So, here we are again. The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (#SPFBO) 3 is set to begin on July 1! Read all about it on Mark Lawrence’s blog, or check out our own announcement here. For now, here’s a rundown of how Fantasy-Faction will be handling Round One.

SPFBO on Fantasy-Faction

As you know, 300 competing titles have now been split into batches of 30 and assigned to one of the ten participating blogs. Here’s the tough part: we can’t keep them all. It’s a bit like being asked to foster a small herd of kittens, then being told you’re only allowed to adopt one of them. We try hard not to become too attached, but it proved very difficult last year and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the same were true again this time. As yet, we have absolutely no idea which one of our 30 we’ll be keeping, but we do have a few first impressions that we’d like to share.

Before we introduce our batch of SPFBO contenders, though, let me first introduce the Fantasy-Faction SPFBO Judging Panel!


  • G.R. Matthews
    The Team Captain
    Twitter: @G_R_Matthews
    He’s been on board with the SPFBO since day one; he even entered it himself once, all the way back in 2015. (Yup. He’s that old!)
  • Jennie Ivins
    The Voice of Reason
    Twitter: @Autumn2May
    Having co-edited Fantasy-Faction for the last few years, Jennie’s great at making sure things go to plan; she’s also a much-needed calming influence on the team.
  • Michael Everest
    The Drill Sergeant
    Twitter: @MichaelWEverest
    Fresh-faced, eager and raring to go –  Mike is a relative newcomer to the contest, but is no stranger when it comes to doling out critique. Pep-talks aplenty lie ahead!
  • Julia Kitvaria Sarene
    The Reading Machine
    Twitter: @KitvariaSarene
    Not only is Julia a mod on our 5,000-strong Facebook group, she’s the most prolific reader we’ve ever met. Also a seasoned beta reader, she’ll be adding her opinions – which are always blunt, honest and fair – to help us make our decisions.
  • James Latimer
    The Grumpiest Man on Earth
    Twitter: @NotJamesLatimer
    Speaking of blunt opinions . . . meet James! Reader, writer and self-proclaimed Hunter of Hidden Gems, JL will bring a whole new level of honesty to the decision making process.
  • Laura M. Hughes
    Twitter: @HalfStrungHarp
    I had a whale of a time as part of the FF judging team (which, in addition to G.R., was also comprised of A.F.E. Smith, Sonia Grace and Richard Bray) during the SPFBO2. I wrote about the experience here, and as you can probably imagine am thrilled to have been asked to participate once again.


The best thing about participating in the SPFBO as part of a team rather than as an individual is that Round One ends up being a hell of a lot fairer. As the contest progresses you’ll hear us continually stress that much of what gets said is completely subjective (IMO, FWIW, YMMV, etc.). Aside from issues with (e.g.) spelling or grammar, which are more or less indisputable, the bloggers’ opinions are exactly that: opinions. So when there are FIVE pairs of eyes (instead of just one) potentially reading the opening chapters of every single book entered, chances are we’ll be able to give a more rounded view of each one, and to choose our finalist according to how many of us it managed to strike the right chord with.

Here’s a rough idea of the schedule we’ll be working towards:

SPFBO3 Schedule Fantasy-Faction
(Click to enlarge in a new tab.)

Focusing on Round One only, here’s how it’s going to work:

* The five of us will work through the first chunk of each of the thirty books. We’ll do this more or less independently of one another, though if it happens that one of us checks the spreadsheet before reading and it already shows three definitive ‘NOs’ then chances are the remaining two will pass and move on instead to the more divisive books.

* In all cases, we’ll try our absolute best to read between three and five chapters before making the decision to eliminate anyone.

* We’ll provide balanced feedback on every single book we eliminate. Here’s an example from last year’s Round One, where we took it in turns to write up a couple of short paragraphs for each book based on everyone’s thoughts as recorded in the spreadsheet.

* As in the example I just gave, we’ll be eliminating books in batches of five as and when our collective feedback comes in. Since we’re working through them in no particular order, please don’t assume that we hated your book just because it happens to be in our very first batch of rejections!

* We’ll continue to eliminate those that the majority of us concur are not finalist material in batches of five until we’re left with either five or ten that show promise. We’ll then announce these as our semi-finalists (again, please do check out the ones from last year) and over the coming weeks we’ll attempt to read each semi-finalist from beginning to end, posting full reviews and eliminating them one at a time until we’re left with only our finalist and runner-up.


Finally, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the thirty wonderful and varied books that chance saw fit to grace us with for the first round.

  1. Alexia Purdy, Ever Shade
  2. Angela Holder, The Tale of Gurion Thricebound
  3. A.R Winterstaar, The Child Revealed
  4. Bill Hiatt, Living with Your Past Selves
  5. Brandon Barr, Ella Dethroned
  6. Brett Herman, Chaos Trims My Beard
  7. Brian D. Anderson & Steven Savile, Akiri: The Scepter of Xarbaal
  8. C.D. Gallant-King, Ten Thousand Days
  9. Charlotte E. English, Draykon
  10. Christopher Bunn, The Hawk and his Boy
  11. Christopher G. Nuttall, The Zero Blessing
  12. Frances Smith, Spirit of the Sword: Pride and Fury
  13. Ginny O, The Dawn Warrior
  14. Guerric Hache, Zeroth Law
  15. Gus Campbell, Pagan Heart
  16. Jade Kerrion, Illusions
  17. Joseph J. Bailey, Spellslinger
  18. Kristal Shaff, Life Charmer
  19. K.S. Villoso, Jaeth’s Eye
  20. Maghan Richardson & Tina Verduzco, Storm and the Mermaid’s Knot
  21. Marina Finlayson, Stolen Magic
  22. Melissa Snark, Valkyrie’s Vengeance
  23. Michael-Scott Earle, Wings of Justice
  24. Nigel Bird, Drawn In
  25. Richard Parry, Night’s Favour
  26. Ryan Mueller, Empire of Chains
  27. Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Clearwater Dawn
  28. Terri Bruce, Hereafter
  29. Ulff Lehmann, Shattered Dreams
  30. V.R. Cardoso, The Dragon Hunter and the Mage

It’s almost certain that one of these books is a future SPFBO3 finalist – perhaps even the winner! Can you guess which one? (We can’t . . . yet!)

SPFBO Covers (Fantasy-Faction ROUND ONE)
Click to enlarge image

SPFBO on Fantasy-FactionFor more about the #SPFBO 3, read our introduction post here.

If you’ve been following the previous SPFBO then let us know about any entries that have caught your fancy! Join the discussion on social media (there’s a Facebook group here) and weigh in with your own opinions using the hashtag #SPFBO.

Oh . . . and stay tuned for the COVER CONTEST!


By Laura M. Hughes

Laura lives under the grey, pigeon-filled skies of northern England, where she also writes for 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

One thought on “The SPFBO: Introducing Round One!”
  1. Hi Laura, G.R., Jennie, Michael, Julia, and James,

    Thank you all (and the other sites and Mark Lawrence) for investing the time and effort to do this. The SPFBO is a really awesome opportunity that is entirely powered by the kindness of reviewers. I hope you’ll get to read many fantastic and memorable novels 🙂

    All the best,


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