Thursday 14 June 2018

The Official Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off homepage #SPFBO SPFBO

300 books, 10 judges, 1 champion

I'm bringing together the somewhat scattered SPFBO information onto this homepage.

SPFBO 9 is closed. We reached the 300 entries in 41 minutes.

The contest will start on the 1st of June 2023.

Phase 1 progress is given here.

The blogs for SPFBO 9 are:

Mission statement: 
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.

Here's the disjointed Youtube ramble about the SPFBO that you never knew you needed. 

Note - Hugh Howey runs a similar contest for self-published sci-fi books.

It is not:
i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net.
ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher.
iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don't abuse it. #NoDrama

The rules are:

i) No book that was entered in a previous SPFBO can be reentered.
ii) The book must be #1 in a series or a stand-alone.
iii) The book must actually be self-published(*) by the start date, not something you're considering self-publishing in future.

(*) - for the purposes of this contest "self-published" means that when a paper or e-copy of the book sells, the fraction of the money that is not taken by the vendor (Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble etc) goes directly to the author. If it goes to a 2nd party that then pays out royalties, it's not self-published.
- if the book is published by a publisher that the author owns entirely, then it is self-published. In the case of multiple authors, the authors need to equally own the publisher to count as self-published. You can have different arrangements with the audiobook & still count as self-published if the paper/e-book meet the criteria.

A book only on Wattpad or some similar site does not count as self-published for the purposes of this contest. It must be on sale or free on a site where books are sold.

iv) It must be a fantasy book. (If you say it's fantasy then it is. But if it isn't really it won't get far. (There is a different contest for sci-fi.))
v) One book per author.
vi) No anthologies/collections.
vii) No short stories - books must be 40,000 words or longer.
viii) The book must be entirely human-written. No AI writing is allowed.
ix) If the cover contains AI art it won't be included in the cover contest.
x) Your manuscript must be uploaded via the online form as a .epub file when you apply to enter the contest. You will not be allowed to update or change it.
xi) Don't contact the blog to which you've been assigned. You can contact me about important issues.

Not rules, just observations
- It doesn't matter how long your book has been published, Ten years? Fine.
- Reviews will be honest and in the general tone/style of the blogs involved. Glowing reviews carry most weight when the public understand that if a blogger doesn't like a book, they will say so.

The winner will receive the prestigious Selfie Stick Award but the true prize is the publicity of being the winner, plus the bonus of being reviewed on the blogs of 10 highly respected fantasy bloggers.

Frankly you can't buy better publicity than that. The winning book will have been selected as the best from a field of 250+ self-published works.

My blog pages associated with last year's SPFBO got 70,000 views during the contest and well over a hundred reviews were posted on the ten blogs!

We have an SPFBO (Spifbo) group on Facebook. And on Twitter the #SPFBO and #SPFBOreviews hashtags are good ways to keep updated.

The contest progresses as follows:

In phase 1 which takes 5 months:

1. The blogs put on their agent's hat and go through the slush pile of novels allocated to them (between 25 and 30 books) to find the one title they will put through to the final.

This does not mean they have to read all the books. My own agent would go through that number in a day. But hopefully they will read part of all of them and all of some.

2. Review that chosen title.

3. Select their 3 favourite covers for the cover art contest in which they will later vote.

It is hoped that they will also review some of their favorite books from the selection they were given.

In phase 2 which takes 6 months:

1. The blogs read and score all 9 finalists from the other blogs.

2. Review their favorite.

3. Review the winner.

If their own finalist turns out to remain their favourite and to win, then they have no reviews to write in phase 2!

It is hoped they will feel moved to review some of the other finalists too,

The champions so far:

2021                      2022

A variety of award stickers are available here, covering years 2015-2025, many thanks to author Palmer Pickering. Here are two examples:

The finalists by year:

Finalists from eight years of SPFBO
(red = 2015, black = 2016, yellow = 2017, green = 2018, blue = 2019, fuchsia = 2020, bright green = 2021, bright red = 2022):

The Grey Bastards 8.65 (*)
The Sword of Kaigen 8.65 (*)
Orconomics 8.65 (*)
The Lost War 8.35 (*)
Reign & Ruin 7.70 (*)
Never Die 7.70
Fionn 7.20
Larcout 6.70

the takeaway here is that given the distribution of entries, the distribution of finalists is within the expected range that an unbiased selection of finalists would produce.


