Librarians have not always been willing to embrace self-published authors. It’s hard to spend limited dollars on an unproven book, and when it’s an e-only title, it’s even harder to add the book to the collection. But we can’t ignore self-publishing for long—last year, self-published books made up 32% of the Amazon best-seller list. How do libraries help their readers discover the gems? The Illinois Library Association has a solution: Allow librarians to select and narrow down titles of merit. So they created the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project, which recognizes and gives a boost to self-published authors. As finalist Mary Hutchings Reed said at the event, “There is no higher compliment to a writer than to have a librarian recommend your book.”
The award is the brainchild of library marketing professionals who were inspired after listening to a presentation by brand expert and NYU professor David Vinjamuri, who writes and speaks about the importance of libraries in the era of e-books and self-publishing. Vinjamuri wants libraries to wield their collective influence to lift a self-published author to success to create a measurable indicator of the power of libraries and librarians to affect books and reading. “David made the point again and again about how libraries are instrumental in promoting reading and literature. He issued a challenge to libraries to find an unknown talented Illinois author that will become a success based on librarians’ recommendations. So we are taking up the challenge! The purpose of this exciting project is twofold—give a talented author exposure and spotlight the importance of libraries to literature efforts,” said ILA Executive Director Robert Doyle.
“Libraries and librarians are experts at recognizing exceptional literature and promoting the works of authors. We are just taking this role a step further and transforming it into an exciting project for writers and libraries,” said Dee Brennan, Executive Director of RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System).
Librarians across the state nominated 103 self-published adult fiction titles, and more than 20 librarians served as judges. After a series of eliminations, three finalists were selected: Rick Polad, Carol Stream, was nominated by the Phillips Library at Aurora University for his book Change of Address; Mary Hutchings Reed, Chicago, was nominated for her work Warming Up by the Mount Prospect Public Library; and Joanne Zienty, Wheaton, was nominated by the Forest School Library in Des Plaines for her book The Things We Save. Zienty was awarded the top honor.
Photos from the event can be found in the Soon to Be Famous album on the RAILS Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/railslibraries; and a recording of the presentation will soon be available from the Gail Borden Public Library’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/deniseraleigh.
Visit the Soon to Be Famous Author page for more information on the finalists and their books at: http://soontobefamous.info.