News for Pennsyslvania Libraries

Stack of Books

By Elizabeth Hess

It appears that we can no longer consider self-publishing a mere trend, if recent statistics are any indication! In 2014, Publisher’s Weekly reported on a study that found “self-published books now represent 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store” with “indie authors earning nearly 40% of the e-book dollars going to authors.” Since then, the number of self-published titles has only continued to rise. In the past, many considered self-published books to be inferior to their traditionally-published counterparts. Nowadays, authors of every professional experience level and genre can be found among the ranks of the self-published.

Many libraries are greeting the rising popularity of self-publishing by creating dedicated collections or simply adding books to their shelves, forming partnerships with local authors by organizing programming related to the self-published, and even designating library space for authors to work on their writing and receive help with the self-publishing process and technology instruction. Another way to reach and support the self-publishing community is by participating in the newly created Indie Author Day.

Self publishing tools of the trade

On October 8, 2016, many public libraries around the country celebrated the inaugural Indie Author Day– with author panels, author readings, writing workshops, and related programming. These celebrations helped those interested in self-publishing, connected local authors with each other, and exposed library patrons to the vast variety of self-published titles available. The event was designed to bring local writing communities together, while simultaneously publicizing this exciting, growing field. Planning to celebrate this event also offered public libraries the opportunity to discover helpful resources and products, like Pressbooks Public, BookLife, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), and more to reach, encourage, and support the work of self-publishers.

Libraries of every size and type can participate in Indie Author Day. The organizers of Indie Author Day even organized a live-streaming panel discussion on Youtube featuring a variety of participants representing the publishing, writing, and library communities. Libraries that registered to participate in this special day were able to stream the discussion to help their attendees gain information and receive encouragement- whether they are local independent authors or simply individuals interested in the topic. Across the country, a great number of libraries signed up to participate- an even more incredible number when you consider that this is the very first Indie Author Day!

Once Upon a TimeIn Pennsylvania, four libraries participated in Indie Author Day. The Foxburg Free Library in Foxburg hosted the live-stream and also organized multiple author talks and signings throughout the day during the Foxburg Fall Festival. Guthrie Memorial Library in Hanover offered a meet and greet with local authors, their own panel presentation, and the live-stream. In Wallingford, the Helen Kate Furness Free Library participated in Indie Author Day by inviting local independent authors of a variety of genres to meet their public, sell copies of their books, and attend the live-stream. Lower Macungie Library in Macungie hosted a panel discussion on independent publishing with the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group (GLVWG), who also presented a program on publishing in the 21st century.

Once libraries have connected with independent authors, they often receive donations from them asking that librarians responsible for collection development consider adding their title to the collection. Libraries interested in growing their self-published collections or considering such donations have earlier struggled due to the dearth of professional reviews of these works. Nowadays, a variety of services and resources help to correct this problem. Well-known Kirkus Reviews now offers “indie reviews.” Publisher’s Weekly reviews independently published books 6 times per year in the section “PW Selects”. IndieReader focuses solely on independently-published titles, and also curates self-published best-seller lists based on The New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best-seller lists.

Some libraries are investing in SELF-e, a discovery platform created by BiblioBoard, in conjunction withwoman seated withlaptop on lap, writing on a notebook Library Journal, which helps self-published authors expose their works to public libraries. At the same time, SELF-e allows public libraries who pay for the service to offer a means for authors to submit their works to the library, creating their own local, self-published collection. The SELF-e blog offers information for any library interested in supporting self-publishing- from an interview with Indie Author Day participants, to publicizing a free webinar (“I’m Indie You: Proven Ways to Engage Your Local Writing Community”) that offers ideas about how to develop strong ties with your self-publishing community. Libraries like the Upper Arlington Public Library in Ohio have subscribed to the service, offering their local writers a chance to reach public library patrons while the library itself grows a self-published collection.

Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) in Kansas created the Community Novel Project, where community members published a book set in Topeka, written together- each chapter penned by a different author. The library offers installments of the book weekly on their website, with free downloads available through Smashwords. Customers can even buy their own copy of previous Community Novel Projects through Amazon or at the library itself. TSCPL supports the development of skills related to writing and self-publishing by offering relevant workshops like “Fiction Writing Techniques” and “What Publishing Insiders Wished Authors Knew” for anyone who wants to get involved. In Illinois, the “Soon to be Famous Author Project” invites self-published authors to submit their work of fiction to a state-wide contest, judged by librarians who will choose and publicize the winner.

Libraries can embrace independent publishing in many ways- by scheduling a yearly celebration of independent publishing in honor of Indie Author Day, growing a local self-published collection, and supporting the work of self-published authors by providing helpful workshops, programming, instruction, and access to helpful technology. The incredible number and variety of self-published authors and titles guarantee you can find materials to interest and inspire your community. If you’re interested in planning an event for next year’s Indie Author Day, or simply want to support your local self-published authors, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in the library community.

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For more ideas on how to promote Basic and Civic and Social Literacy in your library, visit the PA Forward Commons and be sure to add your programs to the database by completing the PA Forward Commons Submission Form!


Caption for Author Panel Photo: “Self-Publishing, Tools of the Trade” by Blue Mountains Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0