BookExpo, which took place at the Javits Center in New York City from May 29-31, attracted a number of religion and spirituality publishers as a place to promote their titles, meet with booksellers, and “get a feel for what’s going on in the industry,” according to Laura Minchew, senior v-p and publisher of gift books, Tommy Nelson children’s books and new media at Thomas Nelson.

HarperCollins Christian Publishing (HCCP), which houses Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, hosted book signing events and giveaways at its booth for books such as Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich. Similarly, InterVarsity Press gave away over 100 copies of its top selling The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron, while Tyndale House author Matt Mikalatos (The Crescent Stone) signed books during BookExpo as well as at BookCon, which followed from June 1-2. Sarah Atkins, associate publisher at Tyndale, called BookExpo “one of few places left to walk around, see banners and people lining up for books, and getting excited.”

“These are our people,” she added. “It’s inspiring.”

President and CEO of Red Wheel/Weiser Michael Kerber cited business to business meetings and opportunities to connect with booksellers, authors, and “whatever customers are here” at BookExpo. The publisher also promoted its spring releases, Queering the Tarot and Becoming Dangerous. “If your industry has a show, you go,” Kerber said.

There were complaints about slow traffic on the half day on Wednesday, and many attendees had the highest foot traffic on Thursday, finding Friday’s pace busier than Wednesday’s, but still slow. A few publishers opted for smaller booths, while some others shared booth space with their sales and distribution partners. For example, Chalice Press exhibited for the first time from APG's booth, where president and publisher Brad Lyons signed copies of his book, America's Holy Ground.

Another first time exhibitor, Fortress Press used its presence to convey its purpose as the trade imprint of 1517 Media. “We are committed to making the right connections, getting word out about the brand, and growing,” Jill Braithwaite, v-p and publisher for Fortress as well as the children’s imprint, Beaming Books, told PW.

“It’s tame, there’s a smaller footprint, but it’s a priority for appointments and connections,” says Aaron Dillon, digital media manager at Harvest House. On the show floor, he observed an increasing number of lifestyle, decorating, and homesteading books in the religion space, while marketing strategist for B&H Dave Schroeder noticed a number of books about the #MeToo movement. Many Christian publishers spoke of LifeWay Christian Stores’ imminent closure at the end of the year, including Crossway’s executive v-p of business operations Anthony Gosling, who said he is holding his breath but ramping up service to online customers. Other topics on the show floor included an increasing number of books on social activism and the growing popularity of audiobooks.

Overall, in an increasingly digital marketplace, publishers still find value in the face-to-face interactions at BookExpo.“It’s evolved with the times and is a whole different operation, [but] it gets booksellers together to talk about our books,” Sophie Cottrell, senior v-p, corporate communications for Hachette, told PW.

BookExpo 2020 will take place once again at the Javits Center from May 27-29.