The story goes that everyone has a book in them. And despite a literary reputation that's often sniffed at, L.A. has more than its fair share of writers.

But getting published can be difficult. And if authors self-publish, it can be hard to get noticed. The Los Angeles Public Library's new digital Self-e system might change that. 

Self-e's Indie California section; Credit: Biblioboard

Self-e's Indie California section; Credit: Biblioboard

Through the system, any author can submit an unlimited number of his or her own books — whether already published or fresh out of the laptop — straight to L.A. Public Library for possible inclusion as an e-book. (There are also many other brand-name e-books already in the LAPL's system.) But make no mistake: Self-e isn’t a place for misspelled fan fiction or porn epics, and not all of the submitted books will make it through. The library insider mag Library Journal sorts through the submissions and picks the ones that get in (105 titles so far) and selects some of those as the “best” (23 so far), with additions every quarter. (The next set is going to be announced at the end of April.)  

The titles include all the typical genres — children, young adult, nonfiction, adult mystery, fiction, romance and fantasy — and cover everything from poetry and academia to self-help, erotica, and even learning to play the ukulele. They're also split into sections for each state or publisher involved, with the Indie California section containing books about California or by authors based here. (The system is also being rolled out in libraries in Arizona, Massachusetts, Ohio and others, who have their own too.)

At a recent launch event in the Mark Taper Auditorium, city librarian John Szabo described Self-e as a home for all kinds of stories, with Indie California specifically a kind of future database of California life. “While I want people to be successful and creative with fiction or romance or YA stories that perhaps find a publisher or new readers, I’m just as excited about people submitting their life stories, and the library having a role as a memory-keeper for L.A’s history, diversity and communities,” he said. 

Though getting your book into the Self-e section doesn't earn you any royalties, it means you can send your L.A. story straight to readers, which is ideal for Laurie Stevens, the lady behind the Detective Gabriel McRay series whose thriller Deep Into Dusk is in the Self-e system.

Deep Into Dusk cover; Credit: Laurie Stevens

Deep Into Dusk cover; Credit: Laurie Stevens

Det. McRay spends a lot of his time investigating around the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu and what Stevens calls “Hollyweird.” The next book in the series will place him in his home in Santa Monica “and then in a secret room in Corral Canyon in Malibu, near that strange stone prayer circle,” she says.

She’s one of a new breed of hybrid authors, who may have a traditional deal with a royalty-paying publisher, but also opt for self-publishing or POD (print on demand) for higher financial returns — or just greater control.

“I thought that this could really open up a new arena for independent publishers, and I wanted to be a part of it,” she says. “What I’m hoping for here is more exposure. Let’s see where it leads.”

Then there’s Arabesque, Cherie Magnus’s memoir about her love of dance and her student life in UCLA in the 1960s. A former reference librarian at the L.A. Public Library, she took early retirement when she was diagnosed with cancer. Then, “when I found I couldn’t afford to live in Los Feliz anymore,” she says, she decided to spend time in France, Mexico and Argentina teaching tango.

Arabesque cover; Credit: Cherie Magnus

Arabesque cover; Credit: Cherie Magnus

As a self-published author, she has found the task of getting noticed by readers “extremely frustrating,” she says, but when she returned to L.A. last year after 13 years abroad and began working again for the library, she found out about the Self-e program and submitted her “love poem to L.A.”

Over the coming months and years, more and more books will be added, and that's a chance at digital library immortality for every writer tapping away in a coffee shop or organizing old photos into a family scrapbook.

To see the books visit

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