SPFBO: And the winner is….

Round 1Round 2Round 3 Round 4Round 5

Well, here it is, the post where I reveal the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off winner. First, I want to thank everyone for participating, and caring about my opinion. That’s pretty cool. Secondly, I want to thank everyone for being patient with me and the chaotic state of my life right now.

I’ve been kind of mulling over how to write this post for a while now, and I’ve decided to reveal the winner in a sort of roundabout way. The thing is, this challenge has taught me a lot. I generally say no to all self-published review queries, and reading quite a few of them I’ve learned that that’s probably not a very wise way to go about things.

The truth is, there are some real gems that are self published, and by saying “no” to all of them, I’m overlooking quite a few very valid, respectable and noteworthy books. Not to mention that self-published authors seem to have a harder time getting publicity than traditionally published. Furthermore, with the change of the publishing industry due, largely (in my humble opinion) to the easy accessibility of the internet, saying “no” to all self-published review requests isn’t going to make much sense for much longer. The industry is changing, and it’s important that reviewers learn to bend with those changes and make room for them.

And, to be honest with you, I’ve read a lot of traditionally published books that impressed me a lot less than some of the self-published books I had in my batch to read. The fact is, there are a lot of reasons to self-publish. Perhaps once upon a time a self-published book meant that it wasn’t quite up to the quality of a traditionally published book. That’s just not the case anymore. People choose to publish various ways for various reasons, and the stigma surrounding these self-published books really does need to change. Many of the common arguments for and against self-published books simply aren’t that valid anymore, and this contest has proven that to me.

So, along with that little soapbox, here are a few other things I’ve learned.

  1. I try really hard to think that cover art doesn’t matter, but this challenge has taught me that it does and yes, I am shallow like that. Cover art that had obviously been worked on extensively, and looks professional, tended to make me more excited to read those books. I realized that I already had a favorable opinion of those books before I read them. Therefore, to avoid this, I put all the books on my kindle minus cover art, and refused to look at any of the cover art until I wrote my mini reviews. Still, cover art matters, and I was rather amazed by how much it mattered to me.
  2. If I had been a bit smarter, I would have broken up the five rounds a bit differently. I’m not sure how, but instead of randomly picking books, I sort of went down the list in order and I think it would have been smarter if I had put all the books in a hat (so to speak) and chose five at a time at random – or more random than my batches ended up being.
  3. Editing really stands out. I realize your best friend might have a great eye, but the books where authors paid for a professional editor, verses the ones where the authors didn’t, were obviously different regarding readability and enjoyment. I’m one of those readers where an odd use of a word will annoy me for a ridiculous amount of time. Trust me, it matters.
  4. Self-published authors are a polite bunch, which makes them a delight to work with. Yes, I get the odd review requests, and the odd letters from (generally) self-published authors, but this group of authors was delightful, polite, and incredibly respectful. No weird requests, or email that made me question my sanity. I was politely asked if they could pull quotes from my mini reviews (yes, you can), which is something publishers generally don’t even do. I was rather amazed by their professionalism, and I respected it immensely. In a field where many of them have to go it alone, this class and professionalism paid off big time, and it’s rather sad that it’s often overshadowed by a few bad apples in the self-publishing arena who have loud voices.

So, onto the contest itself. For the most part, I read these books like a reviewer rather than an agent. After five years of this reviewing business, it’s hard for me to turn off the critic button. My opinions were mine alone, and a lot of the decisions regarding rating and whatever else were my personal opinion, not anything based on scientific fact. I have a really fluid view of art. Just because I loved/didn’t love something, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay it attention. These authors, regardless of where they ended up on my various personal scales, wrote books that deserve your glances, at least. My word is not gospel, nor should it be.

I really can’t stand Monet’s paintings, or Picasso’s art. That doesn’t mean they are bad artists, that just means that I don’t like their work. That’s okay. That’s art. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t invalidate it. There was a lot of love and labor poured into these books, and I want that to be recognized. As cheesy as it sounds, every author won just by completing a book, and bravely submitting it to a contest.

The winner of the contest was chosen by the most arbitrary means. I picked the book that stuck with me the longest. I picked the book that I want to read again, by an author that I really feel a huge amount of promise for in the writing field.

The top five books were:

Round 1: The Unbound Man by Matt Karlov
Round 2: Bloodrush by Ben Galley
Round 3: Children of the Fallen by Eve Peters
Round 4: The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M. Ross
Round 5: Black Cross by J.P. Ashman

And the winner is… 

Bloodrush by Ben Galley

This one hit all the right notes, with fantastic world building, a captivating story, unforgettable characters, and a plot that refused to fit in any molds. The cover art was amazing, the editing was obviously professionally done and the author has very evident talent. Most importantly, it stuck with me long after I finished reading it, and I’m incredibly anxious to read the other books in the trilogy, and explore more of what Galley has written. He truly has a unique vision, and I found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.

It was hard to pick just one winner out of the final five, but in the end I had to give it to Ben Galley for the simple fact that his book gave me a huge book hangover. I didn’t want it to end.


Congratulations to all who entered the contest, and thanks again for letting me participate!

5 Responses

  • Awesome, and congrats to Ben Galley!

    I think it’s interesting, seeing a lot of the responses to these books, both individually and en masse. Maybe it was entirely luck of the draw, or maybe I’m just phenomenally picky, but I found that my batch had quite a few books that might have been okay if they weren’t clearly in the early stages of the process. And a whole load that were okay, but nothing to really write home about. Whereas others are talking a lot about how they’re surprised to have seen so many stand-out books in their batches and how they’ve been really impressed by the talent and skill they’ve seen in the books they were given.

    I did have some good ones, of course, and some I’m glad I got the chance to read. But comparing my reactions to everyone else’s, I really can’t tell if I’m too picky about some things.

    And thus what the effect of that was on my judging of my batch of books.

    Maybe I should write a post about this instead of cluttering up your comments section. :p

  • Thank you very much Sarah! It was an absolute pleasure waking up to find out Bloodrush was through to the final 10, and thanks for your great comments. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Well done to Ben!

    There are some good Self-pub’d books out there. The fantasy-faction staff have done a fair amount of reading and sieving of their selection – found some quite original ones too.

    Ria, I look forward to the post 😉

  • Congratulations, Ben! Judging by Sarah’s reviews, this was a hell of a tough group. I have a ton of new books to pick up, now, and I’m really looking forward to reading Bloodrush. 🙂

    And thank you so much, Sarah, for all your time and effort. It’s awesome to see self-published works given a spotlight, and the fact that you handled it more like a reviewer than an agent gave all of us in your group more exposure than a lot of books in this competition received.

  • Congrats to Ben Galley! That’s one awesome cover.

    Sarah, a very brief thank you for all your hard work. It’s been wonderful to see self-published books treated with the same respect as traditionally published work, and I’m delighted that you are now more open to reading indie. It was an honour to be in your group.

    Wishing you happy reading, and much joy with the new baby.

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