The 9th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO 9) will commence June 01, 2023!
And I am happy to announce that I am returning as part of the BEFORE WE GO BLOG SPFBO judging team!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the whole concept and process of SPFBO, and what BEFORE WE GO BLOG's part (and mine) in the contest is, here follows a detailed explanation.
SPFBO is an annual contest designed for English-language fantasy writers and readers. The patron and host of SPFBO is well-known British Grimdark fantasy author Mark Lawrence.
Mark has penned ground-breaking books such as the internationally best-selling Broken Empire Series. You can learn all about Mark Lawrence and his outstanding books here: https://www.marklawrence.buzz/
Altruistically, although he is a traditionally-published best-selling fantasy author, Mark Lawrence created SPFBO. He wanted to design a vehicle for his self-published brethren, so we may potentially one day acquire the sort of success he currently enjoys.
The purpose of the SPFBO contest is to shine a light on self-published fantasy books, promoting the fact that there are more than solely great traditionally-published literary works in the genre. SPFBO is a phenomenal opportunity to increase the credibility and visibility of self-published fantasy books.
Despite the considerable recognition of the host Mark Lawrence as a top fantasy author, and all the acclaim the contest has garnered to-date - surprisingly - many self-published authors have never even heard of SPFBO. Since there are many wonderful awards and prizes open to independent authors, I suppose even one so prominent as SPFBO can escape attention.
But, as every year passes, I would submit that SPFBO is becoming widely acknowledged as THE premier competition that self-published fantasy authors can enter.
For this year's competition, the entries filled up, and the contest was closed in record time, under an hour!! That's how popular and sought-after being part of SPFBO has become.
Read about SPFBO, its rules, and why you, a self-published fantasy author, should consider entering here: https://mark---lawrence.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-official-self-published-fantasy.html
Here is how SPFBO operates: fantasy novels are submitted by their authors to the SPFBO website. Then the novels are distributed to 10 prominent fantasy blogging sites (who are essentially the judges) for review. Nominally, 300 books maximum are selected, based on a first-come, first-serve basis. The books selected are divided as evenly as possible amongst the blogging sites. So, each blogging site has a pile of approximately 30 books to review.
Next, each individual blogging site has the task of choosing ONE finalist from among their 30 books. Thus, there are a total of 10 finalists. Then, those 10 finalists are subjected to further scrutiny by ALL 10 blogging sites. The overall winner of the contest is the finalist amongst those 10 who receives the highest average review score received from the blogging sites.
Still, I can think of no more prestigious and impactful award out there right now in the world of self-published writers than SPFBO. The ability to have top bloggers review your work cannot be understated. The potential for increased sales due to exposure from the contest is considerable. Some independent authors have even found agent or traditional publishing contracts specifically because of their success in SPFBO.
SPFBO6 winner Justin Lee Anderson, author of The Lost War, recently signed with Ian Drury of Sheil Land Agency, on the heels of his big victory. Besides Anderson, the list is growing quite long of SPFBO winners, finalists, semi-finalists, or even authors whose books did not survive the first cut, who have moved on to secure book deals directly or indirectly because of the exposure they received from SPFBO. Among them: Devin Madson, Jonathan French, Alexander Darwin, Josiah Bancroft, to name a few.
Fair warning: Mark Lawrence himself cautions that the primary purpose of SPFBO is not for self-pub authors to get book deals, and reminds us that many self-pub authors are happy to remain self-published, for all the advantages self-publishing offers. Moreover, no one should EXPECT SPFBO to automatically help you become traditionally-published. It's only a (small) possibility it can.
Some of the main benefits of SPFBO are the collecting of reviews from distinguished bloggers, gaining of awareness of more great fantasy books, the incredible contacts and connections to be made with more people in the writing community, and the sense of camaraderie and fellowship that participating in such an event would bring. SPFBO is not a traditional literary contest. One doesn't just typically submit their entry, and forget about it, until winners are announced. It's a special, often once-in-a-lifetime experience for an author, and it can be a great bonding experience to be shared with fellow entrants.
There is a real hype and buzz about SPFBO. It is a year-long contest, where there are seemingly endless social media chats and groups devoted to analyzing and exploring the works of all 300 entrants. Entrants themselves form their own groups to get to know each other, support each other, brainstorm about writing, get writing feedback, do cross-promotion, and more. Most of the eyes of fantasy bloggers, and fantasy indie writers who are not even participating in the contest, are squarely trained on SPFBO for a good portion of the year. There is even an awesome cover competition as part of the contest!
