Pity the itinerant evangelical publisher: Just as the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) annual regional trade shows are winding down, the Christian Booksellers Association’s (CBA) winter conference in Nashville gears up (Feb. 1-3).
But business was off this year at the two shows for which figures are available, according to ECPA’s David Bird, despite a reduction in the number of shows from last year’s total of six to this year’s five (with Orlando out of the mix because of a lack of retailer support). Still, as Bird emphasizes, at the EPCA, “the emphasis is on small” — with retailers offered reimbursements on their mileage, and even free hotel rooms, if they attend enough presentations and order from a minimum number of publishers. Only ECPA members are invited to exhibit and all exhibitors (roughly 55, mostly publishers and distributors) are required to attend all five shows, of which the Hershey, Pa., show is the largest, with 127 retailers attending. This is in marked contrast to the CBA show, which attracts thousands of attendees and approximately 300 exhibitors, including endless tchotchke purveyors, music labels and clothing manufacturers with names like Christian Closet and Angel Toes. Still, there are close ties between the two organizations, including the recently named President and CEO of ECPA, Mark Kuyper, who came from the CBA where he headed business development and marketing.
This year’s CBA will be focusing more than ever on the nuts and bolts, with “supply chain” and “category management” the hot topics, and a presentation on “Restoring Trust” that refers to the relationship between retailer and supplier — apparently as much an issue in religious publishing as it is in the rest of the industry.
For those who didn’t make it to the regional shows, and won’t make it to Nashville, there’s more to come: July 10-14 is CBA International, in Denver; meanwhile, if traditional religion is where you want to be, you’ll have to split your time between the Chicago exurb of St. Charles, Illinois, where the Religious Book Trade Exhibit (RBTE) meets June 1-3, and the annual BookExpo (June 2-5), which this year has abandoned Chicago for New York.