The convention saw lower but still healthy attendance in New York City May 29-31. In recent years some religion publishers have abandoned the show in favor of smaller, more targeted conferences, conventions, and professional meetings. Typical of this approach is Jewish Lights/SkyLight Paths, which did not exhibit at BEA for the first time in 20 years, though publisher Stuart Matlins attended to hold meetings and network. Matlins explained that for him BEA cost too much for too little benefit; instead he is exhibiting at events for clergy, other religion professionals, and denominations. Matlins continues to do good business in rights at Frankfurt and the Jerusalem Book Fair, and, like many religion houses large and small, finds the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature productive.
Another small house returned to exhibiting at the show after a four-year absence. Eerdmans brought its acclaimed children’s line, which does well in the general trade. Said Anita Eerdmans, v-p of marketing, “We came back because we were hearing a lot of buzz about the show in the last couple of years. Part of that may be that there are so many more ways to hear buzz, with the new prevalence of Twitter and other social media.” She added, “We were happy to return, and found it very worthwhile in spite of our lousy booth location. We also found the programming that goes on in connection with BEA--both before and during--to be very helpful.” Eerdmans’ list includes Francis, Pope of the New World by French journalist Michel Cool, which comes out in August and was too late to ride the first wave of interest after the new pope’s election. One Eerdmans title, Reinventing Liberal Christianity, treats a topic that seems be rising among several other publishers and is certain to interest religion scholars, already the core audience for Eerdmans.
This was the first BEA for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, created when HarperCollins acquired Thomas Nelson and combined it with Zondervan. David Moberg, v-p and publisher of Thomas Nelson’s trade books division, and Tracy Danz, v-p and publisher for trade books at Zondervan, both reported a sense of being settled into Harper and optimism about the future of the new venture. HCCP Bargain Books, created when Nelson’s bargain books division added Zondervan titles to its portfolio, also debuted at the show. Said Barry Baird, executive director of the bargain books division, “This gives us new opportunities because of the number of titles.” He said that although some logistics remain to be worked out, the transition has been smooth. Baird reported more than $10 million in revenues last fiscal year for his division. “We are able to recoup 85% of the value of our investment” in these titles, he said.
Mark Tauber, v-p and publisher of HarperOne, reiterated that despite their aggressive move into the healthy lifestyle category (including some big diet books), HarperOne’s religion list would remain strong and grow. “This is really a return to our roots—these kinds of [lifestyle] books were important when Harper San Francisco was founded. But our brand is spirituality and religion, and everyone knows that.” Tauber did note that increasing the number of healthy living titles on his list was a way to fulfill the Harper corporate mandate for strong growth. “We have to take new directions—there’s only so much religion,” he said. HarperOne has new titles this fall from marquee authors like Bart Ehrman and Barbara Brown Taylor. New to the ranks of their authors is former presidential adviser Joshua DuBois, whose The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings that Inspired President Obama (Oct.), compiles readings the former Pentecostal pastor sent to his boss during Obama’s first term.
Guideposts Books publisher David Morris talked about some shifts at the company, which is defining itself as a “boutique publisher.” He said, “We’re a small program, but complicated” due in part to Guideposts’ combined direct mail and retail strategies. Guideposts traditionally sold its titles via direct mail—with an enviable list of 6 million readers—then moved into retail as well. Its biggest seller, the Daily Guideposts inspirational volume, doesn’t backlist because it comes out annually. Guideposts also now owns Summerside, a romance fiction imprint. Part of the house’s strategy is author development, and Guideposts magazine provides a handy, synergistic platform to showcase and preview material. For fall, Morris is high on The Song of Annie Moses by Robin Donica Wolaver (Sept.), who has a following in the music world.
In its 13th year at BEA, the Nautilus Book Awards program, intended to recognize mind-body-spirit books that promote positive change, named three books as grand winners. Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time by Katrina Fried, photography by Paul Mobley (Welcome Books), won in the general adult, social change category. Every Day Space Traveler by Jason Klassi (Space Traveler Publishing) won in young adult nonfiction. And A Beautiful Medicine by David Mercier (Still Pond Press) won in small press, health and healing. An additional 28 titles were designated gold winners in 22 categories covering topics from aging to women. A list of winners is at the Nautilus Web site.
There were some hot titles in religion at the show. Barbara J. Sherrill, v-p of marketing at Harvest House, ran out of ARCs of My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife by Sara Horn (Aug.). The title reeled in incredulous attendees. “Everybody who walks by goes ‘what’!?!” The book, she adds, takes a look at what the biblical injunction to wives to submit to their husbands can look like in the 21st century.
B&H went through 12 cases of ARCs for The Love Dare for Parents by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (July), an extension of the bestselling Love Dare line drawn from the movie Fireproof. The newest Love Dare product contains all new material, and “was birthed out of thousands of requests” from parents seeking to improve their relationships with their children, said David Humphrey, key accounts manager for mass market sales.
Jewish interest children’s publisher Kar-Ben ran out of The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street by Ann Redisch Stampler (May). “They had to stop the (autograph) line,” said publisher Joni Sussman. Stampler’s 2012 book The Wooden Sword was honored by the Association of Jewish Libraries earlier this year.
Rolf Zettersten, publisher for Hachette’s thriving FaithWords/Center Street division, told PW that 2014 would be “The Year of Joyce and Rejoice,” honoring its top author, Joyce Meyer, by releasing a book a month by her (both new titles and backlist) and with an event, details yet to be determined. Wendy Grisham, publisher of Hachette imprint Jericho—which is dedicated to publishing edgier books that challenge the evangelical status quo—said her first list last fall was well received, with solid although not huge sales, but “these books will have a long tail.” More Jericho books are on the horizon, including a 2015 title, Damaged Goods: Christian and Feminist in the War on Women, which will tackle the Christian sexual “purity” movement and is sure to stir debate.
Tyndale senior v-p and publisher Ron Beers cited the pressure put on Christian publishers by heavy discounting in Christian bookstores. “The CBA channel has become more challenging, so how and where you sell becomes important,” he said. However, “e-books have been good for us,” with 50% of their fiction list now available in digital. But with so many books being published each year—3 million by some recent estimates—“how do you make a book stand out?” he asked, noting it has become increasingly difficult to break out new authors. Still, the house is enjoying success with a new memoir, Sparkly Green Earrings, by debut author and blogger Melanie Shankle. “I don’t want to say I’ll only want to publish a book for an author who has a platform, but it’s harder than ever for new authors," Beers said. He also expressed puzzlement about "what moves the needle" in getting attention for a book, noting that there seems to be less correlation these days between publicity and sales.
Despite the skepticism that some in the evangelical Christian publishing world may feel toward “New York publishing,” a number of evangelical Christian publishing execs expressed satisfaction about BEA and their niche in the larger publishing world. “This is still the best book show in the world,” said David Lewis, v-p of marketing at Baker Publishing Group. “It’s nice to feel a part of the wider publishing community.”