendance. As is, it looked like the personalities were just frosting with the books the main course. Too direct to be widely appealing, in my opinion. It feels like the purpose is to sell me books, and everything else is sugar to make that go down smoother.

    Bill it instead as a gathering rather than an exhibition. The opportunity to interact with some top Christian leaders and a broad community of the Church is worth the cost, and I feel like I'm part of something, not just a consumer being entertained into a sale.

    The headline could read something like this: 'CBE presents The Aim Convention,' or 'Synergy Gathering, sponsored by CBE.' The content of the event (including the merchandizing) would remain quite similar, but this marketing would likely give it a broader appeal.

  • Jodi Whisenhunt

    I attended Friday and thoroughly enjoyed myself! I met many authors and publishers, attended a couple workshops. It was great!

    I did notice, however, that while industry people were plentiful, general consumers were scant. I am also a Christian writer in the Dallas area, and I, too, saw very little promotion of the event. In fact, I found out about it through an online search for Christian writers' conferences, not by any local advertisement. When I asked industry friends about the event, they seemed unsure what to expect.

    Unfortunately, I cannot attend the rest of the weekend, but I do hope attendance picks up. This is a fantastic event, and a lot of people are missing a great opportunity. I'd like to see this become an annual event. Perhaps better marketing is the key.

  • Rachel Hauck

    Thanks for the updates, Mike. Looks like a huge success!!

  • Lindsey_Nobles

    I love Colleen Coble. I spent several hours today with her and I hope someday she will adopt me. She is amazing!

  • Colleen Coble

    I adopted you the first minute we met, Lindsey! But you might regret that! :-)

    What a great day! I'm just now posting on your blog about it, Mike, but being with you and Gail was the highlight of the weekend. I came away thinking I could conquer the world. You both have that effect on people! After talking to you two, I could charge hell with a water pistol! In fact, I'm filling it right now. :-)

    I so wish everyone in America could have been at the Friday night event. Truly life-changing. I'm totally fearing LESS now! I hope we do this again. I realize the attendance was disappointing but the idea is so good. We may need to tweak the model some but I'd love to see this grow.

  • Daniel Ekhaifo

    I agree with you Kevin. It could be branded as a Meet-the-Author gathering.

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