Just as with publishers in other categories, religion/spirituality publishers at BookExpo America reported good traffic and a busy show during the convention’s three-day run in New York May 29-31. Although some religion publishers had bowed out in the past several years, citing too high costs and too little benefit and preferring religion-specialty shows, their BEA participation seems to have stabilized. There were no new dropouts this year, and some have recently returned, deciding the show is valuable after all.

Wm. B. Eerdmans did not exhibit at BEA for four years but returned in 2013. This year much of its booth was devoted to its acclaimed children’s line, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, with particularly high hopes for The Right Word (Sept.), a picture book biography of Peter Roget, the creator of the thesaurus. Among the adult titles Eerdmans promoted at the show was Way Below the Angels, a humorous memoir by Mormon historian Craig Harline (Aug.).

Mary-Kathryne Steele, president of the multi-faith children’s line Wisdom Tales, proudly displayed two Ben Franklin trophies from the Independent Book Publishers Association for Custer’s Last Battle by Paul Goble and Children of the Tipi by Michael Fitzgerald. Steele said the awards had immediately paid off, generating more inquires about the two titles, as well as a discounted opportunity to run book trailers as part of BEA’s Children’s Book and Author Breakfast event on Friday.

Speaking of kids’ books, the only religion-oriented event this year at BEA was a Thursday morning “Trends in the Christian Children’s Market” panel moderated by Mary Manz-Simon, who presented new Nielsen numbers on the market segment. Publishers on the panel agreed their books are overcoming historic obstacles to sell in a wide variety of retail outlets.

Across the Faiths
Publishers all along the faith spectrum had a productive show. Buddhist house Wisdom Publications gave away three boxes’ worth of Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy by Ajahn Brahm (Oct.) and sold Chinese language rights for some of its titles, thus, noted Wisdom CEO and publisher Tim McNeill, taking Buddhism as it’s been developed by “practical Westerners” back to one of its Asian homelands.

Monique Muhlenkamp, publicity director at New World Library, was happy with booth activity generated by author signings; veteran mind-body-spirit author Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior) was signing The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication (2013), co-written with his daughter Sierra Prasada.

Inner Traditions v-p, director of sales and marketing John Hays showcased Dance of Reality by Alejandro Jodorowsky, published under their Park Street Press imprint. Jodorowsky became a cult figure with his films El Topo and The Holy Mountain; the film version of Dance of Reality debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Inner Traditions has embarked on an extensive promotional campaign around the U.S. theatrical release of the film beginning May 23.

Baker Publishing Group is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and its booth, adorned with a celebratory banner, was constantly busy. V-p of sales and marketing Dave Lewis said they had more meetings then ever, back to back on Thursday and Friday and several on Saturday. Baker--still a family-owned publishing house that also has a bookstore in its hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.--will make an even bigger anniversary splash at the upcoming International Christian Retail Show (June 22-25 in Atlanta), where its annual dinner will be themed “Stepping Back in Time.” A paperback history of the company, The Baker Book House Story, will be given away at ICRS.

B&H got "lots of traffic" and, since they were near the BookCon area, gave away copies of the memoir Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Ian and Larissa Murphy (Aug.) to consumers, who formed long and looping lines, especially parents and children awaiting their favorite authors and their favorite Grumpy Cat.

During BookCon, Buddhist publisher Shambhala also had its booth near the autographing tables and in the area dedicated to BookCon, and a little giveaway, Pocket Haiku, translated by Sam Hamill (May), was “gone in five minutes,” said publicist Steven Pomije. “This reminds me of working in YA fiction,” he said amid the din of the reading crowd. “The book isn’t dying. No way.”

News from Harper
The results of consolidation seem to be positive for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO, expressed satisfaction with the performance of the company, almost two years after parent HarperCollins, which owns Zondervan, purchased Thomas Nelson to beef up its presence in the Christian market. Schoenwald said HCCP was “doing well from a metrics standpoint,” noting the integration of Thomas Nelson into the HarperCollins family has brought back-office efficiencies and the ability to leverage HC resources. Thomas Nelson and Zondervan have both closed their warehouses, for example, with giant R.R. Donnelley handling printing, packing, and shipping, as it does for HarperCollins as whole.

Schoenwald said his goal is to build “an author-centric company” that will attract talented writers despite competition from other houses and the lure of self-publishing. “Authors have more options,” he said. “We have to provide maximum value [to them].” Schoenwald also is targeting international growth. “We’re there [internationally], but we’ve got to get bigger,” he said. Acquisition is another possible growth strategy, he acknowledged. HarperCollins recently purchased Olive Tree, a digital publisher of Bibles and related resources for mobile platforms.

At HCCP’s sister imprint HarperOne, the big news is once again Rob Bell. HarperOne has two books coming: Yes, You: How to Find Your Path and Thrive (originally planned for August), and The Zimzum of Love, a book on marriage written with his wife, Kristen Bell, originally planned for October but with a natural Valentine’s Day hook. HarperOne senior v-p/associate publisher Claudia Boutote said they have not yet decided on pub dates for either book. “We’re still going back and forth on the best timing,” she said, since Bell is joining Oprah’s 8-city “The Life You Want” tour September 5-November 15. Senior director of publicity Suzanne Wickham said Bell also has a show in development with the OWN network, though she had no details about the name or format of the show or its air dates.

And Bibles are still mightily important in religion publishing. Though HCCP dominates the Bible market with its Zondervan and Thomas Nelson lines, there is a new player: The week before BEA, Charisma House hosted a one-day event (May 23) for retailers and media in its hometown of Lake Mary, Fla., to launch its Modern English Version Bible. The new translation aims to preserve the reverence and literary quality of the King James Version-- the translation most popular with African-American denominations and churches, as well as the Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians that are Charisma House’s primary audience--while being accessible for modern readers, especially younger ones. V-p of marketing Woodley Auguste said “The MEV is the first update in over 30 years in the King James tradition. The word-for-word translation answers a need for millennials, who are looking for accuracy as they engage with the Scriptures."