Located in Amazon's front yard, the SPL recently launched a writing contest for local prospective authors. As part of its ongoing Seattle Writes program, the library has partnered with Smashwords to encourage writers to make the leap from wannabee to actual. The contest is open to anyone and everyone who holds an SPL library card, and entering the contest is as simple as signing up for Smashwords and submitting a story, novel, or other work.
Geekwire beat me to the story yesterday:
Librarian Andrea Gough, who is part of SPL’s Millennial Factor Project group, says this is one of a handful of pilots funded through a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to reach out to 18-30 year olds. When they were asked, millennials told the library they were interested in literary and creative writing classes. “Since the Library already offers creative writing classes,” Gough explains, “We felt the addition of an eBook publishing platform was an exciting and natural extension.”
Smashwords was selected, Gough says, “because of their expertise – they are one of the only self-publishing platforms that has worked with public libraries.”
You can find more details on the contest here.
The Seattle Public Library is by no means the first library to work with local authors, but it is one of only a handful of public libraries that works with prospective authors. A quick Google search will tell you that almost all libraries have programs for local authors to come in and give readings, answer questions, and interact with library patrons. A few public libraries, including the Detroit Public Library, even encourage authors to submit a print copy of their work for inclusion in the library catalog.
But not nearly as many are set up to assist aspiring authors.
Some, like Loudoun County Public Library, have installed an Espresso Book Machine and invite local writers to have their works printed. The POD equipment is expensive, though, so the number is limited.
Other public libraries, including the SPL and Hartford County Public Library in Maryland, have partnered with Smashwords and actively work to help local writers self-publish their work. The Seattle Public Library mentions that they offer " workshops on the craft of writing, write-ins, author panels, classes on digital publishing". It's not clear from the website when or if those events are scheduled, but they do offer links to resources an aspiring writer needs.
The HCPL, on the other hand, offers more visible help to prospective authors than the Seattle Public Library. I was surprised to learn while researching this story that they are hosting a writer's conference in September:
The Just Write. Writers Conference brings in successful regional authors to work with community writers of all levels and genres. You'll learn from and get advice from the pros, the ones who have been there, written that! In addition to great hands-on workshops and panel discussions, pick and choose options give you the opportunity to have your manuscript or story idea critiqued by a seasoned author or share your lunch with an author and learn about their road to success. Jump-start your writing, whether you are beginning a project, editing your work, or looking to get your book read!
The Seattle Public Library's contest is an excellent starting point for any would-be author, but if you want to get your ebook into a public library you should consider using a different distributor. Smashwords does distribute ebooks to OverDrive, the leading library ebook supplier, but they are unfortunately segregated in a ghetto. I have read numerous reports that librarians have trouble finding ebooks from Smashwords, much less buying them.
image by alexkerhead