This literary competition is known as the Whitney Awards. They were founded in 2007 by author Robison Wells with the object of honoring the best fiction written each year by Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
The program has grown from five genre categories to eight and from two overall awards to three. A three-tiered system—with input from readers, judges, and a large academy of publishing professionals—is used to determine the finalists and winners.
The Whitneys are given only to novels written by Latter-day Saint (Mormon) authors, and must be a minimum of 50,000 words, or in the case of novels for youth, 20,000 words long. In addition, the original novels must be released between January 1 and December 31 of the award year.
Nominations are made by any reader twelve years or older who have no financial interest in the book. Nope, authors and publishers can't do it. Only readers may nominate books, and they need not be LDS/Mormons. Once five or more nominations have been received via the Whitney Awards website form, the author is contacted to verify the book's eligibility. Nominated books then go to category judges. When their determinations have been made of the top five novels in the category (the Finalists), the list is released to the public and to the members of the Whitney Academy.
Academy members may vote in any category for which they have read all of the finalists. The same rule applies when voting for the three overall awards:
- To vote for Best Novel, an academy member must have read all twenty-five finalists in the adult genre categories.
- To vote for Best Youth Novel, an academy member must have read all fifteen finalists in the three youth categories.
- To vote for Best Novel by a New Author, an academy member must have read all of the finalists that are debut novels for the year. (The number of finalists eligible for this award varies year to year.)