Librarians have long sought more guidance on self-published books as well as books by authors of color. Aiming to answer both needs is a new award offered by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and BiblioBoard (the company that partners with LJ on SELF-e), called the SELF-e Literary Award.
BCALA already holds annual awards for the best traditionally published print debut novel, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by African American authors. The new competition will be similar: it will honor the top self-published fiction and poetry ebooks by African American authors who were born in the United States, with the winners receiving $500, formal recognition at the Black Caucus of the ALA Literary Awards, and a BCALA Literary Award Seal to use on their books. Not only is the lauding of self-published books a first for the BCALA, the new award will also be the group’s first to recognize digital content. The 2016 award will honor Cynthia Hurd, an African American library manager who was recently murdered in the AME Church shooting in Charleston.
Submissions (see guidelines) began in June and will continue through December. The winners will be selected and announced in January 2016 by a BCALA-appointed panel; the books will also be formally recognized at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL.
BiblioBoard founder and Chief Business Officer Mitchell Davis comments about the new awards that, “As publishing continues to evolve in the digital era, it is clear that self-published authors will play an ever increasing role in the literary landscape. Efforts like this,” he continued, “help authors get the recognition they deserve and help readers to find important books. It also places libraries at the center of the indie movement and insures they can positively influence book culture now and into the future.”
Kelvin Watson, current BCALA president, welcomes the initiative too, particularly noting its importance in meeting the goals outlined by the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) initiative, which are to get more books into readers’ hands that represent a change from what’s currently widely available, such as small press books and works by authors of color. The #weneediversebooks campaign is one of Library Journal’s 2015 Movers and Shakers and School Library Journal has partnered with it to produce a booktalking kit. “Working with SELF-e is another way for the BCALA to continue our service as advocates for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services to the nation’s African American community,” says Watson. “SELF-e is an excellent tool to assist in connecting and being more inclusive,” he added.