Panelist FAQ

The Cybils have always been a grassroots effort, and we generally prefer to keep the rules simple. We think that panelists do their best work when not overburdened by complicated rules or rubrics. However, there are certain questions that come up about the judging, year after year, so we created a short panelist FAQ to address some of these.

Q. Are there specific criteria or rubrics that panelists should be using to evaluate the books?
A. Our two primary criteria that all books should be judged against are literary merit and kid (or teen) appeal. We're looking for books that bridge the gap between those two: good, well-written books that kids will love! Beyond that, we prefer to let each panel set its own criteria. Different genres may have specific requirements, such as world building for science fiction, or factual accuracy for non-fiction. We encourage each panel to discuss and determine their criteria before beginning discussions of the specific nominated books.

Q. Does "kid appeal" mean that a book has to appeal to a broad audience? Or can a book have "kid appeal" if it has strong appeal for a more narrow audience?
A. Each judging panel is free to interpret this criteria as they choose. However, there's nothing in the Cybils rules that says that books have to have broad appeal. In particular, books that have strong appeal for an under-served audience may be considered as strong candidates.

Q. Can panelists consider the cover in their deliberations?
A. Since the cover may affect whether or not kids and teens will pick up and read a particular book, panelists are free to consider the cover as part of the kid appeal of the book, if they choose.

Q. Does a series book have to stand alone to be considered?
A. There's no specific Cybils rule that says that a book has to stand alone. Judging panels are free to decide for themselves how much to expect a book to be able to stand alone. There are two sides to the argument: books that stand alone are more likely to draw in new readers unfamiliar with the series, however, the kid appeal of series books can't be ignored, either.

Q. Can panelists and judges nominate books in the category they are judging?
A. Yes! Panelists were chosen in part for their expertise in the category, so we do want to know what books you would nominate.

Sheila Ruth

Fantasy and Science Fiction Organizer