Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Self-published fantasy book challenge: update

I see that Mark Lawrence has announced that the time is 25% up for his challenge:

So, we’re 25% of the way through phase 1 of the Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and I’ve taken the opportunity to check in with our ten bloggers / teams to see how things stand. I wanted to see if everyone was happy that they were on course to pick their single champion for phase 2 by September 1st, or if not ‘on course’ still confident that they could meet that deadline. I offered to ask one or more of our reserve bloggers to help share the load if anyone was under too much pressure – real life happens, and 26 books is a lot.

The TL:DR is: Everyone is fine, no help needed, they’ll be done by September or before.

Pretty impressive, actually. Lawrence provides specifics and links at his site.

One bloggers that I specifically noticed was Ria’s first set of DNF titles at Bibliotropic It’s an interesting set because she has one DNF for not-for-me reasons plus maybe writing quality, one DNF because it was the second book of a trilogy and she liked it but found it did not stand alone, and one DNF for writing quality straight up.

The other I particularly noticed was Fantasy Book Critic, who is taking an interesting approach to reading 26 titles: reading a set and advancing the best of those, then repeat with another set. That seems like it might be a useful strategy, but it wouldn’t work for me — I would be wary of getting a whole set with nothing I felt was worth moving to the next round, or a single set with multiple titles I really liked.

Let me see, let me see . . . . okay, on thirty seconds consideration, my feeling is that if I were reading to pick the best out of 26 entries, I would rapidly read one to five pages of each and immediately cut the pile in half on that basis. Then I would read the set of books I thought looked more promising.

Does that seem fair? Not sure, but maybe? I think you can immediately judge writing quality (I mean, typos, grammatical errors, sentences that don’t make sense, words that are the wrong choices, etc). You hardly need to read anything to see that. Then aside from typos and errors, you have stilted, boring, or unbelievable dialogue. Or, say, pov that doesn’t seem anchored to the character that’s supposed to be the pov character — I don’t mean deliberate omniscient, but the kind of thing where the author doesn’t seem to understand how to be in one pov and is making mistakes. That kind of thing also is very obvious within a few pages. If I had bought a book, I might give it a few more pages, but for a challenge, I don’t know, probably five pages or so.

I don’t mean to say Cut the List In Half No Ifs Ands or Buts. If I actually thought 15 or 20 of the books seemed promising after five pages, fine, I’d read more of all of those.

Then what? Read the ones that grabbed you the most first? Maybe. That would set the level for every other book in the challenge. Can you beat A? No? Then never mind. You might be able to rapidly thin the pile based just on that question, even if it means not finishing all the other solid contenders.

It would kill me if I had four books out of 26 that I just loved, but could only send one forward into the next round. Aargh! I would hate that. Of course you can talk about and promote all the books you like, so that’s something.

Plus if I read a book and hated it but thought it was actually a great book, then what? That could be like putting The Three-Body Problem against, well, say, Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. The former is almost certainly more ambitious, broader in scope, addresses more big issues, etc. For all I know it’s also better written — Dead Heat has some clunky-prose moments. But if I could hardly stand to read the “better” book, what then? Which would I put forward if I had this kind of extreme contrast?

Don’t know, don’t know. It would be tough. As we get closer to the final selections for Lawrence’s Challenge, it will be really interesting to see how many of the participating bloggers have to address questions like this and how they make up their minds. Since they’re all bloggers, I trust they’ll all blog about it.

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