A week ago today, I gave a safe-travels hug to a Florida Christian bookseller, then hefted the two-pound bag of Phoenix Roasters coffee that I’d won in a drawing and headed to my car. It was time to leave the Christian Product Expo (CPE) in Concord, North Carolina, where I’d spent the last three action-packed days.
But I didn’t want to leave; I was having a blast. My first trip to the CPE had been a resounding success. When I signed up to attend, I’d expected something similar to the Consumer Electronics Show where I’d been managing editor of the daily trade show newspaper for a couple years. While both expos featured a massive floor lined with booths, the CPE had a more low-key, everybody-knows-everybody atmosphere. Kind of like a family reunion.
Its vendors featured all things Christian from books to hand-forged steel sculptures. Buyers wandered the floor, engaging in friendly conversation with retailers. During the hours when I staffed the Redemption Press (RP) booth, I met dozens of booksellers and gift shop owners willing to share their missions on how they’re reaching out to non-believers.
For instance, one bookstore owner actually clapped her hands when she saw the cover of my book. She told me that her community hosts a Harry Potter Festival every year. During the festival, she features young adult Christian books in her front window to offer revelers other reading options. She said she’d put my book front and center this year. How cool is that?
The first evening I attended what’s called a Personality Party. Authors are invited to decorate high-top tables and autograph books for the booksellers, who like to meet the authors face-to-face before placing orders. The party began at 4:30 p.m. with my table closest to the door. My publisher had been smart with that placement to ensure attendees had to walk by my table before reaching the more established authors located at the end of the hall. When I looked at my watch again, it was 6:30 p.m. and I’d signed 60 books. I later joined hundreds of attendees for a pre-Super Bowl dinner of pizza and wings, then watched the first quarter of the game with them. What a fun night!
Redemption Press hosted a series of sessions for writers Monday and Tuesday. I found myself in classes with authors from other publishers and aspiring writers who owned bookstores and gift shops—a diverse mix of Christians intent on furthering the good word. I learned about psychographics, artificial intelligence, and TubeBuddy. Who knew?
I walked the main floor with several RP authors Monday afternoon. With amazement, we ran into multiple people we’d met at various writer’s conferences. I stumbled upon Tina Yaeger, Larry Leech, and Vincent Davis in my first circuit. Later I discovered Billie Jauss, whose son had lived with my brother’s family as a foreign exchange student for five months in Munich. I also discovered the debut novel of my critique partner, Candice Yamnitz, prominently displayed on an Iron Stream Media shelf.
I can’t wait to learn how The Demons Among Us fared with the retailers. But even if the orders are low, I still slayed my inner demon of nervousness. I survived my first major book signing and my first radio interview (more on that in another blog).
What’s your experience with expos?