I’ve been woefully absent in the blogging world this past month (both in terms of posting here and also catching up with other great blogs I enjoy), so I feel bad about that, but I’m finally getting to the end of other projects so I’m hoping to change things. I thought I’d start with a short post about the 5th Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off that recently came to a close. I’ve been following and enjoying it, so I wanted to share a few links and thoughts.
For anyone who doesn’t know, SPFBO is a contest for self-published fantasy writers organised by Mark Lawrence. 10 different fantasy blogs act as judges or judging teams – each blog gets allocated a batch of books to review and selects a finalist. Then all of the bloggers read, review and rate those 10 finalists to come up with a winner.
I’ve followed the competition in past years and checked out a few of the books and bloggers, but this year I was watching a little more closely than usual because I met a few of the judges and entrants last year (at Worldcon and Bristolcon), so I felt a little more invested and was seeing more about it online. It got quite tense at the end as I was watching the different scores come in, reading reviews, and wondering who would win!
When you look at the competition’s final score matrix, you can see there was quite a lot of agreement on average, but different bloggers had different favourites, and some scores could vary quite a bit when it came to different books. Even within one reviewing team for one blog, I noticed a reviewer might comment on one element of a book positively, while another might comment on the exact same thing as something they didn’t like. It was cool to see that subjectivity in the reactions to the books.
Unlike in many other competitions where there’s just one winner and you don’t see the reasoning that went into the choices, here you got to see the detailed thoughts from the judges. It felt like all the finalists “won” in a way, because they all got reviews and exposure from the 10 blogs. Some of the stand-out semi-finalists who didn’t get through to the finals also got shout-outs from the blogs that reviewed them too.
Anyway, I found it all really interesting to follow, so I thought I’d share a few links for anyone else who might be interested and hasn’t seen them yet (and I should also thank T.O. Munro, a friend of mine and one of the judges, who originally brought several of these things to my attention!):
- The final scores on Mark Lawrence’s site
- “Contests – What Can They Do For You?” – A QuaranCon panel in which the finalist authors chat about the competition
- A round-up with reflections on the judging process and experience from the Fantasy Hive team
- Stats and reflections from the RockStarlit Book Asylum team
- A blog post by the winning author, M.L. Wang, about the competition
And while I’m not going to include links to all the reviews and bloggers here lest this “short” post get very long, I highly recommend checking some of them out – Mark Lawrence links to them all from “The Matrix” on the scores page 🙂
As for the 10 finalists, several have caught my eye, and I’ll be reading at least the top three for sure, possibly more – both because they look like good books (two were already on my list last year due to reviews and recommendations), but also because I’m kind of curious to know what personal “favourite” pick would have been if I’d been a judge. I read so slowly that I don’t think I could be a judge for something like this, but I’m very impressed by all the people who were! And I’m looking forward to seeing which of the bloggers/blogging teams I’ll agree with when it comes to my favourite.
As for the next competition, SPFBO 6, it’ll probably be kicking off soon, so if you have a self-published fantasy novel you’re thinking of entering, keep an eye on Mark’s blog.
Have you been following SPFBO, and have you read any of the books? Or are you an entrant or a judge? Feel free to mention it in the comments!