The 2016 institute includes a veritable who’s who of small press authors and publishers. For some, such as Tucker Stone, U.S. sales and marketing director for Nobrow Press and its Flying Eye Books children’s imprint, coming back for the second year in a row seemed like a “no-brainer.” As soon as he learned that CI would be held back-to-back with ALA, he signed on.

Tucker had no difficulty choosing which author to bring. (Small presses can only bring one each.) “With retailers, they’ll just tell you what they want,” he says, referring to the indie groundswell that helped make William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey (2014) a success. Grill received the U.K.’s Kate Greenaway Medal for the book, which was also a New York Times Best Children’s Illustrated Book of 2014. Grill will sign copies of his new book, The Wolves of Currumpaw (July).

Ever since CI became a standalone conference in 2014, Soho Press has made it a regular addition to its schedule. “Each one is better than the last,” senior publicity manager Meredith Barnes says. “The opportunity to meet new booksellers from around the country is unprecedented.” Soho contributes to the gathering in other ways, too, such as by sponsoring a bookseller scholarship.

Soho will bring Justine Larbalestier to CI 4, taking advantage of a visit to the States by the writer, who lives half the year in Australia. Her new novel, the psychological thriller My Sister Rosa (Nov.), is about a 17-year-old boy who thinks that his 10-year-old sister is a diagnosable psychopath. Barnes values the face time that authors get at CI 4 with booksellers, who she thinks will appreciate Larbalestier’s research into psychopathy and the class- and gender-based biases in the diagnosis of such disorders.

In April, Fabled Films Press released The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, the inaugural book of a series by Tracey Hecht, who as the press’ founder is also using CI to introduce it to booksellers. Fabled Films is partnering with its distributor, Consortium, at the conference. Pre-CI, Hecht reached out to booksellers via a prepub tour to five cities and appeared on a panel at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s Fall Discovery Show last year.

“Part of our overall marketing plan is to hit three groups,” says Stacey Ashton, the head of operations for sales and marketing at Fabled Films Press. “We have to get to the independent booksellers, the librarians, and the teachers. To have CI and ALA together is advantageous because in theory you can get [all] three.”

Ashton stresses the importance of building relationships for a new press. Fabled Films has already developed some partnerships with children’s booksellers. Book one in the Nocturnals series is one of 40 Indie Next children’s titles this summer. Booksellers at the conference will be able to get copies of book two, The Nocturnals: The Ominous Eye (Sept.).

Cinco Puntos Press will also be represented by Consortium at CI, marketing director and CFO John Byrd says. This will give the El Paso, Tex., press the opportunity to send Sonia Patel, author of Rani Patel in Full Effect (Oct.), to Orlando. Her novel was the only small press book to be part of the YA Buzz Panel at last month’s BookExpo America.

Canada’s Pajama Press will introduce Kari-Lynn Winters, the author of Good Pirate (Sept.), to booksellers with the help of distributor IPS and marketing consultant Ellen Myrick, of Myrick Marketing & Media. This time the sea pup is under orders from her father, the Captain, to give up fancy things. She questions why a pirate can’t be sneaky, brainy, and fancy.

The back-to-back CI and ALA events are more of a mixed blessing for at least one small press. To attend both, Enchanted Lion Books publisher Claudia Zoe Bedrick will have to fly to Orlando twice from her home in Brooklyn. “I can’t really leave for that long,” she says. And she can’t miss ALA, because Beatrice Alemagna’s The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy, published by Enchanted Lion and translated from the French by Bedrick, will receive the Mildred L. Batchelder Award.

Despite the inconvenience, Bedrick wanted to be at CI. “We just kept hearing really great things about it,” she says. Part of what made it more affordable was her decision to skip BEA in Chicago and to share her presentation and expenses with Toon Books. “It’s a nice moment of independent publishers sharing time with independent booksellers,” Bedrick says.

Bedrick has been thinking about coming to CI for several years and is looking forward to spending “quality time” with booksellers. She’ll be presenting The Gold Leaf (Feb. 2017), illustrated by Montreal artist Matt Forsythe. He is lead designer for Adventure Time at the Cartoon Network; the first picture book he illustrated, My Name Is Elizabeth! (Kids Can Press), was a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2011.

As for how small presses hope to stand out at CI, that’s not really an issue. “Books are very expensive to produce; our margins aren’t that great,” Bedrick says. “We’re doing something very different. I can really only do my business.”

Flying Eye’s Stone adds, “One of the reasons I find books to be attractive [is that] we’re all in the same thing. I don’t really think about [competition].”

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