Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project Leads the Way to National and International Competition
March 25, 2019
Lucy Tarabour, Clarendon Hills Public Library
Since 2013, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project (STBF) has partnered with more than one hundred Illinois libraries and librarians, given hundreds of self-published authors new opportunities to get their works read (and evaluated by librarians!), built a relationship with BiblioBoard to increase our reach and power, expanded to other states, and more. The result has been increased exposure for self-published authors, new reading experiences for library patrons, and new opportunities for the public, authors, writers’ groups, readers, and even librarians to interact in new and different ways with their libraries. This is the power of libraries.
And how that power has grown! Illinois libraries have enthusiastically supported the project from the start, and the success of the STBF model caught nationwide attention.
In alignment with the multi-state Indie Author Project, STBF will expand to include winners in both adult and young adult fiction this year. Also, seeking new ways to support indie authors who are still in the manuscript stage of their work, the STBF committee added a manuscript contest to its initiatives in 2018. The group put out the call and received 35 unpublished manuscripts. At this writing, 18 manuscripts have moved on to the semi-final judging round. The winner will be announced on the afternoon of April 16 at a live-streamed event just before the Digital Public Library of America conference in Chicago, April 17–19, 2019. The stream can be accessed at soontobefamous.info. The author of the winning manuscript will receive professional editing and cover design, self-publishing guidance from the STBF committee and past winners, and automatic entry into the 2020 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest with semi-finalist status. “Piloting the manuscript project was really appealing for the STBF committee because it was a new and different way to reach out to local authors,” committee member Kate Buckson said.
SO HOW DID ALL THIS COME ABOUT?
Partnerships with BiblioBoard and Library Journal opened up all kinds of possibilities.When BiblioBoard began working with Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS), it became evident that its mission was closely aligned with the STBF committee’s efforts to encourage and support indie authors and bring the best self-published titles to readers. For those of us who remember the challenges of the first year of the contest, struggling with the logistics of getting actual physical books from authors to judges—in the middle of winter, no less—the BiblioBoard customizable submission pages and capacity to allow judges simultaneous, easy access to all entries was exactly what was needed to make this project practical and much easier to replicate. The stage was set for the Indie Author Project to grow.
Library Journal began working with BiblioBoard in 2014 with the inception of SELF-e, BiblioBoard’s eBook discovery program for connecting self-published authors with public libraries and their patrons. With STBF as a model, the two partners collaborated on several indie author contests and initiatives by leveraging the trusted vetting process used by Library Journal with BiblioBoard software. By 2018, the indie author contest that had existed only in Illinois spread to eight states—Illinois, California, Missouri, Minnesota, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The movement continues to grow with North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and the first international location, Ontario, Canada jumping on board this year.
When asked about working with the STBF committee, Emily Gooding of BiblioBoard commented, “The goal of the Indie Author Project to foster communities of local authorship while providing patrons with access to a growing collection of diverse and exciting new literary voices really reflects and reaffirms BiblioBoard’s primary mission....The Soon to Be Famous team has been an incredible ally from the start in helping us to further that mission.”
The possibilities are enormous! With more states running indie author contests every year, not to mention participation outside the United States, imagine how many talented yet undiscovered authors can be connected with readers in the future. The manuscript contest is also ripe for replication, and additional ideas about school classroom short story projects are being considered as well. And if you are attending DPLAfest2019 hosted at Chicago Public Library this April, please drop by the program, “The Indie Tidal Wave,” as STBF is proud to be part of this giant surge.
Visit the STBF website at soontobefamous.info.
Do you want to bring new titles to your readers? Are you looking for ways to support writers in your community? Talk to us. Contact the STBF team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current members of the STBF team include:
• Eva Baggilli, Chicago Ridge Public Library
• Kate Buckson, LaGrange Park Public Library
• Jeffrey Fisher, Fountaindale Public Library
• Denise Raleigh, Gail Borden Public Library
• Julie Stam, Eisenhower Public Library
• Lucy Tarabour, Clarendon Hills Public Library
• Sue Wilsey, Helen Plum Memorial Library
• Nikki Zimmermann, Reaching Across Illinois Library System