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Carol Awards

2021 Carol Award Guidelines

The Carol Awards are ACFW’s recognition for the best Christian fiction published in the previous calendar year.


1. Each title must be the author’s work of original fiction in print or digital form.

2. The title shall be written from a Christian worldview (specifically, the book should not contain profanity, graphic sex, gratuitous violence or other objectionable material, and must otherwise conform to traditional, scriptural worldview) in any Christian fiction genre. The book may either be traditionally published or be Qualified Independently Published.

  • Traditionally Published: The author must not participate financially in the production or distribution of their book, including any requirement to buy a certain number of books from their publisher.

  • ACFW Qualified Independently Published: If the book was independently published or published by a company where the author paid any publishing costs, including, but not limited to, printing, artwork, distribution, or the requirement to buy books, then that author must apply to be a Qualified Independently Published author (QIP).

  •   QIP applications must be received no later than March 1, 2021.

3. Co-authored entries are allowed. If one of the authors is a current ACFW member, then the title can be submitted for the member entry fee.

4. The title must have an original copyright date (printed on copyright page) between January 2020 and December 2020. In the rare event a book was released in 2020 but has a copyright date of 2019, please provide a) a letter from the publisher and b) a .pdf of the publisher’s catalog reflecting the title and release date to the Carol Award Coordinator, at least two weeks prior to the deadline to be considered for entry.

5.  All entering authors are required to check the “Accept” box on the entry form for the Contest Release, indicating acceptance of terms.

6.  Entry may NOT have been previously entered in the Carol Award contest.

7.  Publishers may not enter for their authors.

8.  Entry must be an English edition.

9.  Audio books cannot be entered.

10. Titles must be written from a traditional scriptural Christian world view.

11. Books not meeting the above-defined requirements will be disqualified and the entry fee forfeited.


1.   The entering author shall submit an electronic copy in .pdf form of each title entered in the contest. Once book has been submitted, there are no changes allowed. Print copies will not be accepted.

2.    The author is responsible for choosing the appropriate Carol Award category for their title.

3. Please note, if entering the Novella category, please list the name of your novella AND the name of the collection on the entry form. For example, My Story from This Great Novella Collection.

4. All authors will need the following in order to complete the online entry form:

• high resolution photo of book cover – must be no less than 300 dpi and at least 4” x 6” in size.

• editor names (up to 2)

• publishing house name and contact phone number or check QIP box

• electronic copy of the book(s) being entered in .pdf form

5. Entrants are responsible for submitting the .pdf entry in the correct category. Payment will be required to be paid, via PayPal or credit card from the PayPal site (you do not have to have a PayPal account), prior to the contest entry deadline.

6. No title shall be entered in more than one category, with the exception of the Debut Novel category, in which case, the title may be entered in BOTH Debut Novel and the entry’s genre category. 

7. Entries in the Debut Novel category are limited to authors who have never published a fiction title. Previous works of fiction, including novellas, and regardless of market, disqualify the author from the Debut Novel category. Novellas may not be entered in the Debut Novel category.

8.  There is no limit to the number of eligible titles an author may enter in each category.


1. If less than seven (7) entries are received for any one category, it shall be closed and the authors’ alternate choice category will be used. In this event, ACFW will send the entries to the correct judges. 

2. Authors shall understand and agree that all scores are final once submitted by the judge into the contest system. Scores are determined by each judge according to an established guideline/scoresheet. No altering of scores shall be permitted. The five (5) scores for each title will be averaged and the highest 3 scores in each category will be announced as finalists. Scores will not be returned. A discrepancy judge will be called upon if a judge feels a book should be disqualified or if the judges scores are inconsistent.

3. The top three (3) titles in each category will continue to the final judging round. In the event of a tie, previous round scores will be used to break the tie.


  • Contemporary
  • Debut Novel
  • Historical (through Vietnam era)
  • Historical Romance (through Vietnam era)
  • Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
  • Novella (15K-45K)
  • Romance
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Short Novel (45K-70K)
  • Speculative
  • Young Adult


Fee of $45 for ACFW Members per entry must be paid online via PayPal or credit card, or mail a money order or check made out to ACFW and sent to:

ACFW, P.O. Box 101066, Palm Bay, FL 32910-1066


Authors who are not ACFW members will pay a fee of $115 per entry. You may join ACFW at the time you enter the contest, then pay the $45 per entry fee.

There are no refunds.

Completed entry forms, payment and electronic book submissions must be RECEIVED by March 15, 2021 at 4:00pm central.


• January 2, 2021 - Contest officially opens.

• March 15, 2021 – Contest closes at 4:00pm CENTRAL**. (Completed entry forms, payment and electronic book submissions must be RECEIVED by this date)

• June 2021 (DATE TBA) – Finalists announced.

• September 11, 2021 - Winners announced at the ACFW Conference in New Orleans.

**All contest entry information, appropriate fees, and books must be received by the contest coordinator no later than 4:00pm CENTRAL March 15, 2021. Failure to meet the appropriate deadline shall result in disqualification, and the entry fee shall be forfeited.

Questions may be directed to:


Each finalist will receive a certificate and a silver pin.

Each winner will receive the Carol Award and a gold pin.  Winning editors will receive a certificate.

*The decisions about qualified independently published status are made after careful consideration of ACFW’s goals and vision. All decisions are final.