Winning the Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project helped boost her book sales, sure, but the best part was being invited to speak at libraries and book clubs, this year's contest winner said.
"The experience has been tremendous," said Geralyn Hesslau Magrady of Berwyn, author of the historical novel "Lines."
"It's really enjoyable for me to hear people talk about the characters. It helps me with ideas about book two."
As the Jan. 7 deadline approaches to enter the 2017 contest, organizers hope to spark similar initiatives at libraries across the country.
"We have spoken at a number of conferences because we think this is such a wonderful project for libraries to take on," said Denise Raleigh of Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. "At the end of the day, our very first job as libraries is to bring good reads to our customers -- and good reads come in all formats. They are not all from the big five publishers."
The contest, now in its fourth year, is open to self-published adult fiction writers who live in Illinois. Contestants need to contact their local library to be nominated, and entries must be available in e-book format.
The winner, to be announced in April, will get a $1,000 prize sponsored by the software media company BiblioBoard, will be reviewed by Library Journal and will be made available via the Reaching Across Illinois Library System.
The 2016 contest featured about 45 books -- the first year had 103 -- with more than 100 libraries throughout Illinois participating, Raleigh said.
If similar contests take place in other states, librarians across the country could inform their customers about the winning books, she said.
"Books don't stop at state lines. If a great book is detected by libraries in another state, we would like to share that with our readers," Raleigh said.
To further spread the word, Raleigh and Magrady will talk about the Illinois contest during a free webinar Wednesday offered by Library Journal called "An Indie Sate of Mind: Finding and Celebrating the Best Local Authors in Your State or Region."
Raleigh spearheaded the contest in 2013 along with Sue Wilsey of Helen Plum Memorial Library in Lombard and Cris Cigler of Fox River Valley Public Library District.
"We have always believed that this would be a model that other states could follow," Cigler said. "In terms of suggestions of what to read, librarians are in a unique position of being able to curate materials from lesser-known authors."
Self-published books declined this year to less than 40 percent of the e-book market share, according to the October report by Author Earnings.