  1. I'm really looking forward to Amanda Justice's A WIZARD'S FORGE, Rosalyn Kelly's Melokai, and Megan Mackie's The Finder at the Lucky Devil. All three of them have expressed a desire to join and all three of them are awesome.

  2. What if your book was published by what claimed to be a 'mid-sized' publishing company with an art department and a marketing/promotions department, but turned out to be 2 people working out of their home who have no intention of publicizing beyond one mention on their Instagram/Facebook/Twitter accounts? I may as well have self-published.

    1. Reclaim your rights, self publish it, and you can enter next year.

  3. So how do you enter this competition?

    1. In an effort to improve this page, which part of it was unclear?

    2. I'm afraid I didn't even see a post saying registrations for the contest were going live. The top post on your group is says it was posted last year, and I've not seen anything else come up. I was hoping to enter this time and was keeping an eye out for an announcement which unfortunately didn't seem to arrive.

    3. I'm having trouble too. I've been looking for a post or form that says where to sign up my book for the SPFBO contest, but can't find anything. How do we enter our books into the next contest?

  4. Is this open to all Fantasy genres (urban, epic)?

  5. Hello Mark, thanks for organizing yet again! Is there a specific reader/device that most bloggers use to view the files? For those of us that normally work in epub or kpf and have to convert to mobi, it would be nice if we could verify that the formatting is showing up correctly for our submission. Thanks!

  6. Mark, I think you have made including an epub file non-optional, even though it says "optional" in text. I made an epub file REAL fast, because I did not expect to need to enter a file in that format.

    Thank you so much for organizing and running this. I've followed it all five previous years, but this is the first time I've entered a book of my own.

  7. Hello Mark,

    I just submitted my book, Truth Uearthed, and just wanted you to know that the "company" it's published under is my one-man LLC (it is a real, filed LLC, but I'm the only person in it, it is the company I published this book and future books under, as well as my freelance work for media that I use to help keep income straight for IRS purposes).


  8. Damn, shattered there is a word limit. Will keep an eye on this though. Such a great thing you guys do for indie authors. Much love ✨

  9. Hi!
    My fantasy debut novel, #1 of a series, is due to be published on January 2021.
    Is there any way to estimate when the sign up for SPFBO 2021 will be?

  10. When you say fantasy, do all genres count? For example, could I submit an urban fantasy?

  11. Hi Mark! Rule 3 states: iii) The book must actually be self-published by the start date, not something you're considering self-publishing in future.

    Does this mean my book due for release on 28th May will be okay to enter, as it will be published by the 1st June start date? Even though it won't be published when entries open on 14th May? Just wanted to check I didn't need to bring my release date forward unnecessarily!

  12. I have two questions, first, I self publish under a publishing imprint, but it is all me. Would my books still be eligible? Secondly, the first book in one of my series is 39,650ish words long, how hard and fast is the 40,000 word count?

  13. Question for Mark and anyone viewing: As fantasy writers and readers, would you consider a novel about psychic powers, ESP, soulmate-based romance/sex, and contemporary (non-urban) U.S. setting to fall under fantasy or science fiction? This book is currently placed in paranormal romance and really doesn't fit that marketplace. Opinions welcome. Thank you!

    1. There are always borderline cases. The important opinions are yours and the that of the blog your book ends up with.

  14. Hello Mark,
    I submitted my book, which is in pre-order with a release date June 14th. Should I publish the paperback or Hardcover before June 1st for it to be accepted? (I have them set for the 14th as well, but they are ready, so I can push them forward with ease - not the Ebook though).
    Thank you.

    1. It needs to be published by the 1st to qualify.

  15. Exciting! Thanks for doing this, Mark.

  16. Hi Mark, I have a sci-fi/fantasy book in the works, probably more sci-fi though, and so I can't submit to SPFBO. My question is, could there be a Self Published Sci-fi Blog off? If not organised by you, do you know any author friends who might be interested in setting it up?


