SPFBO 5: Introducing Round One!
The fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) officially begins today! Read all about its origins here, keep track of phase one here, and continue reading for a rundown of how the Fantasy Hive will be handling the first round.
As you know, the 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’s proved very difficult in the past and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the same were true this time. As yet, we have absolutely no idea which one of our 30 books will make it through to the final, 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 Hive SPFBO judging panel!
T.O. Munro (aka ‘Theo’)
The Smart One
Theo has self-published a high fantasy trilogy and written several short stories for blogs and anthologies. He has also contributed prolifically to both the Fantasy Hive and Fantasy-Faction in the form of reviews and articles.
What Theo’s looking for:
“Like everyone else I guess I like complex characters, beautiful writing and intriguing plotting. I’m looking for a book that stays with me after I’ve finished it – that I’m still thinking about days and even weeks later. My background is in teaching science so my pet hate is physical impossibilities (e.g. green glasses making Oz’s Emerald City all seem green, Buzz Lightyear’s hemispherical shell-shaped helmet focusing sunlight to light a rocket fuse, etc). But above all else I want people to give me characters I care about – they can be good or evil or (ideally) grey, but I want to be bothered about what happens to them. Your challenge: make me cry like I did with ‘The Book Thief’, ‘The Arm of the Sphinx,’ ‘Lilo and Stitch’ or ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply.’ (Not all of these are books!)”
The Excitable One
Beth is a reviewer who has side-stepped into editing. She’s worked with previous SPFBO contestants, including D. P. Woolliscroft and Dom Watson, as well as a number of contestants in this year’s contest. Beth is also an aspiring writer.
What Beth’s looking for:
“I love epic high fantasy, I love grimdark antiheroes, and I love dystopias – so on the one hand I’m going to enjoy anything that falls under those categories, but on the other I’m also really looking forward to having my reading experiences broadened! For me to fall in love with the book, I need to fall in love with characters. I want to see a good balance of characters I can connect to, and a captivating plot!”
Mike ‘Everest’ Evans
The Mountain One
Mike is probably best known for his features here on the Fantasy Hive, but he’s no stranger to doling out critique as a beta reader for books self-published, traditionally published, and those yet to be published. Pep-talks aplenty lie ahead.
What Mike’s looking for:
“I’m looking for stories that set themselves apart, not just by daring to be different, but by embracing everything that makes them unique. I like both new and ‘the nostalgic’, but what matters most to me is the ‘ideas’, and how they bring the story to life. I’d love to find a hidden gem that’s not yet made a name for itself. Also, swords.”
Julia Kitvaria Sarene
The Reading Machine
Not only is Julia a mod for Fantasy-Faction’s 12,000-strong Facebook group, she is also a prolific reader, bookseller and seasoned beta reader. She’ll be adding her opinions – which are always blunt and honest but fair – to help us make our decisions.
This is her third year of judging SPFBO books.
What Julia’s looking for:
“I’m looking for engaging characters and especially for something unique – be it the setting, the plot or the characters! I’m hoping for a new hidden gem that isn’t the same formula over and over like I find in quite a lot of traditionally published books.”
This is my third experience as a SPFBO judge (I joined the Fantasy-Faction team for SPFBO 2 and 3, and wrote about it a bit here), and I’m delighted to be participating once again.
I’m looking for classic fantasy tropes with a twist, protagonists I can root for, and a healthy dose of both hope and humour. I’m also hoping to be surprised by something out of my comfort zone!
The best thing about participating in SPFBO as part of a team rather than as an individual is that round one ends up being about as fair as it can be. 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 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 how round one is going to work:
- The five of us (Theo, Beth, Mike, Julia and myself) will work through the first 20% of each of the 30 books. We’ll do this more or less independently of one another.
- In all cases, we’ll try our absolute best to read up to 20% of every book before making the decision to eliminate anyone.
- We’ll provide balanced feedback on every single book we eliminate.
- Like some of the other blogs, we’ll be eliminating books in small batches 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 until we’re left with a handful that show promise. We’ll then announce these as our semi-finalists. Over the following 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.
Finally, it’s my pleasure to introduce the 30 books that chance (and Mark Lawrence) has graced us with for the first round.
- A.B. Endacott, Queendom of the Seven Lakes
- A.M. MacDonald, Remember the Dawn
- Antoine Bandele, The Kishi
- Becka Sutton, Haventon Born
- Brad Carsten, The Wretched
- Brian McClellan, Uncanny Collateral
- C.Z. Edwards, Kingdom: Rien’s Rebellion
- Deck Matthews, The First of Shadows
- Deston J. Munden, Tavern
- E.L. Drayton, Daxton
- Eli Celata, The One That Lives
- Frank G. Albelo, The Hall
- Gaia J. Kos and Boris Kos, Evenfall
- Harry Young, These Forgotten Gods
- Jack Massa, Cloak of the Two Winds
- Jacob Rasmussen, The Fall
- Jeffrey L. Kohanek, The Buried Symbol
- Justin DePaoli, Dragonsoul
- K. Vale Nagle, Eyrie
- Kade Cook, Grey
- Lisa Cassidy, A Tale of Stars and Shadow
- Madeleine D’Este, Women of Wasps and War
- Matthew Satterlee, Forlorn Dimension
- Miriam R. Dumitra, Brightshade
- Ryan Howse, The Steel Discord
- Sean Monaghan, The Map Maker of Morgenfeld
- Sergio C. Pereira, The Not-So-Grim Reaper
- Stephanie Burgis, Snowspelled
- Tracy Cooper-Posey, The Branded Rose Prophecy
- Zamil Akhtar, Song of a Dead Star
One of these books is a future SPFBO 5 finalist – perhaps even the winner. Can you guess which one? (We can’t . . . yet!)
If you’re following SPFBO 5, 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 on Twitter using the hashtag #SPFBO.
Oh . . . and be sure to come back tomorrow, when we’ll reveal our three picks for this year’s COVER CONTEST!