Was SPFBO 4 worth entering?

So SPFBO 4 is over and the excellent Orconomics took the winners spot. I entered my book The First Fear into it and whilst it got a pretty good review from one of the judges it didn’t make it to the final rounds. I’ve been asked by a few other authors whether entering the competition is worth it, here’s my experiences.

Some of the issues

If you’re a self-published or Indy fantasy author entering doesn’t cost anything so that’s a bonus. However, I feel as though the entrants need to be vetted more carefully. The rules clearly state that the entered book needs to be a complete novel, either a standalone or series starter. Despite this, rule a few mid series books and even some books that have very dubious fantasy credentials made it into the competition. This is not a new issue either as the year I entered Heir to the Sundered Crown there were a few entrants that fit the submission rules dubiously at best.

The big question however, is whether the competition benefits sales and I have to say – no. If your book gets a poor review from one of the judges, then naturally the audience of the competition will likely avoid purchasing your title. In short, it’s a big gamble. It all depends on the judges too. If your book is say an urban fantasy and you end up with a judge who is more into epic fantasy and doesn’t like urban then, well, your book is stuffed. Fantasy is a hugely broad genre so the chances of getting a judge that may not like your sub-genre is pretty likely. The community of judges running the competition are a close knit bunch, so keep that in mind.

The Good. The Bad and the Ugly

Without a doubt the most beneficial thing I got from the competition was interacting with and meeting the other entrants. Most we’re in the same boat as me and the sharing of knowledge and the new networking contacts made is great.

However, as the competition is so socially involved via social media etc there was the inevitable falling outs and tiresome drama that comes with it. Some of the judges did themselves no favours this year and quite frankly seeing the forming of online witch hunts and mobs caused me to rethink the entire fantasy community. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome individuals in it but there are also toxic ones.

A man’s reputation was almost destroyed by unprovable accusations for example. Then of course there are those authors that attack the judges for receiving a poor review (it’s part of being a writer, if you can’t handle criticism then you’re not in the right field). Accusations of bias and unfair treatment also reared their heads over the course of the competition.

Is it worth it?

From my personal view and only because of the cool folks and contacts I made I’d have to say yes. My books got a few more eyes on them than they otherwise would but in terms of improving sales etc then SPFBO was a big disappointment.

It was an interesting experience and I may be open to enter again in the future (if I get round to writing a standalone or new series). I’m now devoting my time to finishing the Sundered Crown Saga and The Empowered Ones series (updates to come over the coming months.)

Overall rating –  6.6/10

SPFBO 5 is now open for submissions so if you want to enter visit – https://mark—lawrence.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-official-self-published-fantasy.html

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