Religion and spirituality publishers had a noticeable presence at BookExpo 2018, which ran in New York City from May 30-June 1. Representatives from religious houses large and small occupied around 30 of the roughly 150 exhibitor booths, while more simply walked the floor.

“It’s an interesting view of publishing, and a place for learning by talking to other publishers and seeing a number of good books,” said Tim Blevins, president of 1517 Media who held meetings during BE but did not exhibit.

Though it felt “compacted” to Barb Sherrill, executive v-p at Harvest House, she was pleased with the show. “It’s great for making contact face-to-face, and it’s very positive—people still buy books,” she said at the Harvest House booth.

Many publishers attended BE to discover new authors, meet with distributors and key accounts, and connect with agents as well as peers. It’s also a place to share ideas and learn how to adapt in a challenging market, according to Dave Lewis, executive v-p sales and marketing at the Baker Publishing Group. “It’s always beneficial to be here,” he said. “It’s important to stay curious and help each other.”

Lewis noted that Baker is now selling books at “interesting places” such as farm and feed stores as well as women’s clothing retail outlets, and it’s these sorts of ideas that arise from conferences like BookExpo.

“We have to be more creative about where to sell books [because] the Christian market is struggling—Family [Christian Stores] went under, and Lifeway is cutting back,” said Linda Howard, associate publisher, children and youth at Tyndale House, which exhibited at BookExpo. “We have to think about how to expand into new markets.”

Christian publishers at the show noticed a surge in Christian YA titles, several of which were featured at BookCon (following BookExpo from June 2-3). And by participating in BookCon, publishers such as InterVarsity Press, Tyndale, and Worthy Publishing earned prime placement during BookExpo.

“We believe in these authors [such as I Am Rahab author Autumn Miles] and this is the place to show them off,” said Jeana Ledbetter, v-p, associate publisher at Worthy, which also offered giveaways at BE.

Spirituality publishers like Red Wheel/Weiser appreciated an encouraging, supportive atmosphere at the show. “We come to be with our community of publishers and be among lovers of ideas and books, and you never know who will walk by,” said RWW’s president, Michael Kerber.

“Traffic was definitely up, and it’s great to see what everybody else is doing and support other publishers,” said Tyndale’s Howard.

Literary agent Kelly Hughes noted, “There’s vibrancy, with long lines for book signings and so many people excited about books. It makes me optimistic about the future of publishing.”

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