Vivian Contest Judges

Updated October 23, 2020

The purpose of The Vivian Contest is to recognize excellence in published romance novels and novellas, and our goal is to create a contest that is equitable and inclusive. Judges must have a deep love for and knowledge of romance fiction and believe that everyone deserves a happily ever after. The ideal judge will be able to provide a fair assessment of all assigned books and will abide by RWA’s core values and our anti-discrimination policy.

Judge application deadline extended until November 20! 
Judge applications are open now! Click the link below to apply. Email contest@rwa.org with questions.

Vivian Judge Application


Judge Volunteer Details

RWA Staff will select and notify judges who applied before October 23 of their status by November 3, 2020. Judges who apply after October 23 will be notified on or before November 23 of their selection status. All selected judges will be required to complete judge training.


Judge Eligibility 

  • Individuals must demonstrate an adequate understanding of romantic fiction to effectively critique story characters and plot. Book reviewers, librarians, professional critics, bookstore personnel, and authors are examples of individuals who possess the background necessary to serve as judges.

  • All judges will go through an application process to affirm qualifications. Applying to judge the contest does not guarantee acceptance.

  • RWA Staff will affirm judges as to qualifications based on eligibility requirements.

  • Selected judges must agree to complete DEIA and contest training and to follow the prescribed rubrics when judging.

  • Entrants to the contest are not required to judge. Judging is therefore voluntary and independent of contest participation as an entrant.

  • Judges will not be eligible to judge the category(ies) in which they are entered.

  • Judges must familiarize themselves with the rubrics and strictly adhere to them when judging entries. The purpose of the rubrics is to minimize bias in judging and elicit useful critiques.

  • First Round judges must read the first chapter (or first chapter and prologue if present) for each assigned entry.

  • Second and Third Round judges must read the entire book or manuscript for each assigned entry.

  • To the extent permitted by law, RWA will track and analyze all submitted scores. In the event there is a concern that a judge’s scores are out of compliance with the rubric or constitute a violation of RWA’s Anti-Discrimination policy, the judge may be contacted for more information. If the explanation given is unsatisfactory, RWA reserves the right to remove an entrant from the Vivian contest and/or the future judging pool. These decisions will be made by RWA staff. Decisions can be appealed to the RWA Board.

First and Second Round Eligible Judges

Individuals who fall under the following categories whose application has been submitted and accepted are eligible to judge the first and second round so long as they have completed the required training:

  • RWA General Members

  • RWA Associate-Writer Members

  • Non-RWA member authors who have published in romance fiction within the past five years, do not work for a publisher or agency, and do not acquire works of romance fiction

  • Book reviewers who have published critiques of at least three works of romance fiction within the year prior to the contest open date and have an established platform or contribute to an established platform such as a personal blog or social media or YouTube account dedicated to posting reviews. Reviewers who post solely on platforms such as Goodreads, BookBub, NetGalley, online retailers, or similar are not eligible.

  • Booksellers and Librarians who are currently employed at a bookstore or library or who have been employed at a bookstore within three years prior to the contest open date.

  • Professional critics who are paid by a media corporation (e.g., The New York Times, Library Journal, etc.) for critiques and have had three published critiques of romance fiction within the year prior to the contest open date.

Third Round Eligible Judges

Individuals who fall under the following categories whose application has been submitted and accepted are eligible to judge the Third so long as they have completed the required training: 

  • Book reviewers who have published critiques of at least three works of romance fiction within the year prior to the contest open date and have an established platform or contribute to an established platform such as a personal blog or social media or YouTube account dedicated to posting reviews. Reviewers who post solely on platforms such as Goodreads, BookBub, NetGalley, online retailers, or similar are not eligible.

  • Booksellers and Librarians who are currently employed at a bookstore or library or who have been employed at a bookstore within three years prior to the contest open date.

  • Professional critics who are paid by a media corporation (e.g., The New York Times, Library Journal, etc.) for critiques and have had three published critiques of romance fiction within the year prior to the contest open date.

Judge Matching

  • Judges will be asked to indicate which categories, subgenres, and sensuality levels they feel they are most qualified to judge and with which they are most familiar.

  • Entrants will be asked to indicate the subgenres and sensuality level their entry contains.

  • Using the above information, entries will be sorted and assigned to judges via a computer program to ensure the judges are both qualified to judge and familiar with the entries they receive.

Confidentiality

  • The identity of the judges and which books they judge is confidential. Communication between judges and entrants is expressly forbidden.

  • Until the contest winners are announced, to protect the integrity of the contest, judges should not discuss the books, post comments in e-mail, on social media, or review the books they judge. Under no circumstances should a judge identify the books they judged.

  • All questions about entries should be directed to RWA staff.


Scoring Overview

  • All final categories will have one winner.

  • The official list of finalists will be posted on RWA’s website by 2:00 p.m. CT on March 29, 2021. On March 29, 2021, the RWA staff shall notify finalists via email.

  • Final scores will be made available to the author once the contest is concluded and winners have been announced.

View Rubrics

Round One Scoring

  • The purpose of this first round is to establish a minimum standard for submissions.

  • Round One will have three judges per entry.

  • Although the judges will receive the entire work, they will be instructed to read only Chapter One (or the Prologue and Chapter One if a prologue is present) and answer five yes/no questions.

  • Each entry will receive a total of 15 answers (five yes/no answers times three judges). Every entry that receives seven or more 'yes' answers will progress to Round Two.

Round Two Scoring

  • Round Two will have five judges per entry.

  • The judges will read the entire book and assign scores according to the rubric.

  • There are 10 areas to be scored per entry, plus a tie-breaker question. The scores for each area will be combined and the entry will receive a score of between 10-100 from each judge. The highest and lowest scores per entry will be dropped. Finalists will be determined based on the average of the remaining three scores.

  • The top scoring 5% of each categories’ entries based on the number of qualified entries received will advance to the Round Three/the final round, excepting that no category will have more than 10 finalists. Any fraction will be rounded up to the next whole number, not to exceed 10 finalists. However, no entry receiving less than 85% of the total possible score will advance to the next round.

Round Three Scoring

  • Round Three will have five judges per entry.

  • The judges will read each finalist book in the category they are judging and assign scores according to the rubric.

  • There are five areas to be scored per entry, plus a tie-breaker question. Each entry will receive a score of between 5-25 from each judge. The highest and lowest scores per entry will be dropped. The remaining scores will be combined, and the winners will be determined by the cumulative highest score.