Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

The SPSFC begins!

Welcome to the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition! Or the spussfic, as we like to call it around here. What in the world is the SPSFC? It’s an opportunity to shine a great big laser beam on wonderful works of self-pubbed science fiction.

For a few years now, Mark Lawrence has been organizing a contest known as the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Science fiction authors and bloggers have been clamoring for something similar. So with Mark’s blessing and science fiction’s habit of looking to its sister genre for inspiration, we are going to run this pretty much the same way.

Ten book bloggers, up to 300 science fiction novels, a year of reading and reviewing. We will end up with ten finalists and one winner. Next year, we will do it all over again.

The winner gets a badge and a blaster set to “stunning.” Most importantly, they get heaps of recognition and bragging rights. All the finalists and many of the entries will naturally get more eyeballs on their books, which is what authors and eye-eating aliens crave the most.

Some rules:

1) Your book must be a standalone or the first in a series.
2) One book per author. So send your best!
3) It must be a novel, not an anthology.
4) The book must be self-published and available for purchase now.
5) Works must be at least 50,000 words.

Competition Basics

– 1yr run time
– 10 Reviewer Teams (Judges)
– 300 books (Sci-fi only)
– 30 Semi-Finalists
– 10 Finalists
– 1 Winner/s (in the event of a tie)

Important dates:

Reviewer Applications (May 15 – June 14)
– Teams finalized (June 15 – 30)

Author Applications (July 1– 21, 2021)
– ‘Slush Pile’ Finalized (July 22 – 30)

Phase One (August 1, 2021 – January 30, 2022) – 6 months
– Best Cover contest (August 1 – 14)
– Check conflicts (August 15 – 30 )
– Allocations finalized (September 1 – 7)
– Teams review allocations (September 8 – January 21 )
– Semi-finalists announced (January 22 – 30 )

Phase Two (February 1 – June 30, 2022) – 5 months
– Teams review all Semi-Finalists (February 1 – June 21)
– Finalists announced (June 22 – 30 )

Phase Three (July 1 – 30, 2022) – 1 month
– Consolidate results (July 1 – 14)
– Winner/s announced (July 15 – 30)

What authors need to know:

On July 1st, we will open to submissions. So mark your calendars now! Ebooks will need to be sent in .mobi or .epub format. If we get over 300 submissions, we will winnow them down based on a very subjective slush-pile criteria. All entries will be listed and linked to on an upcoming announcement page.

What reviewers need to know:

Applications are now open to be one of our ten reviewer teams! Simply click here and fill out the form. As a former book blogger and reviewer, I know what you’re in for. It will be a lot of work, but if you enjoy helping readers find hidden gems, it will be rewarding.

Reviewer / judging process:

Phase One
In Phase One, the 300 books that make up the ‘Slush Pile’ are divided evenly amongst the reviewer teams.
– Each team is allocated 30 books.
– Books are randomly assigned

Reviewers then:

1) Check conflicts
To ensure that there are no conflicts of interest in their allocation.
– Any conflicts will be reassigned.
– If no issues, the lists are then confirmed and final.

2) Filter their allocation
Team members read 10-20% of each book and then vote.
– Vote is to indicate whether they want to continue reading / would recommend to the team (a simple yes/no answer).
– The 10 books with the most ‘yes’ votes are retained while cutting the rest.

3) Begin Round One Reviews
Teams attempt to complete / finish their 10 ‘filtered’ books.
– Those 10 books are given a score (‘DNF’ or a range from ‘0 – 10’) by all the team members.
– A book with more DNFs than scores > 0 is given a ‘0’ by default.
ie. If four of the six reviewers on a team score a book as ‘DNF’, then the default score is ‘0’.
– The three books with the highest average scores are the ‘Final’ team selection that progress through to Phase Two.
– Teams post *starred reviews of their ‘Final’ / Top Three selections on their websites/blogs + the books’ Goodreads and Amazon pages.

Note: Reviewers are welcome to write / publish additional reviews, but only the Top Three are required.

Phase Two
In Phase Two, each team is allocated the same 30 books = the ‘Semi-Finalists’.

