Judging Round 1

We call our first-round judges panelists, mostly because people just started using the term and it stuck. Your category chairperson is there to guide and advise you, but this isn’t a seminar. Don’t wait to be called on.


  1. You start work when nominations open on October 1st, sifting through scores of nominated books in your chosen genre.
  2. You’ll join a Google group or other similar list and use our database to keep track of what you’ve read.
  3. Although we make every effort to obtain review copies for you, you will be expected to befriend your local librarian. This may mean working the interlibrary loan system to nab a copy. You may also have to stake out a cozy spot on the floor of a local bookstore, though we can’t reimburse you for purchases.
  4. If you already belong to an ebook lending service such as Oyster or Scribd, great. If not, again, we’re not in a position to reimburse you.
  5. You’re not obligated to suffer through to the end of each book. Each panel commits only to making sure every nominated book is read at least partway in by at least one person, preferably two. You can set the book aside if it clearly isn’t competitive with other nominated titles. This prevents wasting time on marginal books.
  6. If no one on your panel can get their hands on a copy, then we do not judge it. This occasionally happens with self-published books, but represents only about 1% of the nominated books per year.
  7. All panelists are expected to completely read all serious shortlist contenders unless they just can’t find a copy. This may mean that you’ll have to read and impartially judge books that don’t fit with your worldview.
  8. Round 1 judges are allowed and encouraged to post reviews of nominated titles, as long as the review does not mention how you, or any other judge, is voting for the shortlist.
  9. Your panel will collectively turn in a shortlist of 5-7 titles in late December and every member of your group writes up a blurb for one or two of the shortlisted titles. The blurb is a fun way for readers to understand your group’s thought process in picking each book.
  10.  Collapse in an exhausted heap.

We’re told this is the most fun job at Cybils, but for us organizers, it’s also the most hair-raising. If you’re not updating the database, we have no idea what you’re up to.

... Because we get asked this a lot!

Can I judge in a category where I have an eligible book or know someone who has an eligible book?
The short answer is no. Authors, illustrators, editors, or agents cannot serve in categories where a book is eligible that they worked directly on. That doesn't mean you can't be a judge. Get all the info right here