The 7th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO7) started June 01, 2021! And I am happy to announce that my novel A Drowned Kingdom, Book One in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, is an entry in SPFBO7!
SPFBO is an annual contest designed for English-language fantasy writers and readers. The patron and host of SPFBO is famous British Grimdark fantasy author Mark Lawrence.
Mark has penned ground-breaking books such as the internationally best-selling Broken Empire Series. The opening book of the Broken Empire Series, Prince of Thorns, is one of my personal favourite top 100 books of all-time. And the protagonist of the series, I feel, is one of the most memorable - not to mention most controversial - fantasy characters ever written: the flawed, dangerous, and compelling Prince Jorg Ancrath. You can learn all about Mark Lawrence and his outstanding books here: https://www.marklawrence.buzz/
Altruistically, although he is heralded world-wide as a traditionally-published fantasy star, 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.
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. 300 books maximum are selected, based on a first-come, first-serve basis. The books selected are divided evenly amongst the blogging sites. So, each blogging site has a pile of 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.
Despite the immense celebrity 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 I spoke to had 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.
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.
The main benefits I personally saw from SPFBO were 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 http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.com/2021/05/spfbo-7-cover-contest.html!
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.
I felt SPFBO was too great an opportunity to pass up. Many of us in the self-published community struggle to get our books reviewed by anyone, much less top bloggers. In one of my previous blog posts about why I sought professional and peer reviews, I emphasized how critical reviews can be to the success of any author. Even non-flattering reviews are important. They provide essential feedback that can potentially help improve your writing. Or these types of reviews point others who might enjoy your book more, in the right direction.
And while of course being judged by bloggers can be scary, I have a lot of confidence in the blogging community. Having followed most of the bloggers on social media well before I even published A Drowned Kingdom, and before I knew they would be SPFBO7 judges, I knew they were top notch professionals. They deserve a lot of credit. They do a very crucial and sometimes arduous job, for free. My experience is that they 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, I took the plunge, and resolved to enter my book into the contest. Yet before I decided to submit my debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom, for SPFBO7, I also decided that it would not be as worthwhile if I did it in isolation. I knew so many fantastic authors whose works deserved recognition, but who had struggled to obtain reviews and attention. What better way to address this issue than to enter SPFBO?
Moreover, I wanted to see contestants boost, support, and motivate each other. Such competitions, as beneficial as they are, can be tough on one's psyche. Make no mistake, it is always tough when your book is subjected to critique, much less when the eyes of the fantasy world are watching! Odds are, unfortunately, for most writers that enter SPFBO, that we are not going to make the finals. But the advantages to entering, as I outlined above, were so tantalizing, irrespective of winning, that I strongly encouraged a group of my writer friends to enter the contest too.
I formed a Twitter group so that several writers could share information on entry rules for the contest, updates on submission deadlines, and general chatter about SPFBO. That led to another awesome writer creating a Slack group for the same purpose, and then many of us joining a much larger Discord group devoted to the contest. Again, all these groups with the purpose of informing, networking, supporting, uplifting each other, and chronicling our journey through SPFBO. And, it is also to have fun, and celebrate being part of it all! Enjoying the moment, and the privilege of being able to be a published author, and enter contests such as SPFBO, is important!
SPFBO may be a contest with only one winner, but we who have entered are determined to make it a collective effort, and collectively celebrate one another's successes, and raise each other's spirits during the difficult moments. The writing community is an awesome, collaborative, kind, and reassuring place, and we ultimately succeed together, not alone.
So fellow authors, let's cheer each other on, even while we dream of individual SPFBO glory! Readers, check out all the mind-boggling books of SPFBO, at the Goodreads Listopia listings. Part 3 of those listings is where you will find A Drowned Kingdom!
Please feel free to comment on this and future blogs and I will be sure to get back to you. Chat soon!
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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!