SPFBO #3 - gray banner

Last week saw the exciting kick-off of the 3rd Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), with nearly 250 novels submitted in the first four days of the announcement. As of May 7th, there are still around 50 spots left in the SPFBO3. If you’re planning on entering – HURRY! (Edit: The contest is full and submissions are now closed.)

Here’s the list of bloggers who’ll be taking part this year:

1. Bookworm Blues
2. Fantasy-Faction (that’s us!)
3. Fantasy Book Critic
4. Lynn’s Books
5. The Qwillery
6. Pornokitsch
7. Ventureadlaxre
8. Fantasy Book Review
9. Booknest.eu
10. Kitty G Video Reviews (the SPFBO’s first participating vlogger!)

Be sure to check back soon for the full details of Fantasy-Faction’s batch of new contenders, but for now, here’s a bit of SPFBO background for those less familiar with the contest.


In February 2015, Mark Lawrence took to his blog to ponder the problem of self-promotion. He observed that:

“…as a new author, particularly a self-published one, it is desperately hard to be heard. It’s a signal-to-noise problem. Who knows how many Name of the Winds or [fill in your favourite] are lost to us because they just couldn’t be seen? None? A hundred?”

Thus was born the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, a competition wherein a judging panel of bloggers each took on a ‘slush pile’ of submissions. Acting in the manner of a literary agent, each blogger would whittle down the list before eventually choosing only one to put through to the final round to be read, rated and reviewed by the others until a clear winner emerged.

SPFBO #3 - dark castle


The SPFBO #2 proved an even greater success than the first, and here at Fantasy-Faction we were overwhelmed by the levels of professionalism and enthusiasm on display by the participating authors – not to mention the quality of the submissions themselves.

A total of 573 manuscripts have been submitted over two contests, and interest in the SPFBO has grown each year; hopefully, this is a tradition that will continue indefinitely. Standards continue to rise as more and more authors set their sights on the SPFBO. Indie authors are working harder and longer, pushing themselves to the absolute limits of capability, and it is they – along with those who follow, support and promote initiatives like the SPFBO – who help keep this genre fresh and dynamic. Everybody wins!

SPFBO #3 - Matt Howerter (banner)
by Matt Howerter


As I mentioned above, we’re off on yet another SPFBO journey – and once again, Fantasy-Faction has the pleasure and the privilege to be one of the ten participating blogs that serve as the judging panel. We’re still waiting for the rest of the entries to be submitted and assigned, but myself and SPFBO veteran G. R. Matthews have already begun to assemble our team – and of course, the all-important ‘Spreadsheet of Doom’, where we’re already beginning to list our batch of novels and make notes about our first impressions. Exciting!

The nature of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off means that a great many entries fall at the very first hurdle, cast aside after just a few pages. In a contest largely hinging on judges’ personal tastes, it’s anyone’s game. Here’s a few things to remember about the process:

It’s subjective. Just because one judge didn’t enjoy a book does not mean it isn’t a good book.

It’s time-consuming. Some blogs have a team of judges; others are one-man shows. Either way, they’re devoting hundreds of hours of their own time to this contest. While some might post mini-reviews of every single entry in their batch, others may only have time to review their finalist. If you think that’s unfair – tough.

It’s constructive. Entrants’ novels are fair game. If a blogger eliminates your book and provides criticism as to why the decision was made, please don’t challenge them. Listen to them. Plenty of authors would kill for this kind of feedback, and it’s meant to help you – not to bully, belittle, or embarrass you.

It’s positive. Nobody is out to tear these books to pieces. Every judge will always try their damnedest to point out things they liked. At the end of the day, we’re all part of the same amazing community, and are far more interested in building each other up than in tearing down ‘rivals’.

It’s FUN! Last year was an absolute HOOT. Lifelong friendships were kindled, professional connections were made, and everyone who interacted on Twitter had a whale of a time, whether they were cheering one another on or talking smack to their rivals (tongue-in-cheek style, of course).

With that out of the way, I’d like to welcome newcomers (and oldcomers!) to the SPFBO. Feel free to blog about it, to snag the banners you’ll see all over the place, and to join the conversation! Just look for the #SPFBO hashtag!

SPFBO #3 - blue star

As you can tell, we’re REALLY excited to get started. We’ll be posting again soon with details of our official SPFBO judges (and, of course, with info on our brand new batch of contenders!), and will also be posting regular updates throughout the first round. We haven’t quite decided on our method of elimination yet, but you’ll be the first to know when we do. So keep your eyes peeled! 😉

I’ll leave you now with some of the self-published novels we’ve read and enjoyed here on Fantasy-Faction, many of them as a direct result of the SPFBO. I’d encourage you to check out the ones that appeal to you (all of them have been reviewed on Fantasy-Faction), and see for yourself the talent that’s currently out there swimming against the tides of obscurity!

The Shadow Soul (cover)
The Moonlight War (cover) Valley of Embers (cover)
The Path of Flames (cover) Larcout (cover) Fionn (cover)
What Remains of Heroes (cover) The Heart of Stone (cover) Yseult (cover)
Off Leash (cover) Song of Blood & Stone (cover) The Raven (cover)
Ravenmarked (cover) Paternus (cover) The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids (cover)
Grey Bastards (cover) Senlin Ascends (cover) They Mostly Come Out At Night (cover)
Bloodrush (cover) Bloodmoon (cover) Bloodfeud (cover)

By Laura M. Hughes

Laura lives under the grey, pigeon-filled skies of northern England, where she also writes for Tor.com. When she isn’t absorbed in Dragon Age, raving about the #SPFBO or working on her first novel, you’re most likely to find her trying to convince unsuspecting bystanders to read The Malazan Book of the Fallen. If you’ve any queries, or just want to talk fantasy, Laura always encourages like-minded folk to seek her out on Twitter @halfstrungharp. Anyone interested in hiring her to edit or proofread a manuscript can check out her rates, services and testimonials at lauramhughes.com.

4 thoughts on “Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #3: So It Begins…”
  1. As a new author, I am very excited to be participating in this year’s SPFBO. Having the chance to get some serious feedback or *gasp* win is very exciting. Thanks go out to everyone participating, bloggers and writers, and also Mark Lawrence for starting this amazing event!

  2. Having followed last years competition, I’m really thrilled to be participating this year and to seeing what Fantasy Faction makes of my book. And, like Brian, thanks to everyone involved for making it happen.

  3. Self publishing is more often than not a dark, lonely journey – built on hopes and dreams – and only intermittently kissed with faint lights of promise. This event you’ve created puts our obscure art naked and grinning on a packed coliseum stage. 300 warriors of the pen basking in the glorious light of sincere attention. Alas, I may fall early – but I will take note of each and every one of those brave scribe’s who dared to bare all with me. Thank you for this. Game on, fair scribblers. Game on.

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