Judge Instruction Sheet

2020-2021

Without judges willing to take the time to read and review each submission, there would be no book awards competition, so thank you for your time and your service. My dream is for the NCPA competition to grow in both numbers and credibility, until we achieve a nationwide reputation for quality and integrity. A great panel of judges is one of the most vital components to making that happen. 

This year we are making major changes in how books are assigned to judges, changes based on suggestions from previous judges on how they can do a better job. For the first time, judges will ONLY read books in the category they have accepted, but they will have to read ALL submissions in that category. That means each judge can make direct comparisons to all other books in their chosen category. The submission categories for judging will remain the same, but some are grouped together for potential judges to choose from:

            Children and Young Adult       (Two separate categories for submission)

            General Non-Fiction and Non-Fiction Memoir           (Two separate categories for submission)

            Poetry

            Fiction

This change means that judges cannot recuse themselves from individual submissions. If there is a connection to the book or the author, the judge will do as professional a job as possible, but should add a comment on their critique form regarding their connection.

This change also affects eBook submissions, which will be grouped with other books in their category. If judges are uncomfortable or unable to read it in digital form, they will need to let me know so we can figure something out. It is a less than perfect solution, but the only way to make sure that all category entries are read by the same judges.

Trade Publication submissions will be marked as such, but distributed to judges handling the category. It will be up to the judge to determine how a book compares to other in the category. This will require some extra discussion when Trade Publication entries are in different categories, similar to the discussions on Cover/Interior Design.

In order to make these changes, I will have to increase the judge panel to a field of twelve total judges, with those choosing Fiction potentially with the largest number of books to read. Assistance and suggestions for Fiction judges will be greatly appreciated.

Books are shipped out USPS Express Mail, flat rate boxes, for delivery in from one to three days. The last date I will accept submissions is February 28, 2021, and they will be shipped to the judges within three business days. That should provide enough time for the judges to finish reading and before their meeting in May.

Judges will complete two rating sheets for each book, one for the submitted category and one for cover/interior design. The judging sheets will be sent out by email when the books are shipped. They will be in a database format, with room for entering scores and comments. When the sheets are completed, they need to be emailed back as soon as possible, so that the information can be transferred into a master database. 

Each sheet has ten questions, which are answered with a numerical value rating from one to ten. You can make comments on each question; however, that's not required. Many judges make comments to help them recall the material so they can discuss it at the judges luncheon when the final decisions are made. In the past, some of the comments made were extremely harsh, which was fine when no one but the judges saw them. Now, however, authors can request copies of the judge comments to help them understand how their books were rated. The writers will NOT get the judge names or any identification to protect privacy, but the comments can be quite valuable. Any negative comments need to be constructive, rather than destructive.  

In addition to the ten questions on each sheet, judges have the option of adding up to five extra points, if merited, for excellence. Perhaps the book is particularly timely, extremely original and creative, etc.

The judges luncheon, which will be on a weekend in middle May, is the time everyone brings their books back so they can be on display for sale at the banquet on April 25th—providing we can meet in person. If that isn’t possible, or for judges that cannot attend in person, we will use Zoom so everyone can take part. Arrangements for returning books for anyone not attending will be made after the meeting. 

The judges luncheon (or Zoom meeting) is when the final decisions are made on the awards. Number scores are not the final criteria because people judge differently. However, this means that individual judges can champion books they loved—or vilify ones they didn’t like—as part of the process. Having their judge sheets handy will help each judge remember the book and discuss it. Having all scores entered in the master database ahead of time will make it easy to review the scores without wasted time. If desired, I can even share completed sheets with other judges in the same category prior to the luncheon, so they can review the comments and notes ahead of time.

In past years judges used to make marks in the books as they read; however, now we ask that the books be returned in saleable condition. Please don't make notes or marks on the pages or covers. If a judge would like to have a particular book, they need to let me know. One copy is not returned to the author, and is available for an interested judge. Books that are not taken by the judges are donated after the banquet.

If you have any questions, please let me know. And if you have any suggestions on how we might improve the competition or the judging process, I'd love to have them!

Thanks again,

Sharon Darrow

 
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