Sanctum Sanctorum: #SPFBO
This year we started a new feature here at The BiblioSanctum called Sanctum Sanctorum, a way for us to add in depth discussion and other bookish thoughts into the mix. Every month or so we’ll be talking about a new topic relevant to our reading or interests. This time, seeing as the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off is in full swing, we thought it would be a great idea to do a roundtable on the subject and share our general thoughts!
What did you think when you first heard of SPFBO?
Wendy: I was really impressed with the idea. I have a lot of respect for Mark Lawrence–not only because I enjoy his writing, but because he truly appreciates his fans (and even his critics). SPFBO is another note to add to the list of reasons why he’s clearly a good kinda guy.
As for the process itself, I was a bit concerned about the level of commitment involved, but its purpose is something that I strongly believe in. It is wonderful that there are so many more opportunities for writers to deliver their babies to the world, but the saturation of the publishing market also means it’s easy for those babies to fall through the cracks. Here is an opportunity to catch some of them. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up on the other side of the blog-off one day when I finally get around to writing those novels I keep swearing I will write.
Mogsy: I first heard about SPFBO last year when many of the bloggers I follow were involved on the judging panel. I don’t read as many self-published books as I used to due to limited time, and when I do check them out these days, I mostly rely on the recommendations from my friends, so needless to say I followed the contest proceedings with interest.
This year it was such an honor for the BiblioSanctum to be invited as a judge. Like Wendy, I was initially worried about the level of commitment, but it was totally worth it. When I first started blogging, I had such scant knowledge of the publishing world. At the time it was still such a big, nebulous concept to my inexperienced eyes, but I’ve learned a lot more about it since. Clearly self-publishing is here to stay, and it is awesome, which is why I feel really excited to be involved in something like SPFBO.
Tiara: When we were discussing it, I definitely liked the idea behind. Time and commitment were huge factors that came into consideration, but after discussing it with my co-bloggers and coming up with a plan of attack, that really helped in deciding to participate in this. I like experiencing new books and authors. Being able to experience great stories that might not be on the radar is a big plus in my book.
As we’ve seen, personal taste is a huge factor in judging for SPFBO. What kinds of fantasy stories do you enjoy?
Wendy: Epic fantasy–preferably the darker kind–is my bread and butter, while I tend to shy away from urban fantasy and YA. I’m not opposed to reading either of the latter though, and appreciate that this process, so far, has involved a healthy mixture of everything.
Mogsy: I’ll pretty much read everything and anything when it comes to the genres of Fantasy, Science-Fiction, and Horror, including all their sub-genres and topics. My tastes are pretty wide-ranging; as long as there’s a speculative element, I’ll read it.
Tiara: Anything that strikes my fancy. My overall reading habits include a healthy mix of everything, so my speculative reading habits are pretty much the same. If it sounds interesting, I’m willing to give it a read.
How has participating in SPFBO influenced your views on self-published books so far?
Wendy: I don’t think my views on self-published books have changed because of this. There are many reasons authors choose to publish this way, but I think self-published authors are fantastically brave for being willing to put themselves out there like this without the support of an established publisher. It has made me try to put more emphasis on self-published books in my reading choices, though. I have always had a lot of them on my to-read shelf, but since I try to keep my reading focused through challenges that are usually based on more commonly known works, the self-published books end up falling lower on my priority list. That attitude needs to change. Or I can just update my personal challenges to include self-published books!
Mogsy: It’s made me wish I had more time to read self-published books, for one. My experience with this contest so far has shown me that there are indeed plenty of hidden gems out there, but that maybe it just takes a lot time, patience, and some luck to find the ones that really work for you. That’s why participating in SPFBO this year has been so great, because I doubt I would have done something like this on my own. It’s given me the opportunity to read outside my comfort zone and discover some books and authors that might never have crossed my path otherwise.
Tiara: I don’t know if it’s particularly influenced my views. Even before SPFBO, I tried to mix in some self-published books when I could because I find that many of them offer something different or fresh even if I don’t always necessarily like them. Self-published writers are such an awesome example of the phrase, “Write the stories you want to read.” I’ve found some really great gems. This has just given me the opportunity to sample more of them for me to read and enjoy, even the ones that didn’t make our final cut.
Has everything gone the way you expected so far? Were there any challenges?
Wendy: So far so good (other than making sure I spell SFB — SFP — SPFBO right)! I did expect some challenges with work that was … not up to par. Thankfully, while there have been books we would not score highly, very few have been of great concern. And of course, working with my wonderful co-bloggers makes the process less overwhelming and lots of fun as we sift through and discover our gems. It is always interesting to see where our opinions converge and diverge and it’s no more obvious than when we have our thoughts all lined up on a spreadsheet.
Mogsy: The biggest challenge was changing my reading style for SPFBO, which is completely different for what I normally do for my review books. For one thing, in my regular reading, I never DNF – but in order to narrow down the 30 books in our SPFBO batch to a final winner, logic told me I should put an entry aside as soon as I determine that it isn’t going to be “the one”. While I understood the reason behind this whole “pseudo agent” thing, it also went against my every instinct since I am so used to reading a book from cover to cover.
I was also worried at first that between the three of us, we’ll have a hard time choosing the books we wanted to take a closer look at. As it turned out though, even with our varying tastes, our opinions coincided a lot, and generally we all agreed on which entries we thought were the strongest, and for similar reasons. It was such a cool and fun opportunity to compare notes with Wendy and Tiara and learn more about their book preferences!
Tiara: I’m not really one to go into something new with a ton of expectations about anything just. Even with an idea of what is expected from me, what I end up doing could be something totally different than any expectations placed upon me. With a new experience like this one, I just kind experience it in the “now” and adapt as required. I haven’t experienced any real challenges other than life moving on as usual and sometimes demanding more or less of my time during the process, but that’s a constant in my life.