The 11th annual Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit, held May 28—31 in St. Charles, Ill.—an hour west of Chicago and usually just in advance of BEA—appears not to have suffered any ill effects from the larger convention's move to New York this year. Booksellers who attend RBTE—primarily Catholic and Episcopal stores—find that the smaller show's highly targeted offerings meet their needs, according to RBTE co-organizer Peter Dwyer, director at Liturgical Press. "We learned over the years that most of those stores didn't bother to go into BEA even when it was in Chicago," he said. "I heard a couple say they were glad they didn't have to do both shows."

The last time BEA moved (in 1999 to L.A.) RBTE attendance numbers dipped slightly, but this year, with the two shows separated by a month, that was not the case. RBTE drew approximately 210 buying stores—the same as last year, but actually reflected an increase, since in 2001 all 20 Pauline Book and Media stores in North America were represented, while this year only the Boston-based national purchasing office was there. "We saw a number of new stores this year," said co-organizer Bob Byrns, publishing consultant to Liguori. He added, "We sold out the exhibit floor again, though a couple of gift companies were no-shows." Exhibitor numbers held steady at 158, 80 of them publishers, including six from overseas. Overall attendance was up by about 100. Though Byrns and Dwyer had expressed concern last year that BEA's relocation and timing would affect international attendance, the foreign presence remained strong. Although Hodder & Stoughton was not able to do both shows, PW spoke with Joanna Moriarty, editorial director of U.K. publisher SPCK, who last year had expressed doubts about being able to attend. "We couldn't miss it," said Moriarty. "This is such an important show for us." Lion's Tony Wales was another Brit who ended up making two trips across the pond in the span of month.

May 28 was Dealer Day, with a full slate of training sessions, association meetings and events. For the third year, Paraclete Press hosted an invitation-only marketing roundtable for small publishers, flying in Penguin Putnam director of religious publishing Joel Fotinos to speak on "The Mission of the Small Publisher." The session received an enthusiastic response, with comments like Servant president Don Cooper's: "I came in a day early just for this—wouldn't miss it." Paraclete's Carol Showalter noted that she launched the roundtable because "I knew we were all reinventing the wheel. The purpose was to help each other, rather than just be competitors. It saves us all time and energy." The roundtable is expected to be held again next year.

A Meeting of Meetings

The associations that serve the liturgical market—the Episcopal Booksellers Association, the Catholic Book Publishers Association and the nascent Catholic Booksellers Association—all held meetings at the show.

The big news for EBA was the appointment of Carol Brown to the newly created post of executive director. (Brown was marketing director at Wildcat Canyon/PageMill Press until it folded in September.) Formed five years ago, EBA now has 91 stores, with 63 paid members, according to Brown. In addition to holding its annual meeting, the CBPA presented a professional skills workshop on fostering reading among Catholics through church-based reading programs and store-hosted book clubs. "We want to do all we can to get book information down into the pews," CBPA director Terry Wessels told PW. The Catholic Booksellers Association, which began forming at RBTE last year and includes both U.S. and Canadian stores, now has 45 members, according to director Dan Pierson. "We held focus groups here, with the goal of learning what we need to do to help stores become more business-oriented," Pierson said. He hopes to secure a grant to conduct a store census, since "no one really knows how many Catholic stores there are, how big they are and so forth."

Doubleday brought John Allen, author of Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election (June) and Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, to speak to a packed luncheon audience of about 700. His book seeks to help laypeople understand the process of choosing a new pope—knowledge that may be needed sooner rather than later, in light of news reports of Pope John Paul II's increasing frailty.

Joe Durepos made his RBTE debut as senior acquisitions editor for Loyola Press, though he has attended the show many times before in his capacity as an agent. Editorial director Jim Manney called Durepos—who also has been a bookseller and a rep—"a creative, entrepreneurial addition" to the press's expanding staff. He added, "We are trying to understand more deeply our Jesuit roots and how that shapes our mission. The Jesuit view is that God is present and active in the world, and that's a good framework for a trade publishing program." Durepos noted that the current crisis in the church "offers the opportunity for a real reformation. It's a chance to demonstrate that Catholicism is not just a clerical culture but a people of God. That's why [press director] Father George Lane has called it 'the Good Friday before Easter Sunday.' "

At the Crossroads booth, Roy Carlisle was on hand to introduce his new imprint, Crossroad Carlisle, designed to help the primarily Catholic publisher reach "a broader Protestant audience with hints of evangelicalism." The first seven titles are due this fall; 10—15 titles per year are planned.

Though the geographical separation this year of RBTE and BEA did not cause the smaller show any problems, next year might be a different story, Byrns and Dwyer agreed, since BEA returns to its usual dates, immediately following RBTE. "But trade houses often have separate religion teams [to do shows], so we don't anticipate any problems," Byrns said.

RBTE 2003 will be held May 27—30 at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Ill.