Christian Book Expo: Not For Us?

I don’t know of a single Christian publisher who is NOT attending Christian Book Expo.
—Michael S. Hyatt (President and CEO, Thomas Nelson), September 2008

Back in September, Sue Dent wrote a blog about the Christian Book Expo; Michael Hyatt responded with the statement above.

My initial reaction was that either Mr. Hyatt is being:
a. condescending,
b. overly optimistic, or
c. held captive in his ivory tower without the requisite golden locks to freedom.

I wanted to, but didn’t respond because I was working long hours to keep my own little publishing venture whistling along and I had to attend to a family emergency back in Canada. More important matters came to my attention and I forgot all about it.

This weekend, while reading an industry newsletter, the Christian Book Expo came up again and reminded me of what Mr. Hyatt had written here. It made me curious enough to do some research and then respond today—not that I have any more time than I did in September, but now I have some things to say!

Not that Mr. Hyatt gives a rat’s banana, but TWCP is one Christian publisher who will not be at the CBE.

Why not?

1. TWCP’s budget will not stretch to accommodate the $29.75/ square foot cost of a 100 sq. ft. booth (total $2975).

Hmmm, TWCP could share the expense with someone else and the cost would be more doable at $1487.50. (non-ECPA member price)

Wait! if two groups share the booth, then each has to pay an additional $500. $1987.50 is still steep for one-half of a 6 foot table. (http://christianbookexpo.com/pdf/CBE-Pricing.pdf).

2. Because TWCP operates on a budget that in no way resembles the large Christian publishers, I have to choose events responsibly. My usual process is to attend an event as an observer one year, scope out the situation, ask questions, observe, and then make a decision about attending the next year.

This is the CBE’s first year, so I can’t do that. So, I could be an observer in 2009—but need to weigh the cost of airfare and hotel (and entry fee, which I can’t find anywhere) against other possibilities for book promotion.

3. TWCP isn’t a member of the ECPA.

ECPA

Small Press Member
Member Application
For evangelical publishers with annual sales less than $1M.
(A letter of recommendation from a Voting ECPA Member is required.)

Annual Dues: $600 Member Application

We don’t qualify to be a member (except for the <$1M annual sales!). TWCP does not necessarily publish evangelical books—jeepers, some of our authors are even CATHOLIC! (Yup, the truth is out) who write from a Catholic worldview. Oh, and some of the authors may even be Democrats. Shudder.

But more to the point, the type of speculative fiction we publish does not appeal to the same market as the fiction produced by ECPA houses. In fact, the market to which the CBA appeals would consider many of our offerings to be un-Christian (you know, sci-fi, cyberpunk, horror, role-playing games and all those bad things).

Even if we could afford to attend the CBE, I am not at all convinced that the time, effort and cost would be an efficient and effective use of the marketing budget.

So, Mr. Michael S. Hyatt, now you know of one Christian publisher who will not be attending the Christian Book Expo. FYI.

Cynthia MacKinnon

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