The Kirkus Prize

The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate nearly 90 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism that Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. Books that earn the Kirkus Star with publication dates between Nov. 1, 2020 and Oct. 31, 2021 (see the FAQ for exceptions) are automatically nominated for the 2021 Kirkus Prize. Six finalists in each of three categories will be announced in September. The Kirkus Prize judges will select three winners on October 28, 2021.

2021 Awards Ceremony

Austin Central Library
Austin Central Library, photo credit Casey Dunn
When

Thursday
October 28, 2021

6 in the evening
Eastern Time.

Where

Austin Central
Library Online

The ceremony will take place in the
Special Event Center.

Details

Limited Tickets
Available

Priority access to invited guests.
Tickets available to the public two
weeks prior to the event date.

Rules & Guidelines

Books reviewed by Kirkus Reviews that earned the Kirkus Star and that have original publication dates between Nov. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021, are automatically nominated for the 2021 Kirkus Prize. Children’s and teen books are frequently dependent on finished art and design to have their full effect. In order to ensure that judges have access to finished copies of all titles under consideration, the eligibility dates for the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature are Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021. Both traditionally published and self-published books reviewed by Kirkus that earn the Star are eligible. Because a number of Indie books are submitted for review past publication date, a starred Indie book is considered eligible if the date Kirkus publishes its review online falls within the date parameters of Sept. 1, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2021. Kirkus’ editors and staff evaluate each of the nominated books to determine which ones make it to the next round of consideration, which is conducted by a panel of judges. Books cannot be submitted just for the Kirkus Prize; eligibility for the prize begins with the process of having a book reviewed by Kirkus Reviews. (If your book is traditionally published, you or your publicist can learn how to submit your book for review by reading these guidelines. If your book is self-published, you can submit your book to Kirkus’ Indie department by following these guidelines.)

The prize has three categories: the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature. Both traditionally published and self-published books reviewed by Kirkus that earn the Star are eligible, although eligibility for self-published books is determined by the date of the online publication of Kirkus’ review, not the books’ publication dates, since self-published books are sometimes submitted for review to Kirkus after publication.

Each of the three categories is composed of three highly regarded judges: a writer, a bookseller or librarian, and a Kirkus critic. Our judges are chosen for their intellectual curiosity, sense of fairness, and wide knowledge of literary excellence across the various genres within the category of books they’re judging. Judges will confer among themselves to choose the six finalists in their categories (finalists are announced in September) and will then meet in person to choose the winners before the announcement on Oct. 28. In the Young Readers’ Literature category, the finalists will include two picture books, two middle-grade books and two teen books.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Kirkus Prize?

The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the more than 80 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism that Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. Books that earn the Kirkus Star with publication dates between Nov. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021 (see FAQ for exceptions), are automatically nominated for the 2021 Kirkus Prize. Six finalists in each of three categories will be announced in September. The Kirkus Prize judges will select three winners on Oct. 28, 2021.

How does my book become eligible for the Kirkus Prize?

Books reviewed by Kirkus Reviews that earned the Kirkus Star with original publication dates between Nov. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021, are automatically nominated for the 2021 Kirkus Prize. Children’s and teen books are frequently dependent on finished art and design to have their full effect. In order to ensure that judges have access to finished copies of all titles under consideration, the eligibility dates for the 2021 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature are Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021. Kirkus’ editors and staff evaluate each of the nominated books to determine which ones make it to the next round of consideration, which is conducted by a panel of judges. The Prize consists of three categories: the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature. Both traditionally published and self-published books reviewed by Kirkus that earn the Star are eligible. Because a number of Indie books are submitted for review past publication date, a starred Indie book is considered eligible if the date Kirkus publishes its review online falls within the date parameters of Sept. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. 

How do I get my book reviewed by Kirkus Reviews?

From the many submissions they receive, the editors of Kirkus Reviews select for review approximately 8,000–10,000 books per year. If your book is traditionally published, you or your publicist can learn how to submit your book for review by reading these guidelines. If your book is self-published, you can submit your book to Kirkus’ Indie department by following these guidelines.

What if my book is traditionally published but wasn’t selected for review and I would still like my book to be eligible for the Kirkus Prize?

By any standard, the number of books Kirkus Reviews covers yearly is notable, but not every book the magazine’s editors receive can be reviewed. In addition to reviewing many self-published books, Kirkus’ Indie section regularly reviews traditionally published books that weren’t selected for review in the fiction, nonfiction, or children’s/teen sections.

What percentage of the books reviewed by Kirkus Reviews receive the Kirkus Star?

On average, Kirkus’ editors award the Kirkus Star to 10% of all the books they assign for review. Their decisions are based on their long-running, deep knowledge of contemporary trends in publishing and their appreciation for exceptional writing and illustration.

Are Kirkus’ editors the only ones to decide if a book receives a Star?

The editors work closely with our reviewers to determine if a book receives a Star, but the decision belongs ultimately to our editors.

I’ve written a book that received the Kirkus Star but it’s written in a particular genre or subgenre. How do I know that a thriller, for example, is being judged fairly compared, say, to a literary novel?

Like many other American book awards, the Kirkus Prize is categorized broadly; there are three Kirkus Prizes: the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature. Our judges are chosen for their intellectual curiosity, sense of fairness and wide knowledge of literary excellence across the various genres within the category of books they’re judging.

I am the author of an illustrated picture book for young readers that received a Kirkus Star. Will my book be judged fairly compared, say, to a teen novel?

There are six finalists announced in each of the three categories of the Prize. In the category of Young Readers’ Literature, the judges will name two picture books, two middle-grade books and two teen books as the finalists.

What happens if my book is eligible and wins the prize but has more than one author?

If your book has more than one creator (an author and an illustrator, for example, or more than one author), the prize money will be distributed equitably among the various creators as determined by the judges and administrators of the Kirkus Prize.

Are illustrators, photographers, and translators eligible for the prize as well as authors?

The prizes are awarded based on the excellence of the books under consideration; any type of creator (as named on a book’s title page) whose work contributes to the excellence of the winning book will be named as recipients of the prize in the appropriate category.

My out-of-print book received a Kirkus Star when it was first published, and it has been republished during the period of eligibility. Is it it eligible?

Eligibility for the prize is limited to books that earn the Kirkus Star whose original publication date falls between Nov. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021 (please see the exceptions to these dates, above). Hardcovers, paperback originals, and e-book originals are all eligible, but reissues are not.

My book was originally published with different illustrations, and a new edition with new illustrations received a Kirkus Star during the period of eligibility. Is it eligible? Am I eligible, or just the new illustrator?

If a book with new illustrations earns the Kirkus Star, it would be considered eligible; all creators named on the title page would be named winners, and the prize money would be distributed equitably between or among them. This principle applies to any new, transformative treatment of a previously published book, such as a new translation, as determined by the prize judges and administrators.

My app/enhanced e-book was published/reviewed during the period of eligibility. Does that mean that you will be considering it as well?

Apps and enhanced/interactive e-books are not eligible for the Kirkus Prize.

Are posthumous works eligible for the Kirkus Prize?

Yes, according to guidelines set forth elsewhere in this FAQ.

After Kirkus reviewed my book and awarded it a Star, its publication date was moved. How does this affect my eligibility?

Eligibility for the prize is determined by the publication date on record in Kirkus’ database.

The publication date of my book and its on-sale date are different. Which does Kirkus use to determine a book’s eligibility?

When a precise publication date is not otherwise available at the time a book is assigned for review, Kirkus’ editors often use a book’s on-sale date as its publication date. In these cases, Kirkus’ decision determines a book’s eligibility.

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  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2020 winners.

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