Reviewers then:

1) Begin Round Two Reviews
Teams attempt to complete / finish those 30 books.
– Books are given a score (‘DNF’ or a range from ‘0 – 10’) by all the team members.
– As before, a book with more DNFs than scores > 0, is given a “0” by default.
– The book with the highest average score is the ‘Final’ team selection progress through to Phase Three.
– Teams post full (*starred and written) reviews of their Top Ten on their websites/blogs + the books’ Goodreads and Amazon pages

Note: Reviewers are welcome to write / publish additional reviews, but only the Top Ten are required.

Phase Three
10 Books – The ‘Finalists’
– The book/s with the highest average score/s are announced as winner/tied.
– The book with the best cover art is announced.

At which point there will be much rejoicing and the making of merry. Unlike our fantasy friends, the ending will be swift and there will only be one curtain call.

32 replies to “The SPSFC begins!”

I’m game! Only question is what constitutes “SF” for the purpose of this competition. I have a novel closer to urban fantasy, but with no science. I do have proper SF novels as well, but I just want to see where the bounds are since we only get one shot.

This is where the subjective culling process will come into play. If it’s urban fantasy because there is magic involved, I’d say probably don’t enter that book. If it’s cybernetics and the like, then for sure. Keep in mind that science fiction reviewers / bloggers are the ones doing the judging, and if they get a book that’s not like any of the others in tone and content, it might not fare well.

Thank you, that helps! No magic in this case, but the “strange events” in one book have no scientific explanation (think The Shining) while the events in another book most definitely have a tech basis (think The Matrix). I think I see where the line is now.

This is very exciting, thanks for doing it! I have a question: what about a combined volume of multiple novellas? Would that be too much like an anthology?

We are looking for standalone novels. If the stories all take place in one setting or are tied together, I think that would qualify. I’m already hearing from enough anthology contributors to think that we need a short story version of this competition, but let me get this one up and running first. :)

I won’t be participating, as I do well on KDP as it is, but good luck to everyone! I’m in Bali right now, and friends of yours (Hugh Howey) from The Family Circus want to say hi! Sayo and Chris. I’m hooked on a board game they said you showed them, and our weekly game nights are packed with people playing that game. Thank you! ;)

Ah! I bet I know the game. Give them all my best. I had a great time with them in Fiji.

Read above, to the part where it says:

What authors need to know:
On June 3oth, we will open to submissions. So mark your calendars now! Ebooks will need to be sent in .mobi or .epub format.

I’ve gone back and forth on this. Right now, we are going to ask that all entries be new to any of these contests. The exceptions will be books that were submitted to SPFBO and rejected because they were too sci-fi, if any of those cases exist. The goal is to give self-published books a chance they’ve never had, so submit a different book if you have one.

This is great news. Happy to hear you’re getting this in motion. Do you plan on emulating the format of SPFBO, or create your own? Colour me intrigued.

Were it not for the SPFBO, this competition wouldn’t exist. Mark and his bloggers set the stage. There’s been huge demand for a sci-fi version, and enough folks nudged me that we’re now off and running. So yeah, we are modeling this after their good example.

Hi Hugh,
I think at this point I’ve read every single novel and story of yours that I could find. After reading loads of classic sci fy, as well as newer authors, I’m finding myself in a bit of a slump looking for interesting reads. Any suggestions? Thank you!

That is an awesome competition for self published sci-fi authors!
As a blogger, it would be really a challenge to read so many books in such a short time. I would apply if the number of books would be five since I don’t have that much time.
Please consider allowing book bloggers to chose how many books and which books they would like to review.

Please, please, do this again for Sci-fi/fantasy ‘collections,’ that is a collection of stories by one author, as opposed to Anthologies, collections of stories by many authors. Some of the best sci-fi, classics, some made into movies, are short stories, novellas and novelettes. Thank you!

Maybe I’m overlooking something. If so, I’m sorry. but where do I go to enter the SPSFC contest? I know it’s too late to enter the 2021 contest, but I want to enter next year. Thanks, Susan A. Royal

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