Apply to be a Cybils Panelist starting Thursday, or, Why 150 isn't a scary number of books

Panelist applications for the Cybils open this Thursday!  For those who haven't been involved with the Cybils before, and not sure about applying, here's my personal take on how things work (the official information is available at the Cybils website).


In a nutshell, the Cybils are book awards for children's and Young Adult books and aps, given by panels of volunteer bloggers. Anyone can nominate eligible titles in a variety of subgenres during the nomination period, which runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, 2014.  (Eligible titles are books published for children or teens between Oct. 16, 2012 and Oct. 15, 2013).

The nominated books/aps are evaluated by a first round of 5-7 panelists; at the end of December, these panelists send a short list of 5-7 titles to a second round of panelists, who then have to pick a winner.  The main criteria for judging are audience appeal and literary merit.

Any currently active children's and YA book blogger, who is at least 16 years old, can apply to be a first or second round panelist for any of the following categories:

Book Apps
Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Elementary/Middle- Grade Nonfiction
Young Adult Nonfiction
Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Elementary/Middle- Grade Speculative Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Some categories have more books nominated in them than others--last year Elementary and MG Speculative Fiction had 150, and Fiction Picture Books, Middle Grade and YA categories had as many, if not more (the YA categories, I think, were pushing 200).   So the time commitment varies considerably.


The panels are comprised of returning Cybilians (dependable veterans), and newcomers.  

This year I'm category organizer for Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction (formerly Sci Fi/Fantasy), which means choosing two balanced, thoughtful, enthusiastic groups of readers--first round readers who aren't daunted by the thought of a 150 or so book list, and second round panelists who will be sharp as all get out when picking the best of the best.

Do not be put off by that 150 number!   It sounds much more scary than it is.

Why, though it is lot of reading, it's not so scary:

--not everybody has to read every book (it's a minimum of two readers for each book).
--not every book you can count as read has to be read in its entirety.
--you'll have read a number of the books already
--panelists know before the nomination period begins that they are panelists, and so the reading period actually begins in the middle of September (there are many books to read that you just know will be nominated).
--In many categories, like E and MG Spec Fic, some books will be very short, fast reads, which helps.

There's no fixed minimum number of books you have to read, and it is not a competition to see who can read the most books--there will be speed readers, and less speedy readers, and both are just fine, as long as there is sincere commitment and effort.  

And of course, if you want to be a second round panelist, it's at most seven books to read.

Why you might want to apply--

It is really, really fun to talk enthusiastically about books you love (and love less well) with like-minded folk.  You can say all sorts of things to your co-panelists that you would never say in public--squeeing, arguing, venting, and gushing are perfectly fine! It is a great way to revitalize your reading.  (It is also a great way to distract yourself from things you'd rather not do, but that might be a reason not to apply...)

You make new friends.  Some of my best blogging friends were fellow Cybilians.

After being a first round panelist, you will have an incredibly broad picture of what's up in the genre. 

You will have a sense of satisfaction from having helped create a resource (the lists of finalists) that lots of people will appreciate.

Why you might not want to apply (particularly for the first round)

If you have a major life commitment this fall--having a baby, starting a new job, buying a house, etc.--you might not want to be a first round panelist (although I've worked with great co-panelists who have done these things while reading furiously!).  Things get a bit intense around Christmas, when the deadline for the list of finalists looms, so you'll need to be able to spare some hours for group discussions/last minute re-reading/careful thought.

If you have a potential conflict of interest (perhaps you are in the book business in some way, or perhaps you have written an eligible book), that would preclude you from being an impartial panelist, you'll want to make sure this is made clear when you apply.

If you don't think it sounds like fun to check your email lots and lots to see what your co-panelists have to say about their reading, and to share your own thoughts, and to check off the books you've read in the spreadsheet, you might want to think it over...You don't have to go overboard, but you should plan on being Present in a meaningful way.

If you live outside the US, you are welcome to apply, but you will have a harder time getting hold of books (if this applies to you, and you think you could manage it, do feel free to explain when you fill out the application form!).

If for some reason you don't have easy access to a public library, you might have a hard time getting books; some books will come from publishers and authors, including ebooks, but many will not.

But in any event,

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction is the Best Category Ever and the books are really good this year and I hope lots of you apply, although then I will have to make Hard Choices and be sad about not being able to pick everyone....

Which reminds me that it's common knowledge that some categories get lots of applicants (the YA ones, and fiction picture books), and some get lots fewer (poetry, non-fiction, book aps); you might want to keep that in mind when you indicate your choices.  I have no idea how many people put E and MG Spec Fic down as their first choice last year, and I am very curious indeed to see how it plays out!

And if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or email me at charlotteslibary at gmail dot com.


  1. Last year I applied for panelist or judge, but I may go for just panelist this year. I had so much fun and I can't imagine just reading the last seven and having to make that decision. But I'm sure that would be a lot of fun too . . .

    1. I've never done the final round myself, and can only imagine how hard it must be to reach consensus...

  2. I appreciate all of the efforts of all of the folks involved in selecting the Cybils books.

    Thanks to you -- and all the panelists and judges!

    1. Thanks Denise! It is a bit of work, but so worthwhile!

  3. Wait... it's NOT a contest to see who can read the most??? ;-)

    1. It can't be a contest because the YA people always get to win, because of them having more books. Sniff.

  4. Thanks for putting it all so clearly and stating the pros and cons. Much appreciated!

  5. Thank you for posting! I was really hoping to apply again this year... but now my daughter is in the hospital again, and I think I should wait until she gets out and reassess then.

    1. Sending more good thoughts your way....

      Perhaps the second round?

    2. Thank you. She's out - I am still pondering. Torn between wanting to do it now and thinking that next year she'll be in full day kindergarten and I will have time at home with no children.

  6. This is a super helpful post, thank you!

  7. Hey..oddly enough, if I am accepted again this year I am determined to read as close to 150 as possible. Can't help it. And reading this post has me with my fingers doubly crossed that I get picked again!

    And yeah, you have some seriously good mg speculative fiction to be considering this year. Looking forward to the nominations!

    1. Every year the number of books nominated keeps going up; at least in the categories I pay attention to! And every year YA SF has more...I do not think I would be able to make it through their list, unless I started training for it, as it were (ie reading new books like crazy) in the previous November!


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