Sunday 9 August 2015

Final Round: Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

It's all over - read the final results / summary HERE!

We have our 10 finalists!

I will be keeping tabs on the final round on this page, recording scores for finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and linking any reviews. #SPFBO

The reviews, the books, and the blogs are all linked on this table. (click scores to get reviews)

* = favourite finalist

* * = blogger's highest score

Many of the ratings not currently linked to reviews will be linked when those reviews appear in the fullness of time.

It looks as if all the finalists are going to get close to 10 reviews. That's a damn good reward for coming through the rounds! There aren't many authors who wouldn't be very pleased to get ten reviews from blogs of this caliber! 

The final round ends on March 1st 2016.

Each of the bloggers will read, or attempt to read, each of the finalists. As they complete a book they will score it out of 10 and that score will be entered here. If they also review the book I will link the review from the score on the table above.

The winner will be the book with the highest score.

At the end of the final round each blogger will review the over-all winner (if they haven't already done so).

A good number of these books are free on Amazon, none of them are expensive. I invite you to give them a go and post your review/reactions in the comments section.


On Fantasy Book Critic a wide-ranging interview in not one but two parts with a group of SPFBO authors, discussing their experience in the exercise.

An SPFBO-inspired review of What Remains of Heroes on The Royal Library.
Ria does the stats on Bibliotropic!
What to expect? Sarah on Bookworm Blues.
On Fantasy-Faction Marc Aplin ruminates about self-publishing and the blog-off.
On Fantasy Book Critic Mihir interviews Crista HcHugh
On Fantasy-Faction GR Matthews asks the bloggers if they've changed their view on self-publishing?
Reviews from The Speculative Book Review are in progress.
An SPFBO-inspired review of Priest on The Royal Library.
The SPFBO is up for an award under 'best related work 2015' on r/fantasy:  upvote to vote. It would recognize the efforts of the bloggers and the achievement of the authors.

On the 21st of January ranking the finalists by their average so far would yield:

#1  What Remains of Heroes  (8.10)
#2  The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids (7.89)
#3  The Weight of a Crown (7.75)
#4  Blood Rush (7.57)
#5  Shattered Sands (7.40)
#6  City of Burning Shadows (7.19)
#7  Sins of a Sovereignty (7.14)
#8  Under a Colder Sun (6.94)
#9  Priest (6.80)
#10 A Soul for Trouble (6.36)

On Galleywampus two of the finalists, Priest & Under A Colder Sun are reviewed.
A guest blog by SPFBO finalist Mike McClung.


  1. Well, I got most of them for my Kindle, but this will take a while to read through. :D Still, interesting premises for some of those, will post my thoughts after I get to them.

  2. I'm trying to work my way through this list, too. I've started City of Burning Shadows. It's a great contest!

    Mark, if you have any interest in expanding the contest to even more blogs next year, keep us in mind! We'd love to get involved early.

  3. I know you're a fantasy author, but it would be fun to do this same event for sci-fi.

  4. Been following this since beginning and read most of the books.

    Surprised to see '...heros' beat '... braids' given the individual scores. Seems to me that it would be better to weight each score by the number of reviews given by each blog. That way a low score by someone who only read all the books doesn't equally distort the result.

    Using this sorting, I get the following list, which seems to better reflect the full results.
    __1. The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids [ 7.16 ]
    __2. Blood Rush [ 6.68 ]
    __3. Under a Colder Sun [ 6.41 ]
    __4. City of Burning Shadows [ 6.07 ]
    __5. Sins of a Sovereignty [ 6.07 ]
    __6. The Weight of a Crown [ 5.92 ]
    __7. What Remains of Heroes [ 5.42 ]
    __8. A Soul for Trouble [ 5.09 ]
    __9. Shattered Sands [ 4.74 ]
    _10. Priest [ 4.38 ]

    1. I don't like that math AT ALL!!! :)

    2. As of data on Feb 7, but slightly changing the weighted average calculation so that the weight of a critic that did not rate a particular book is not included (the previous calculation unduly depressed 'Heroes'), I get the following (Sorry David, still not 1st):

      __1 The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids (71/9) [ 7.99 ]
      __2 Blood Rush (61.5/8) [ 7.7 ]
      __3 What Remains of Heroes (44.5/6) [ 7.54 ]
      __4 The Weight of a Crown (59.5/8) [ 7.44 ]
      __5 City of Burning Shadows (57.5/8) [ 7.3 ]
      __6 Shattered Sands (43/6) [ 7.14 ]
      __7 Sins of a Sovereignty (62.5/9) [ 6.89 ]
      __8 Under a Colder Sun (60/9) [ 6.71 ]
      __9 A Soul for Trouble (56.5/9) [ 6.41 ]
      _10 Priest (44/7) [ 6.31 ]

    3. I don't have to understand your calculations to like them, right? :D

  5. Query: Does Elitist Book Review's vested financial interest in the "The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids" possibly explain the nuclear assault on other books in the competition? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

    1. EBR doesn't have a financial interest in Thief. I'm published at Ragnarok, which is awesome. After they saw our review of Thief, they picked up Mike's books. Our "nuclear assault" on the other books couldn't be more incorrect. We are obviously harder on the books than the other review sites, which is our prerogative. Just like it was our prerogative to give Thief a 7 (which is far below the average). In fact, Thief wasn't even our highest scoring finalist.

