One gem of Sci-Fi/Fantasy book twitter and bloggosphere I discovered this year is self-published fantasy, and the #SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off). Prior to starting this blog I had what’s probably the typical opinion and response to self-published fiction; if it’s self-published it must be bad, otherwise a publisher would have picked it up.
At the beginning of 2018 I put together some goals for the year. One of those goals was to read more debut novels. I wanted to read one debut a month. What I originally meant by that was debuts published in 2018. To my surprise a few self-published authors contacted me asking if I’d be interested in reading their debut, some of which were written in prior years. At first I didn’t want to accept (see my comment above about self-published books), but I came around. Thank the literary gods I did because I discovered how wrong I was! See my love for Gedlund for just one example.
Then, I discovered the #SPFBO.
In case you haven’t heard of it yet, #SPFBO is a contest with 300 books, 10 judges, and 1 winner. Self-published authors submit their books to the contest. Each judge is given about 30 books to work through much like a slush pile. They review their top pick and it goes on to the final. (There’s also a cover contest). That first phase takes about five months. In phase two (also five months) each reviewer reads the finalists from the other reviewers, they review their favorite. The final group is scored and a winner declared.
#SPFBO is hosted by author Mark Lawrence and it’s mission statement is as follows:
“The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read”
I came across #SPFBO from two sources on Twitter; one being Mark Lawrence and the other @EsmeWeatherwax8. Esme was (and still is) one of the reviewers for #SPFBO. She was posting a ton of reviews for self-published books and I quickly discovered why. I’ve been following it ever since.
#SPFBO is starting its fourth year. The previous winners are:
- 2015: The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids, by Michael McClung
- 2016: The Grey Bastards, by Jonathan French
- 2017; Where Loyalties Lie, by Rob J. Hayes
The Grey Bastards is being published by Crown and Orbit (U.S. and UK) this month. The other I’m aware of is Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft, which even though it wasn’t a winner still managed to get enough attention that it rated a three book deal with Orbit.
I’ll be following #SPFBO this year looking for some great books to read. In honor of the new year for the contest I’m going to dedicate a month in the near future to read nothing but self-published fantasy. I haven’t settled on which month yet but I’ll let you know when I do. I still need to get caught up on a few reviews first. Hopefully work will be slowing down real soon so that I can. My guess is it will be August or September. Once I decide on the month I’ll let everyone know in case you wan to join in.
In the meantime check out The Official Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Page #SPFBO for more details about the contest, as well as past winners and entrants, and follow the hashtag on Twitter for updates.
If you’re interested in joining my proposed self-published fantasy month let me know…I’m curious how many people would want to take part. I already have a handful of self-pub books on my TBR to read but I’d like to know your recommendations as well. Feel free to post about them in the comments. Until then, happy reading…