At least one happy man was boasting about runaway success in the religion books category at BEA 2009. “Everyone else seems to be experiencing downsizing, but we’ve been on a rocket ride,” said Brad Cummings, president of Windblown Media, publisher of The Shack, a guy-meets-God novel by William P. Young with 7.6 million copies in print, a year-long tenure on bestseller lists, and a co-publishing deal with Hachette. While in years past, a BEA attender couldn’t get far without running into a banner headlining the newest Da Vinci Code-esque novel or the latest atheist tirade, aside from The Shack, for this 2009 show it was hard to tell what other religion books were truly hot.
Though other publishers were a bit more measured about their experience at BEA, people seemed pretty pleased about traffic, buzz, and an uptick in meetings. The media frenzy around the Gosselin family kept Karen Campbell, director of publicity at Zondervan, busy talking up Multiple Blessings (2008) and Eight Little Faces (April), in addition to managing the long line of fans for a Karen Kingsbury signing of Take One (March). Bryan Williams, regional sales manager at Abingdon Press—which doubled its booth size this year to showcase their new fiction line—said they were “slammed” with traffic on Friday, with hundreds of attendees picking up galleys of Gone to Green (Aug.)by Judy Christie and Eye of the God (Oct.) by Ariel Allison.
At W.W. Norton, R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb (Oct.) was generating interest. “Everyone from newspaper reporters to bloggers to podcasters want to know why and how this cultural icon turned his attention on Genesis,” Louise Brockett, v-p and director of publicity, said. HarperOne also benefited from a 2010 title from a high-profile name, Made for Goodness by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, written with his daughter Rev. Mpho Tutu.
Baker Publishing Group, which didn’t have a corporate booth but had a presence in the African-American pavilion, was honored at the pavilion as Christian publisher of the year on Saturday. Baker has been ramping up effort on African-American titles; The Someday List by Stacy Hawkins Adams (Revell, Jan.) made the June Essence bestsellers lists.
Bigger and better spaces made CBA publishers happy. Linda Cunningham, v-p and editor-in-chief at Guideposts, was pleased about their location on the main floor, right next to Random House, and enjoyed near-constant traffic—ideal for “growing” their trade program’s fiction titles like Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life (Feb.)and nonfiction titles such as Susan Pohlman’s Halfway to Each Other (Sept.). Ryan Dunham, senior v-p of sales and marketing at David C. Cook, marveled about their booth’s placement, too, which generated meetings and book buzz. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to get a space on the main floor,” he explained.
Jonathan Merkh, v-p and publisher of Howard Books, the Christian imprint of Simon & Schuster, credited their show’s success to having just announced two major hires—Becky Nesbitt as v-p and editor-in-chief and Jennifer Willingham as v-p, publicity. “My meeting schedule with agents and authors has doubled as a result of the announcement,” Merkh said.
Click here for more BookExpo America 2009 coverage from PW.