Christian Book Expo: Day 3

I began yesterday with a breakfast meeting with a couple of other publishing CEOs. We got together to see if we could coordinate a large-scale promotion that would benefit our entire industry.

christian-book-expo-day-3

I can’t say more at this point, because we are in the early stages of discussion. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by the fact that there seems to be a growing realization that we might be able to make the pie bigger for all of us, rather than just continuing to steal market share from one another.

After the meeting, Gail and I headed over to the book expo floor. I had several hours worth of impromptu meetings with authors, agents, and even a few consumers who stopped by to talk. I especially enjoyed meeting, Ron Hall and Denver Moore (pictured above), authors of Same Kind of Different as Me. This is truly one of the best books I have ever read. It has been on the New York Times list now for 53 consecutive weeks.

I also spent a little time with Don Miller and Colleen Coble. Sadly, I did not get to see my pal, Sheila Walsh, though she had a signing in our booth. I got tied up in another conversation and couldn’t break away. Nevertheless, I did get to spend a little time with her husband, Barry, whom I really enjoy.

The highlight of the afternoon was the Christianity Today discussion panel, “Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make? A Debate.” The panelists included the British atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of the bestseller, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, along with a bevy of Christian apologists including William Lane Craig, James Denison, Doug Wilson, and Lee Strobel.

Hitchens was gracious, charming, and witty, but I was unimpressed with his arguments. He trotted out the same tired anti-theism arguments that atheists have been using since the dawn of time. Hitchens only real contribution is his colorful personality. At one point, he stated that if you removed God completely from public awareness, it would not effect human behavior. According to him, most people would continue to act responsibly and altruistically toward their neighbors. (Yea, except maybe for that little communist experiment in the last century where some 40 million Russians where murdered.)

In fairness, the Christians, whom Doug Wilson described as a “den of lambs,” didn’t do much better. They mostly paraded the same old pro-theism arguments—the ones you learn in Philosophy 101. The only panelist who really scored big points, in my opinion, was Doug Wilson. Rather than echoing the evidential arguments that his colleagues set forth, he argued at the presuppositional level. Hitchens never really answered him. In fact, I don’t think he knew quite what to do with his arguments.

After the debate, we grabbed a late lunch with Andy Andrews then attended a “Tweet-up” for all the Twitterers attending the expo. With all due respect to my fellow Twitterers, someone really needs to figure out how to do these events right, so that they are worth attending. I have attended about three of them since the first of the year, and they always seem awkward and unfocused. What we need are “Tweet-ups with a purpose.”

Marcia Nelson from Publishers Weekly then interviewed me. She wanted my take on the expo, since I am chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the sponsors of the book expo. I tried to be candid about my disappointment with the attendance but my continued enthusiasm for the event. I plan to share my thoughts tomorrow here on my blog.

We had a lovely dinner with one of Gail’s former college roommates and her daughter, who live here in Dallas. It was a relaxing and enjoyable finish on an otherwise very, very busy day.

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  • Marcia Z. Nelson

    Mike, Thanks for your openness.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/philgroom philgroom

    Thanks for this and your twitter updates on #CBE – have been following with interest. Wondering what your thoughts are on the way things are going with the change of ownership and venue for the UK's CBE-equivalent, CBC (Christian Booksellers Convention), please? Will Thomas Nelson be there and if not, why not? More info at http://www.cbcltd.co.uk.

  • http://www.RumorsOfGlory.net/blog Lucille Zimmerman

    "Same Kind of Different as Me" is one of my favorite books. I've read it twice and given away about 10 copies. I was so honored when Ron Hall called me one day to thank me for a letter I wrote to him. Unfortunately, my dog had just escaped. I tried to fake it for about a few minutes and told him I had to go. Later when my husband came home and found me crying, he said, "Call him back!" I said, "I can't just call him back…" My husband re-dialed the number on caller ID, I explained what had happened, and Mr. Hall spoke to me for about 30 minutes. What a great guy and a great story!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is an ansolutely fantastic story. That sounds just like Ron!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Mary_ Mary_

    I hope that even if attendance was not as high as hoped this year, there will be a CBE 2010. I really, really wanted to attend, but my husband and I couldn't make the logistics and finances work (we live in Kansas City, so it would have been quite a road trip). I think this concept – bringing the books, authors, artists, everyone to the consumer – is outstanding. As a consumer, a reader and someone who hopes to be part of the Christian publishing industry in the near future, I was so impressed and excited by this opportunity. The price was reasonable, and what you got for it – the seminars, the signings, the concerts – well, I wasn't there so I don't know for sure, but it sounded amazing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/PattiM PattiM

    Lower than hoped for numbers can be a disappointment and a blessing… they can provide an opportunity on a small scale to absolutely nail the customer experience so any problems don't happen on a larger scale later.
    With the non-profit group I'm involved with members of the executive regularly circulate among attendees at our events to chat people up. The underlying reason is to gain feedback on what they liked or didn't like about the event and to hear ideas. Because we do it within the context of friendly chats people are pretty open and it helps huge when we are planning. I'll bet next year will rock!

