Christian Book Expo Organizers Axe Plans for 2010 Show

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) will not host its second Christian Book Expo in 2010, according to an announcement late last week.

The decision by the ECPA board was made known to the association's membership last Sunday and relayed over the weekend to the rest of its members via e-mail.

"We have approximately $250,000 of debt remaining related to the event and want to get that cleaned up before we consider any future options," the ECPA reported.

Organizers of the inaugural Christian Book Expo were aiming for attendance close to 10,000 and even up to 20,000 but drew around 1,500 attendees and some 230 authors.

A review of CBE had found the decision to market the Mar. 20-22 event through Dallas-area churches to be one of the main factors in its "flawed concept," ECPA President and CEO Mark Kuyper told Christian Retailing magazine after the association's Executive Leadership Summit and Annual Member Meeting in Carlsbad, Calif.

Michael Hyatt, president and CEO of Thomas Nelson and chair of the ECPA's executive committee, had similarly noted insufficient marketing among the mistakes made in addition to the event's venue size, location, timing, inclusion of fee to attend, and budget.

"We spent all our money on the venue, production, and logistics. We should have downsized all of this and spent our money on marketing – especially on billboards and lots and lots of radio," he noted shortly after the show.

Furthermore, Hyatt added, the event overlapped with spring break.

"Thousands of people were on vacation. But the mothers who stayed home couldn't get away, because the kids were out of school and childcare would have been an added expense," he noted.

Should ECPA give it another go, Hyatt said they would re-launch it at a different time with a different model – a comment echoed this past week by ECPA's Kuyper.

"[I]t would be a very different looking event," Kuyper told Christian Retailing.

But before even getting back to drawing board, Kuyper said what first has to be taken care of is the accrued debt, which ECPA voting members have been asked to help cover through their annual membership dues – which range from $1,512 to $15,000, depending on revenues.

In the meantime, the ECPA intends to come up with more ideas that would help the association fulfill the mission it had set out with when it hosted the inaugural CBE.

"As we said during our presentation to the membership Sunday night, the challenge of lack of awareness about Christian books and authors among active, reading believers still remains," the association reported this past Friday. "We will continue to look for opportunities in the future where we can provide collaborative solutions to this challenge that are efficient and effective."

Held in Dallas, the inaugural Christian Book Expo featured 150 author-led workshops and seminars, as well as mini-events and evening programming. More than a quarter of the 389,000 square feet that the ECPA secured at the Dallas Convention Center for the Christian Book Expo had been designated as floor space for the exhibit hall, which featured more than 60 organizations representing tens of thousands of Christian books.

"If consumers had come, this would have been an incredible show," remarked Hyatt.

Unfortunately, however, "[t]he enormous scale of the Dallas Convention Center only highlighted the smallness of the crowd," he added.

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