BookExpo returned to New York City after moving to Chicago last year, taking place at the Jacob Javits Center from May 31- June 2 and attracting a diverse range of religion and spirituality publishers.

Exhibiting for the second consecutive year after a 15-year hiatus, InterVarsity Press offered hundreds of giveaways including copies of its bestselling Road Back to You by Suzanne Stabile, while Crossway took a booth for the first time in five years, according to Dan Bush, v-p of sales. “We wanted to give it a try—presenting our books and attracting new customers,” he said.

Eerdmans president Anita Eerdmans said that BookExpo can be “overwhelming” for mid-size, independent publishers due to the emphasis on celebrity authors, but exhibiting as part of the Combined Book Exhibit stand gave her a great position on the show floor. “My location was perfect–on the corner of a very busy aisle, not far from the entrance, so I got lots of drop-in traffic,” Eerdmans said. “I had some wonderful conversations, some of which may turn into some good [sales and publicity] opportunities for us. So I was very pleased with how the show turned out.”

Other exhibitors included Whitaker House, which hosted book signings with authors Sharlene Baker MacLaren, Dr. Kynan Bridges, and Wayne Chaney, as well as Moody Publishers, where celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Gary Chapman’s bestselling The Five Love Languages kicked off with signed copies available on sale.

Also during the show, Worthy Publishing announced its publishing partnership with the Museum of the Bible and a new imprint, Museum of the Bible Books. Dedicated solely to exhibiting the Bible’s history and impact on the world, the Museum of the Bible is slated to open in Washington, D.C. in the fall. Catalogs and ordering information about the books, which will include two dozen Bibles, children’s books, and journals, were available at the Worthy booth.

Harvest House’s booth, which was located near Crossway, Worthy, and Moody, had titles on display from its new children’s book imprint, Harvest Kids, as well as its lead adult titles for fall, including an illustrations-based devotional, Gracelaced, by Ruth Chou Simons. Christianne Debysingh, publicist for Harvest House, noted lighter foot traffic and a lot of empty space in their section. “It’s a little quiet back here,” she said. “Everyone who is participating in BookCon is on the other side with more booths, but BookCon doesn’t always fit for Christian publishers unless you have a sports celebrity or a really big name.” (BookCon followed BookExpo at Javits, June 3–4.)

Inner Traditions joined BookCon in order to change its exhibit location and get better placement. “We meet readers and do experiential marketing and can sell books— we still find value in the show, meeting passers-by and getting together with distributors, foreign publishers, booksellers, and media,” said Jon Graham, acquisitions editor for the publisher.

Also offering reasons why religion publishers continue to attend BookExpo, president and CEO of Red Wheel/Weiser Michael Kerber said he met with key accounts, agents, foreign publishers, booksellers, and librarians, while also fielding questions from aspiring authors. RWW also celebrated its 60th anniversary with cupcakes and a champagne toast at their booth. However, Kerber asked, “For us the question is, are there better, and more effective, less costly ways of accomplishing the same things?”

Attendance at the show, its appearance—including the use of black drapes, and booth positions for those publishers not participating in BookCon was discouraging, according to Kerber. “This year’s BookExpo reflects its long decline,” he said. “Reed is struggling to figure out the show and it appears to me that their least priority is the publishers who spend thousands of dollars to exhibit. This year in particular it seemed like BookExpo was an inconvenience for them on their way to BookCon."

With this in mind, a number of smaller religion/spirituality publishers—among them Shambhala, Paraclete, and Parallax—no longer exhibit at BookExpo, finding religion-specialty and other events more cost-effective and better venues to actually sell books. Still, many small houses continue to have some kind of presence, even if they just send staff to walk the floor or hold meetings.

“It’s so worth coming,” said Laura McKendree, national account representative for Paraclete. “The energy on the floor is great and you can see what’s happening in the industry and where the buyers are.”