Organizers say it's fitting that the winner of a statewide contest sponsored by libraries to bring recognition and readers to self-published authors is none other than a librarian.
Wheaton resident Joanne Zienty, a media specialist at the Forest School Library in Des Plaines, was named the winner of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Contest for her book, "The Things We Save."
She received the honor this month as part of National Library Week. Zienty's work was selected to be the focus of a year of book talks, author events and other promotions in Illinois public libraries.
"I get to be the face for this book and the person who gets to go out and promote the project," said Zienty, whose novel was selected from 103 works that were submitted.
In addition to bringing acclaim to a writer laboring in obscurity, librarians sponsored the contest in hopes of making the country's top publishers take notice of their power to be literary tastemakers by connecting books with readers. It's part of an effort to nudge top publishers to change prices and policies on selling e-books to libraries, practices that librarians say limit the ability of patrons to borrow.
Libraries often pay more for e-books than other consumers. Some publishers also limit the number of times an e-book can be lent, delay their availability to libraries and impose other restrictions.
Zienty's novel is about a woman who is estranged from her father but mends the relationship when she returns to her childhood home to help him clean it out in preparation for selling it.
It was chosen as the winner by 20 librarians from across the state who judged the contest.
Christine Cigler, public relations manager for the Fox River Valley Public Library District, said judges described the book "an emotional, haunting family saga that captured the sights and sounds of a working class South Side Chicago neighborhood."
They lauded the characters as strongly developed, complex, and believable.
"Several of the judges mentioned that they thought it would be a good choice for a book club, particularly citing a satisfying resolution and a riveting conclusion," Cigler said.
Zienty tried to get her book published the traditional way by getting an agent and a publisher. After sending out about 30 query letters to agents and not getting a bite she decided to self-publish the book.
She published the book on CreateSpace, a website for self-published works.
"I said I am putting it out there and let the chips fall where they may," she said.
Zienty said she now feels like she has a partnership with the libraries that will be working to introduce readers to her book. Even if a publisher would contact her with a request to publish her book, Zienty said she is not sure she would still want to go that route.
"If I can be the face of showing how powerful libraries are in influencing readers, I'm all for that," she said. "I'm going to love going out and meeting readers."