Indie Focus: A Beginner’s Guide To The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off




If you’ve not yet heard about The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, this is a brief introduction to the most exciting development in independent publishing in the last couple of years. As the name probably suggests, the SPFBO is a book contest for self-published books in the fantasy genre. It is the brainchild of fantasy author, Mark Lawrence, who made the following observation in a blog post in February 2015:

“…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?”

Mark subsequently floated an idea that very rapidly became the inaugural Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off only a matter of weeks later. This idea was to get ten book bloggers to volunteer to take on the role of faux literary agents, and peruse X number (today 300 max.) of randomly selected self-published books submitted for consideration by X number (300 max.) of participating indie authors, in order to whittle down each of their assigned pile of titles to one book that would proceed to the final round.

During the first phase of the contest, the bloggers are not required to read every book assigned to them from beginning to end, but enough to make a choice about which entry to put through to the next stage. During this selection process, the bloggers must write a review for their chosen title (though they are free to write reviews for any of the other books assigned to them during this first round) and post it to their blog.

With ten entries selected for the final phase, the contest begins in earnest. The bloggers can now abandon their agent hats and become reviewers again. They then take on the task of reading the other nine books chosen by their fellow bloggers, before awarding all ten of the finalists a score out of 10. Those scores are tallied to determine which entry is the winner, and that book will then be reviewed by all the participating bloggers.

Book CoverFor those of you now wondering about the financial reward for the author of the winning book, well, there is none. The goal of the contest is to increase the visibility and profile of self-published fantasy authors. So in that respect, the winning author’s reward is the great publicity that comes from, firstly being a finalist, secondly by being reviewed by ten prominent book blogs, and of course by being the winner; though it is safe to assume that the author who is crowned at the end of the contest will gain various other perks as a consequence.

On the whole, The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off is an opportunity for every participating writer to increase awareness and interest in their work.

I think it’s safe to say that Mark Lawrence’s innovation has been an unqualified success. The inaugural running of the contest was won by The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids, by Michael McClung, who subsequently secured a publishing deal with Ragnarok Publications. Earlier this year, the second SPFBO was won by The Grey Bastards, by Jonathan French, which has received rave reviews. (Expect a review here on Another World in the not too distant future.)

Book CoverSPFBO is now into its third year, with the latest competition due to officially start at the beginning of July (I’m one of the entrants this year, by the way). It certainly seems as though The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off is here to stay, for the foreseeable future. Though still in its infancy, it appears to be going from strength to strength as more fantasy readers learn of its existence, and more indie authors aspire to be involved.

Expect more coverage of this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully, you’ll learn a little more about the ten bloggers on the judging panel, and some of the books and their respective authors participating in the hopes of being crowned champion of #SPFBO 3.

* * * * *

If you were previously unaware of the competition, are you now interested in it? Are you more likely to take self-published books seriously as a result? Feel free to leave a reply in the comment box below.



Promoting the world of self-published fantasy and science fiction, through interviews, book reviews, trivia, previews and more.


6 comments on “Indie Focus: A Beginner’s Guide To The Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off

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