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Spotlighting Self-Published Authors – the Challenge to Libraries

by on August 25, 2015

David Vinjamuri, academic and author, challenged librarians at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference to collectively influence the success of the self-published author, thereby creating a way to measure the power of libraries to affect books and reading. Denise Raleigh, of the Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin, Illinois, accepted the challenge and recruited Sue Wilsey, then of Niles Public Library (now of Helen Plum Public Library of Lombard) and Cris Cigler, then of Indian Prairie Public Library (now of Fox River Valley Libraries of Dundee).  The three librarians then all met with Dee Brennan of Reaching Across Illinois Libraries System. What they came up with is the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project™, which has now successfully completed its second year in naming a local self-published author as the winner. The success of this project shows that public libraries have influence on what their patrons read, and that this shouldn’t just be unique to Illinois. Public libraries in other states can work on starting their own versions of a self-published author rewards program, and in doing so stay current with their patrons, as well as highlight an industry that has exploded in recent years.

Self-publishing was something libraries considered amateur fluff when it began to flourish, but self-publishing is not a new business. Many famous authors have self-published in the past, including Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Stephen King, and E. L. James. The exponential increase in self-publishing began with the advent of technology, e-books, and more control and a higher percentage of profit to the author. At this point, Amazon’s self-published book sales are over 30%, offering the author 70% of the profit. Compared to the 8% to 15% revenues offered by publishers to their contracted authors, no wonder both amateurs and well-knowns are flocking to self-publishing.

Public libraries are feeling the pressure to showcase self-published works, and a great way to highlight this type of collection (available oftentimes digitally or as a print on demand title) is to showcase local authors. This is exactly what the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project™ is all about. In order to submit a self-published work, the writer must be a current Illinois resident and the work must be sponsored by an Illinois Library (including school and special libraries). For now, submissions must be Adult Fiction, but perhaps that may change as the project evolves. Additional information on the submission process can be found on the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project™ website. Beyond that, the website offers other Illinois libraries the opportunity to get involved, as well as an application for librarians to serve as a judge. In 2015, there were over 100 submissions by local authors. The 2016 applications are not available currently, but the project will be accepting nominations from October 12th, 2015, through January 4th, 2016.


1. “The Making of the Illinois Author Project.” American Libraries Magazine. Accessed July 23, 2015. http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/the-making-of-the-illinois-author-project/.

2. Barrington Library. It’s A Writingful Life: The Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgjAvSBkoKg.

3. “Soon to Be Famous (TM) Illinois Author Project.” Accessed July 23, 2015. http://soontobefamous.info/.

4. LaRue, James. “The Next Wave of Tech Change | Self-Publishing & Libraries.” Library Journal. Accessed July 23, 2015. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/10/publishing/self-publishing-and-libraries/the-next-wave-of-tech-change-self-publishing-libraries/.

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