As part of my 2014 New Year's Resolutions [found here] I said I was actively trying to be more involved in my state library association. Along with being on the ILA Conference Committee and working with ARRT to start up and now work toward picking a winner of the first annual ILA RA Award, I was also asked to be a judge for the inaugural Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project. This week, I will begin those duties.
What is the Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project? From their press release:
Illinois libraries hope to discover an unknown self-published author whose work will jump off the page for readers.The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project will be accepting adult fiction submissions from Illinois residents via their local libraries. The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author will be announced during National Library Week, April 13 to 19, 2014.
Local librarians think it is time for them to join together to show publishers their power and highlight the e-book pricing issues they face. The Soon to be Famous contest was inspired by David Vinjamuri, a brand expert and marketing professor at New York University who spoke at the library association's annual conference in 2013.
"Publishers see them as competitors and not as a resource," he said.
Libraries have long proved their staying power, but he said they are failing to work together to show their ability to guide readers toward books.
"We have a public institution that persistently and cleverly has pushed this form of engagement for thousands of years," he said. "They are a trusted brand. That's why they can step in and create new brands for authors."
While librarians are looking to demonstrate their influence, authors see the contest as a way to break through a difficult model that relies on a publisher or agent to become their advocate.This project hits at everything I am trying to do in my work with readers, so when a former student who is on the committee asked me to be involved, I could not say no without contradicting myself. This was even before I planned to make working more with my state library association a 2014 priority.
So it all begins tomorrow when I pop by the Eisenhower Library (on my way to another meeting) to pick up a few manuscripts of unpublished authors in order to vet them for inclusion in the awards process.
This is my first time being a judge for any writing contest, but I am excited to be a part of a new writer’s success and to use this award as a chance to show publishers why they need to take libraries more seriously. We may offer books “for free” but we are building life long readers.
Although I cannot discuss my opinion on the books themselves here on the blog, I will have periodic posts about the process. I know one of the goals of this program is not only for it to be successful here in Illinois, but for it to eventually be replicated all over the country.