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updated: 11/20/2014 9:02 PM

Self-published authors can enter Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author contest

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Christine Cigler

Illinois authors who have self-published an adult fiction book may enter the second year of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project until Monday, Dec. 15. The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is being coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association and Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and is supported by the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, the Public Library Association (PLA), Illinois Heartland Library System.

Submissions should be made electronically through the website, soontobefamous.info.

The winner of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project will spend a year being promoted in libraries throughout the state, participating in book signings, special presentations, media interviews, and conference appearances.

Librarians have long been a resource for recommending book titles to their patrons. As members of a highly trusted institution, their recommendations are valued by the public.

Today, librarians are becoming curators of self-published works as the volume of self-published titles continues to increase. Currently, one-third of bestsellers on Amazon are self-published.

This project was the brainchild of a group of library marketing professionals who were inspired by remarks made by New York University professor David Vinjamuri about the importance of libraries in an era of e-books. Vinjamuri challenged libraries to lift talented, self-published Illinois author to success based on librarians' recommendations, to demonstrate the influence libraries and librarians have over the public's reading selections.

The winner will be announced in April 2015 during National Library Week. A panel of judges--all Illinois librarians -- will select the winning entry.

At this time last year, Soon to be Famous 2014 winner Joanne Zienty was working as a school librarian in Des Plaines, spending her spare time sending manuscripts to publishers, attempting to bring her novel, "The Things We Save," to readers everywhere. The day she learned that Snooki, from the reality TV show "The Jersey Shore," had a publishing deal, and, presumably, a ghostwriter, was the day she decided to self-publish.

"That killed any remaining illusions I had about the publishing industry," she remembered.

Today, Zienty is busy promoting her self-published novel through personal appearances, book signings and media interviews as the first winner of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project.

Her book was chosen from more than 100 entries, all from self-published Illinois authors, and announced this past April 16th at an award ceremony at RAILS headquarters in Burr Ridge.

"We were so pleased at the success of the project last year," commented Dee Brennan, executive director of RAILS. "We ended up having to get more reviewers and more judges because we received so many entries from aspiring authors and their librarian supporters. It was a real indication of the growth and growing importance of self-publishing and made us more determined to bring these authors to public notice."

"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," continued Brennan. "Librarians are all about connecting readers with books (or viewers with films, etc.). So, it's our job to seek out the best books we can and deliver them to readers. We need to look beyond the traditional publishing world to include and support the aspiring authors who haven't been able to break through the publishing 'wall.' Who knows when we will find the next Gillian Flynn?"

A staff member from any type of Illinois library, public, academic, school or special, can sponsor a book for the project. The author must be an Illinois resident with a self-published book of adult fiction in digital format, be willing to provide copies of the book to the judging committee members, and be willing to promote his/her book at libraries and other venues in person or via Skype.

Complete details about the project as well as the entry form can be found at soontobefamous.info.

Questions? Contact any member of the project committee:

• Sue Wilsey, Niles Public Library, (847) 663-6405

• Christine Cigler, Fox River Valley Public Library District, (224) 699-5884

• Julie Stam, Eisenhower Public Library District, (708) 867-2290

• Donna Fletcher, Donna E. Fletcher Consulting, Inc., (847) 432-1972

• Nikki Zimmermann, LaGrange Public Library, 708-215-3277

• Anita Quinlan, Plainfield Public Library, (815) 436-6639 ext. 240

• Liz Clemmons, Gail Borden Public Library, (847) 429-4698

• Denise Raleigh, Gail Borden Public library, (847) 429-5981

• Jeanne Hamilton, Charleston Public Library, (217) 345-4913

• Lucy Tarabour, Clarendon Hills Public Library, (630) 323-8188