  • Colleen Coble

    Mike, you were SO right about Same Kind of Different As Me!!! I read it on the plane ride home. One word. Life changing. Everyone should read this book.

    Readers really enjoyed the expo and so did I!

  • http://www.hunger-thirst.com Pete Mahoney

    Well Mike, I traveled all the way from Tacoma, WA to attend the Expo. I know the turnout was disheartening, but your blog added at least one guy to the crowd!

  • http://www.marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    Your aversion to sugar-coating is refreshing.

  • Jayme Thompson

    Thanks for your comments on the Hitchens and Lambs debate – agreed, Douglas Wilson was the intellectual highlight. Curious: what was the conference attendance and what number was anticipated? I'm thankful I was able to attend – heard about it from your tweets. Thanks for the great stream of information.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Mark Kuyper, President of ECPA is the keeper of the official number count. I would guess 2,000-2,500. We were hoping for four to five times that.

  • http://jenniferstair.blogspot.com Jennifer Stair

    Perhaps one contributing factor to the lower-than-anticipated attendance is that most DFW area school districts were on spring break last week. I’m guessing many families were traveling, and others (like me) with young children were unable to arrange childcare, since regular babysitters were on vacation and MDOs and preschools were closed.

    As a longtime freelance editor, I would have loved to reconnect in person with authors and Thomas Nelson colleagues with whom I work regularly; however, I couldn’t attend CBE because it took place during spring break. I hope families with older children enjoyed the Kids Zone, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that perhaps CBE 2010 will take place sometime during the regular school calendar. Thanks!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, spring break was definitely a factor. Unfortunately, when you are booking a venue for a new show, you don't get a lot of choices. We'll have more leverage next year, and we definitely don't want to do it during spring break!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I really haven't kept up with it, so I don't have a point-of-view. Keep in mind that our CBE is NOT a trade show; it is a consumer show.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/philgroom philgroom

      Thanks Michael – my apologies: hadn't realised that CBE is a consumer show; that does, of course, colour things rather differently. Perhaps this is the way we need to be going, which the CRE merger/takeover makes feasible…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Yes, there is plenty to learn. We are already beginning those discussions.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    That's encouraging.

  • Roland Lundy

    Mike,

    I continue to buy ( good for you) and give away "The Same Kind of Different as Me" !! One of the best books to give to people. All love it and then pass it on or recommend it.

    Roland

  • Teri Smith

    I was at the CBE and loved it. I cannot understand why more local people weren't there. There were such awesome activities for the kids as well as inspiring workshops for adults. I wonder if somehow the churches didn't understand the significance of the event and didn't get the word out to their congregations. All homeschool students and Christian school students should have had a field trip there!

    I just pray that you will keep the event going. I would have loved even more workshops specific to the craft of writing.

    In any case, I bought a lot of books (at great discount prices!) and came home inspired.

  • http://www.saltshakeronline.com Claire Efird

    Do you think Mike, that perhaps book expo was not a success because the public deep down wants to support the local retailer, either the "brick and mortar "or website? Maybe, with the economic down turn they see that events where publishers circumvent the retailer means less retail opportunity in the local market and with less retail space thriving, less jobs. I can say that at my store, even though the customers want the merchandse at a good price, more and more desire to support the local merchant. With job losses rising, they see the importance of local retail and employment opportunities. Perhaps publishers leaving THEIR customer out of the loop is not a healthy decision in the long run.

  • karena

    just reading this book now. well Michael if it is one of your favorite books, it must be good. it is not catching my attention intially, but i am inspired to read more. i may get some insight on writing styles. my story is also true.

  • http://twitter.com/dbonleadership Dan

    Sounds like a busy but fun day.

  • Janice

    I attended and loved it!  I’m looking for the name of the area of self-publishers at the event.  Does anyone know who they are?

  • Simon Walker

    He trotted out the same tired anti-theism arguments that atheists have been using since the dawn of time

    *sigh*. Because facts never change. And by the way, Michael, communism had nothing to do with Atheism. Those people weren’t murdered because of atheism. Please review the innumerable religious conflicts where theism was the direct cause of human death and suffering.