      We have several reviewers. The guy who personally reviewed Thief actually recused himself from the rest of the process because he felt like he would be too biased. The rest of us read the books individually, then averaged out our scores into those that you see. Nothing malicious. Those books just didn't work for us as well as some of the others in the contest.

      "Vested financial interest." Interesting. As an accountant, this means that we are supposedly receiving financial compensation for Thief. We aren't. In fact, if we were, we wouldn't be Hugo eligible as a Fanzine (and we ARE eligible). We don't make any money from our site. Zero. We don't have ads. We used to get money from Amazon on clickthroughs to books (enough for me to buy a few important books for my reviewers to read that hadn't been sent to us). We don't even bother with that anymore. I don't prepare a P&L or a Balance Sheet for EBR, because there aren't any to prepare. We donate the books we get or give them away in giveaways.

      We have no financial interest in any author...other than we want all authors to sell well so they get money. We like authors to succeed. Whether we are talking about Thief (which we like and hope succeeds more than it already has), to Mark Lawrence's stuff, to McCammon, to whomever...we want them all to have success. But we don't get any of that. We don't get royalties or kickbacks on other people's work, and it's never even been offered to us (is that a thing? Do review sites get these kinds of offers?). We'd reject the offers if they came.

      So no, no financial interest. You act like we've been shilling for Thief all over the place. Why did we give the other books lower scores? Because we didn't like them. We respect the authors for putting their work out there for us to critique. We actually see a lot of promise in those authors. Not sure where your idea that we were compensated for Thief comes from, but the facts and our scores don't actually bear that accusation out.

      It's cool though. No harm, no foul.

    2. I know this comment wasn't directed at me, but but the implications are rather insulting. Just a few facts/observations:

      1. The SPFBO has no prize for first place, in cash or kind, so cheating to win would be sort of pointless.

      2. Ragnarok offered me a contract before the end of the first round, so my book's standing in the final round is irrelevant.

      3. When I decided to accept Ragnarok's offer, I immediately emailed Mark Lawrence, explained the situation, and offered to withdraw from the competition. Mark checked with the bloggers and got back to me, saying that wouldn't be necessary.

      4. "Vested financial interest" - aside from the points already raised by Steve Diamond, the idea that I would give a back-hander to anyone, for any reason, is insulting. No wonder it was posted anonymously.

      All in all, this comment shows a lot of immaturity, a lack of understanding regarding how publishing works, and more than a whiff of sour grapes. If it is from an SPFBO contestant, I suggest they work on honing their craft, rather than wasting time concocting conspiracy theories as to why another writer's work was chosen over their own.

    3. EBR gave their considered views. Simple.

      And Michael's book is likely to win... that means it is a good book. And he got a publishing deal with Ragnarok... well done, Michael!

      Isn't that what a lot of the authors are after?

      And EBR wasn't the only blog to give lower than average scores, the range does go from 0 to 10 after all.

      On the bright side, and there are so many to this competition... all those books got at least one (if not more) review from a well respected blog. Self-pub authors can struggle to get such reviews and publicity.

      No mud-slinging is needed, wanted or appreciated.

  6. I've been published by Ragnarok! (I have a short story in 2 of their anthologies IIRC).

    Do I have a vested financial interest in Ragnarok and, by extension, the success of TTWPOTB (and all of their other books?).

    I have been published by Penguin/Random House and Harper Collins. Do I have a vested financial interest in the success of their other titles/authors? Because that would include about 50% of the shelf space in any high street bookshop...

  7. sins of sovereignity link is broken, and it's not on goodreads

    1. It is so!

    2. But the book does seem to have been withdrawn from sale

  8. shattered sands is broken, can't find on goodreads

    1. I'm going to suggest that you try a little harder...

    2. sorry, forgot there are covers with author names higher on this page.

  9. Great list but i like Blood Rush as number 1. I've read this on a new Kindle Paperwhite and it was an amazing experience. Also i would put The Weight of a Crown on second place but the list is very very good. Thanks.