SPFBO #2 - My advice, for what it is worth
So, I was asked on the Fantasy-Faction forum about my experience and lessons from SPFBO #1 and below is my response:
It is all taste driven, just like submitting to an agent. There are some great blog posts all about the SPFBO on Fantasy-Faction and Fantasy Book Critic, plus others. They are worth checking out for the bloggers' and authors' opinions.
What happens is simple; your book gets submitted to a blog. The blogger (or team of bloggers like FF) read it just like an agent would do. Now that can seem a little harsh, but welcome to the rejection filled world of publishing.
Once mine was reviewed by Bookwormblues.net (and knocked out (more on that in a minute)), I felt I was free to read those submitted to FF. I think I read 12 of them, maybe less, maybe more... but not every blog has time or staff to do a full review of every book. So don't go into expecting one. I didn't, and I don't think many of the first 250 did - it wasn't sold to us that way (not that we needed much selling on the idea.).
I'll also say this, I am so glad I didn't have to review every book I read. (Forgive me, Gods of Publishing and Writing) Some were, to my taste and judgement, awful and I'd have hated to write a review that said, "Look, I didn't get past page 8. The author really needs to go and learn how to punctuate, how attribute speech, how to describe... how to show and not tell (a trap we can all fall into - and sometimes, sparingly, necessary)."
Of the 12 or so, I finished two. For me, it was a hard choice between those two. Luckily, I wasn't on my own in that regard. I was part of a team... so I can blame them :)
For my own entry, I submitted The Stone Road. I was lucky. Sarah Chorn over at Bookwormblues.net got mine. She took a route few other bloggers took - she reviewed every single one. There were some she didn't finish and said so, and said why. Sarah manages to be totally polite even in her faint praise.
Looking at the books I was up against, I'd say Sarah got a strong selection - including the book that landed in second place. I was reviewed in round 1 (of her picks) and got 4/5* - the same as the one she finally chose to go forward. The margins, and she tells me it was a really tough decision, were small in her mind.
What I did get out of it (even not winning) was;
1. I got a review of the book on a major blog which I can use in marketing. It is on my website (www.grmatthews.com), it is on Bookwormblues.net, and I use it on my Amazon page too (http://mybook.to/thestoneroad)
2. I got to interact with a lot of other authors and still do - networking is great
3. I got to write with and for other bloggers (I already wrote for FF, but now I was writing as me, the author. A different focus.)
4. Twitter - hate it, loathe it or love it, use it. With #SPFBO tag, it's great exposure and a great way to keep in touch with what is going on.
5. The book got seen by more than it otherwise would have done - and that's just win/win/win to me
6. I got to to read a lot of books (and I chose my favourites here (LINK HERE)) that I might not have before.
7. I got to read a lot of books for FF too... and I learned some lessons from those; what to do, what not to do.
8. A lot of enjoyment
9. Some readers (and that's what it is all about)
If I could make a plea, as a reader/reviewer based on my experience on both sides of the SPFBO fence;
Please make sure your first chapter is not an info-dump (in fact, avoid them altogether if possible, or use sparingly).
Give it some action or intrigue.
Build a character in it by their interactions.
Make something happen, even if that something is small and will be important later on.
Give the blogger/reviewer, the person reading your submission, something to get their teeth into straight away.
This is the biggest lesson I learned from reading the submissions - most people can write, use grammar and punctuate... but give the 'agent' a reason to read on!
And if it gets knocked out in round one... don't fret it, don't worry. More than likely it wasn't to that blogger's taste, or one of the other books was that bit better. Or maybe you sent it in before it was ready, just to make the deadline... and there were a few who did that, I suspect.
So thanks to everyone that has read my Trilogy. That means the most out of everything in the #SPFBO... readers reading your book and telling you they did. Makes it all worthwhile.