Last year, author Mark Lawrence started an event called the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Designed to showcase exceptional fantasy novels by self-published authors and demonstrate that they’re of equal quality to traditionally-published fantasy, it involved collecting over 250 books and distributing them to ten book review blog. Each blog chose one finalist from their batch of books, then the ten finalists were reviewed and rated by all of the judges until one was chosen as the winner. The entire event spanned one year, generated over one hundred book reviews, and sparked many insightful conversations about the high quality of self-published books. Many of the reviewers didn’t usually read self-published books and were surprised to discover what they’d been missing out on.
This year, Lawrence started a second round of the competition, shortened as SPFBO 2016. Now there are three hundred novels, still split among ten review blogs, all competing for a single spot. Over the next six months, the ten finalists will be chosen from the submissions. The final round of judging will take six months after that.
It’s too early to know who will win, but the contest has already started new conversations about what makes a good fantasy book and how to find good fantasy books in the wide number that are available on sites like Amazon. You can find discussions from this year and last year linked on Lawrence’s blog or using the hashtag #SPFBO. It’s exciting to watch the contest unfold, there’s a lot to learn about fantasy, and there’s a lot of great books you can discover in the list of entrants. If nothing jumps out at you right away, you can wait for the first reviews to roll in and follow the recommendations of the bloggers.
Among the entrants is one of my novels, A Flight of Marewings. (I considered entering Small Town Witch, but Mark suggested that most of the blogs favor epic fantasy over other subgenres like YA or Urban Fantasy, so I went with their preferred genre.) It’s been submitted to a blog called Fantasy Literature along with 29 other books. It’s a stiff competition with that number of books, and I have no idea how my novel will stack up against the others. I’m hoping that I will get some constructive feedback from the “FanLit” crew and have some fun following the contest. So far, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the first impressions from Bibliotropic about the books in their batch.
Here’s to another year of reading self-published fantasy novels, and may the best book win!