Let’s jump in: SPFBO
stands for “Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off”, a contest spearheaded by fantasy
author Mark Lawrence.

How does it work?

300 authors submit their
indie-published book, which is then randomly assigned to one of 10 fantasy book
review blogs.

I’m with you so far. Then what?

Over the course of many months, each blog will look at their allocation of books (though they won’t necessarily read them from beginning to end, or review them all, just as a literary agent wouldn’t when going through a pile of submissions).

After going through their assigned entries, each blog will put forward a finalist, which will then be reviewed by the 9 remaining blogs. When all finalists are reviewed, whichever title has the highest average score is crowned The Winner. In a contest involving 300 titles, just being among the 10 finalists is an incredible achievement!

Great! So, uh… What does the winner get out of it?

Good question! And the
answer’s simple:

The Prize.

And what’s the Prize?

The publicity and exposure
of being reviewed on 10 highly regarded fantasy blogs!

And what’s the actual prize?

Meeting people and joining
the community!

And what’s actually the actual prize?

That would be the Selfie
Stick Award.

This mystical relic bestows
upon its wielder all kinds of powerful sorcery, ranging from poking people in
the leg to stirring cups of tea:

Behold! Pictured here with Jonathan French’s SPFBO 2016 winner The Grey Bastards
Photo courtesy of Mark Lawrence .

Amazing! Where can I find
out more?

A deeper explanation of the contest
can be found on Mark Lawrence’s website, and
the SPFBO Facebook group is just a click away. If
you’re on Twitter, you can keep up to date by searching #SPFBO.

So, there we have it – a
run-down of the competition.

Let’s get personal for a moment. Entering Symphony of the Wind into this year’s contest is the best decision I’ve made in my indie career, and that’s an opinion I formed before Fantasy Book Review selected it as its finalist. Hells, it was the best decision I made before the book was a semi-finalist – and that’s all down to the people.

With that in mind, the SPFBO
2018 finalists are going to spend some time over the next few days to talk
about our experiences a little, and highlight a few books we’ve picked up along
the way. Like any competition, gems slip through the net – especially when
300 books get narrowed down to just 10 – so I hope you find something you like
from these chosen few.

Servant of Rage

A. Z. Anthony’s Servant of Rage is a gritty epic. I discovered it when I was scoping out Fantasy Book Review’s crop entrants, and its Abercrombie/Iggulden-style aesthetic leapt out to me. Adam Weller at Fantasy Book Review said: “If the idea of a Highlander movie that takes place in the world of the Dothraki sounds appealing, then you should absolutely read this story. It’s a fast-moving, ultra-violent fight fest.” What’s not to love?


If YA portal fantasy is more your thing, then I urge you to check out Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle. YA isn’t a genre I’m very familiar with, but I bought this one purely through chatting with the author on Twitter, which prompted me to check out his work. (No “BUY MY BOOK!” barrages here; Travis and I have, between us, written 95,000 words on the topic of Final Fantasy in a Twitter chat. He likes IX, I like VII, we both like VIII, and Fran dies a lot in XII.)


Speaking of Final Fantasy, L. L. McNeil sent me a signed paperback copy of Moroda. It’s been my “currently reading” entry on Goodreads since forever – I promise I’ll read it when I carve out time to enjoy it properly! – and it’s shaping up to be a fun, airship-laden adventure filled with a ragtag bunch of disparate characters – just like the aforementioned video game series. And after reading so many gritty, grimdark tales recently, I think it’ll be the perfect palate cleanser.

I’d like to extend a thank
you to Mark Lawrence for doing this, and a big thank you to every blog
and reviewer involved in the competition since 2015 – I don’t envy the volume
of work that goes into this undertaking each year, and it’s the bloggers who
make the contest the success it’s been.

I’ve been following SPFBO since its second iteration. I’ve also been a member of various writing classes, forums and Facebook groups over the years, and I can say that this is the first time I’ve felt part of a writing community. As I said earlier, that’s the true prize of the competition (Selfie Sticks notwithstanding), regardless of who ends up topping the leader board.

Finally, thank you to all the readers of our books – you’re why we do this, and I sincerely hope you’ve found something to enjoy from this year’s competition. Tomorrow, Megan Crewe will let us know her thoughts and highlights – be sure to tune in!

Steven McKinnon

PS: Amazon links will contain my affiliate information – this means I may get a small payment if you decide to buy anything, but it doesn’t cost you any extra. Pinky promise.

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Published on April 09, 2019 04:30
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