According to a festively colored invitation sent out for a party at last month's ALA convention in San Francisco, Christopher Franceschelli, publisher of Handprint Books, and several of his colleagues have added a new word to the publishing lexicon: Inchpub. Inchpub is the name of a grassroots organization comprised of Independent Children's Book Publishers. The charter members—Boyds Mills, Charlesbridge, Chronicle, Front Street, Handprint, Holiday House, Lee & Low, Lerner, North-South, SeaStar, Publishers Group West, Ragged Bears and Walker & Co.—gathered in California for Inchpub's official launch event and "attracted 300 librarians, booksellers and other friends of children's books," Franceschelli estimated.

The idea for the group grew out of informal conversations among various independent publishers at conventions and lunches over the last several years, he explained. "We wanted to figure out how to generate a lot of enthusiasm for our books with limited resources. The result was a number of publishers pulling together to develop this organization."

By combining their efforts, these smaller companies hope eventually to create joint displays at regionals and other conferences, consolidate their advertising buying power and participate in joint promotions, among other things.

In a letter to friends and children's book professionals, Franceschelli stressed the independent publishers' commitment to "create and disseminate the best possible books for children" and "a spirit of fierce independence." Franceschelli commented, "Independent publishing is now done with a level of professionalism not seen in the past."

Moving forward, Franceschelli noted that several other publishers have committed to joining the group and that Boyds Mills will set up a Web site,, scheduled to go live in early fall. "It will be a way for us to communicate among ourselves; for instance, letting each other know about printing suppliers and other vendors," he said. And on the promotional/networking end of things, the ALA party proved so successful that it will become an annual tradition. "It's incredibly heartening to see that Inchpub is a cause that librarians and others are supporting," Franceschelli said.