There was no missing him. A life-size photo of Pope Francis stood near one of the entrances to the 18th annual Catholic Marketing Network trade show held July 29-Aug. 1 in Schaumburg, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago. He was there in spirit, perhaps, and certainly adorned many a book cover. Publishers among the 136 exhibitors expressed the verdict that the show was thriving, reporting they took orders and met new retailers. Alan Napleton, CMN president, said the number of exhibiting publishers grew from 37 last year to 43 this year. Total exhibitors increased by 12%, and the number of stores/buyers attending was up 20%, to a total of 182.

“Wednesday was nice and busy,” said Carie Freimuth, v-p and associate publisher at Image Books, Penguin Random House’s Catholic imprint. “It’s an order-writing show. Kids books are doing well.” Image’s booth included Little Golden Books, the classic children’s line owned by Penguin Random, as well as Image's own products. Sister Antonia Cleverly, sales representative for Paraclete Press, said their children’s books were also doing well, and that the house expected to do at least as much business at the CMN show as it had last year. “I’ve seen [retailers] I haven’t seen before,” she said.

For the third year, the Parable Group, which provides marketing and data services to stores, was offering its SnapRetail marketing product and other services.Tom Dolman, a sales and marketing specialist for the firm--which primarily services evangelical Christian retailers--said that each year the company has made new contacts at CMN’s show and found new customers. “This year has been our best response,” he said.

The CMN show is considered the more religiously conservative counterpart of the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE), which is held each year in suburban Chicago but has been dwindling in exhibitor and attendee numbers. Bob Byrns, a founder of RBTE and now its organizer, has been in conversation with CMN about a possible relationship. Napleton said he is always looking to grow the show by creating partnerships that would supply synergy. The Catholic Writers Guild has held its annual conference in conjunction with CMN's show for six years; next year a Catholic media group will also meet at the show, Napleton said.

Despite the CMN show's reputation as conservative, Franciscan Media reported that titles from its relatively more liberal eponymous imprint--it also has a more religiously conservative line, Servant Books--did well. “Looking at the orders, we did good business,” said Christopher G. Holmes, marketing strategy and services manager for the house.

CMN meets next year July 21-24 in Somerset, N.J.