  17. Hello Mark, I only have one question for future contests. If the book is self published for free on my own website, does it still qualify?

  18. Hello Mark, will there be any changes to the submission requirements for SPFBO 8 (in light of the mobi format being discontinued by amazon)? Will epub or pdf be accepted? Thank you!

  19. I have just launched a blog again and would love to be on the panel for the next one if you have space!

  20. Hi Mark, I see that 2022 entries will be accepted beginning May 14, 2022. Will the entry instructions be published before then? I read through the post but don't see them.

  21. I just submitted my entry for SPFBO 8, and I'm beyond excited to participate. Good luck to everybody who enters this year! Thanks for all you do for self-published authors, Mark!

  22. Apologies -- I mistakenly submitted the third book in a series (The Mother's Wheel). Please delete and instead consider the first book, The Bond. Self-pubbed, etc. Thank you and looking forward to all of the other great entries!

  23. Thank you for this ! I mistakenly subbed Book 3 (The Mother's Wheel). Please delete and instead consider the first book, The Bond. I got the rights back last year and am self-pubbing with fabulous new covers and interior design. Thank you and looking forward to seeing other entries!

  24. Is there any way to be alerted about when submissions open? Does your newsletter announce it? I am very sad I missed it this year :( I took the page to mean submissions opened on June 1st.

    1. I'm not sure how you took the page to mean that, when it plainly stated something different. As to notifications - apart from it being here for weeks: I tweeted about it 20+ times, made dozens of Facebook posts, posted on Goodreads, Instagram, Tumblr, & Pintrest... There's a Facebook group & a twitter hashtag. There's a homepage where it was announced. There was an r/fantasy thread, a k-boards post, a r/fantasy writers thread..

  25. Can we nominate indie authors like Charles Moffat? Or does the author have to nominate themselves?

  26. Can you please tell me - when is the contest open for 2023? How do we enter?

    1. Line 4 of this blog post "Entry details for SPFBO 9 will be posted here in May 2023." If you've ideas about how to make this clearer, fire away. I'm always looking to shape the page to readers' needs.

  27. Hi Mark, my book is part of a centuries-spanning saga but the story stands completely on its own. May I enter it?

  28. Just confirming that, "no book that was entered in a previous SPFBO can be re-entered" also applies to books that were heavily rewritten (I'm talking in the territory of extra pov and over half being new content).

    1. It does. "heavily rewritten" would be a nightmare to define and even more of one to police. No re-entries.

  29. Hi Mark! Do you know if authors in Kindle Unlimited would be able to enter (considering their exclusivity clause generally not permitting authors to gift books without going through Amazon?)

    Best wishes,

    1. To enter you must upload your manuscript as an epub file. Anything outside that is a matter for the author.

  30. Hi Mark, for future reference. The rules state that for the purpose of this competition self-published means that when a book is sold, the fraction of the money not taken by the vendor goes directly to the author.
    That would mean no aggregator like draft 2 digital, if i am correct.
    That would also mean no expanded distribution via kdp, or kobo.
    What if you publish directly through amazon, kobo, apple etc, and to the rest through a aggregator?
    What if i publish through an aggregator, but the isbn is completely mine (i am the publisher ultimately)?
    Thanks in advance for clarifying and for your wonderful competetion

    1. Rather than chase what ifs, I wait until someone actually in a position they feel needs further consideration asks a direct question about their case. Much easier that way.

  31. Hi Mark, just one question on the rule: "No book that was entered in a previous SPFBO can be reentered". Does that apply only to those books that were actually in the 300-book contest itself, or also those that ended up in the reserve? Just am curious, since this year's application filled up shockingly fast, are those that ended up reserved disqualified for future years?

  32. Hey Mark, sorry to bother. My book is currently in the contest, and is self-published, but I've had an offer to join up with an indie press. If I were to accept and republish with them, would that oust my book from the contest even though it was self-published at the start of the contest? Thank you,