And believe me, there are lots of fantasy readers doing the same! Particularly once the ten finalists are announced! Then the attention becomes even more intense! And even as the winner is about to be announced, the hype starts all over again for the next contest!!!
The entire fantasy community really comes together for it. Blogger, authors, readers, and many stakeholders in the self-publishing industry chat, get to know each other, uplift each other, and learn about wonderful authors and phenomenal books that otherwise may have conceivably gone more unnoticed.
My advice to self-published authors pondering entering SPFBO: it's too great an opportunity to pass up, so enter your book if you qualify. Many of us in the self-published community struggle to get our books reviewed by anyone, much less top bloggers.
And while of course being judged by bloggers can be scary, there's a lot of confidence in the blogging community amongst self-published authors. Bloggers do a very crucial and sometimes arduous job, for free. We try to do it as professionally, objectively, and compassionately as possible.
You may get an endorsing review, or a not-so-positive one, but you are absolutely guaranteed a FAIR one. That is all a writer can ask for. And typically, that means that the bloggers will highlight great aspects of your book that will help market it to the world, even if it was not their cup of tea overall.
So if you're a self-published author, looking to increase exposure of your work, what better way to address this issue than to enter SPFBO?
As I noted, the prestigious blogging site BEFORE WE GO BLOG, led by the incredible Beth Tabler, plays a role in this year's SPFBO. https://twitter.com/BethTabler
BEFORE WE GO BLOG is one of the ten blogging sites who have assembled teams of bloggers, serving as judges for the competition. The team this year consists of the following (Twitter handles attached):
@maedbtwnpages @KrystleMatar @plstuartwrites @1ChiLou @jasonats @WhitneyRReads @dshaggyshepherd @duchessofreadin @Luke_Winch @DrJohnmauro @tyra_leann
The first step our BEFORE WE GO BLOG takes is, under Beth's direction and guidance, we split the 30 books assigned to us between our SPFBO9 team. We do a "slush-pile" evaluation of most of the books at the start. That means - as a literary agent would when trying to determine which pitches merit further consideration for acceptance - most of our bloggers read about 10-15 % of each novel, to get a feel for the book.
Of course, some bloggers will read an entire novel regardless of whether or not they plan to recommend it for semi-final placement, but it's not required. There is alignment amongst team members about which books move onto to semi's, and which unfortunately get cut.
Then, from the semi-finalist group, books are again divided amongst the team, there are further reviews conducted, and once more a measure of consensus about which book will ultimately be chosen as our blog's champion / finalist. We will then read and review the other finalists from the other blogs, as will the other blogs, to determine the Self-Stick winner!
Every blog operates somewhat differently, however Beth also encourages our team to provide at least one full review, if not multiple reviews from different members of our blog team, including buy links for where to purchase the author's book.
We fully appreciate it can be tough to get cut, especially at the initial stages. Please try to remember, a blogger may not necessarily find a particular book to their specific taste, but we generally attempt to highlight the positive aspects of a writer’s work, as well as what didn't work so well for us.
Even if we did not enjoy a certain book for whatever reason, that does not mean that book may not be exactly what someone else wants to read! We are endeavouring to get the word out there about a book, it can potentially lead the perfect reader to that book!
As we all are aware, reading tastes are very subjective, and it is not the blogger’s goal to turn readers away from books, but rather to turn them towards the books that are best suited to their reading preferences. We have a genuine desire to bring exposure to the hard work of authors!
Additionally, a reminder: great books get cut! Sometimes the calibre of the playing field is so high, that a book that in one year might have become a finalist or semi-finalists doesn't make it off the slush pile! Such are the vagaries (and part of the excitement) of SPFBO!
Whether you're a contestant, judge, or fan / reader of great self-published fantasy, I hope you are as excited about this year's SPFBO as I am!
I can't wait to read some incredible Indie fantasy books, and be part of the agony and ecstasy of the incredible competition that is SPFBO9, with the fabulous BEFORE WE GO BLOG team!
Please feel free to comment on this and future blogs and I will be sure to get back to you. Chat soon!
P.L. Stuart's Blog
I am a Canadian high fantasy author. My debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom - first in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, is now available! Book 2 in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans, is now available here!