A long while ago (or at least it seems long ago), I set up a SPFBO brackets for people to bet on who would move forward in this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, and… well, the results were less than stellar. I only had 16 entrants (three of which were me), and I wonder if culling through 300 books to guess at which ones would gain some traction was perhaps too daunting for people to take part.
I mean, Mark outsources the work to ten bloggers, and then many of them again divvy up the task, meaning that trying to predict anything out of this is akin to a crapshoot.
However, there was one competitor who blew everyone else away, a man who, when the average was 21 points, scored a whopping 47! To put that in perspective, the next best was 36 (and according to the name, only made blind picks).
So congratulations to Barb4ry, who just so happened to be a prescient expert on all things SPFBO, even prior to reading 42 (at this point) of the 300 books, and posting about his picks on reddit (and Goodreads, though I won’t link him here for sake of his privacy).
Incapable of learning from my past failures (and because I already have the system set up), I’ve created another brackets system for the top four finalists, and am wagering if Barb4y will be as gifted this time around.
Now my sampling size is pretty small, but I did notice a few things that stood out from these brackets. Firstly, one of my straw men, “I’m a bunch of random picks,” and his brother “Me Too!” scored at exactly average and well below average, which might account for another that claims to be a bunch of blind picks tying for 3rd place.
More interesting is that “Going Just By Covers!” scored average, which I guess proves the adage of not judging the books by them to be correct.
I also noticed several books that showed up again and again, which I’ll call ringers. Please remember that they showed up this many times out of 48 opportunities (16 entrants at 3 selections per blogger):
That means that the excellent Where The Waters Turns Black was picked by one out of five people to make it to the next stage, which is interesting once you consider that it won this year’s cover contest.
So perhaps covers do matter after all.
Nice Dragons Finish Last seems to be the surprise snub of the year, and as some have pointed out, perhaps its humor was a mark against it in the competition. Looking at this year’s finalist spread, I’m pretty much at a loss to find any unifying theme. Mind you, I’ve only read one; my slayer in the Fantasy Book Critic bracket, The Crimson Queen, which is pretty straight ahead epic fantasy, so going off Barby’s opinions that I posted before, the themes I see:
Looks like we have two urban based books, if not Urban Fantasy, in Jack Bloodfist and Chaos Trims My Beard (best title ever!).
Devil’s Night Dawning and The Way Into Chaos look like they’re on the grimmer side of things, and if memory serves, The War of Undoing has some pretty painful elements to it.
Sufficiently Advanced Magic dabbles in LitRPG from what I hear of it, which is an interesting addition to the finalists. I believe Bookworm Blues picked another LitRPG for a semifinalist as well, which coupled with Ready Player One as an upcoming Spielberg film, might mean this subgenre has really come into its own.
Tiger Lily is intriguing in that it’s a historical fantasy/ mythology kind of book, which may make it the only non-secondary world book on this list (does Jack Bloodfist take place on Earth?).
Don’t really know what to say about Pilgrimage to Skara, which sort of fits its announcement.
And finally, my other top pick for the competition although I haven’t read it (I have read others of Rob J Hayes and know him to be an amazing author): Where Loyalties Lie, which deals with pirates doing piratey things. Which I guess also puts it in the grimmer section as mentioned above.
Rob has kindly provided a soundtrack to this novel here on the site, which just make the book even better in my mind.
So yeah, one stage of SPFBO down. Just one more to go...