Review/Award Criteria

MWSA is a writing group designed to encourage active military, veterans, their families, and historians to write. Our focus is on the stories themselves. Our goal is to create a body of work that will support historians in the future. To that end, we recognize the efforts of our members—whether they are professional writers or beginners or those who simply want a legacy for their families—using the same standards for all.

We are a non-political organization that honors our military. Books that disparage our country and or military are not acceptable. Reviewers are cautioned when reviewing a book to watch for this and if noticed to email the Lead Reviewer prior to proceeeding with the review.

We are happy when our recognition helps authors sell their books and we try to provide as much information and publicity as possible to that end. However, book promotion is NOT our mission. Our programs focus on education—both for our members and their communities. We want to help our writers produce better books. Reviews and awards constitute only one very small part of this effort.

MWSA member volunteers read and review fellow members books. This service is free. However, if an author wishes his/her book to be considered for an award, there is a $25 fee which is collected at the time of submission. Reviewers score books which have been submitted for the awards program against a standard.

The award year ends on July 15th each year, at which time (normally the first Saturday after) Finalists are announced (The Finalist  category recognizes books whose initial score qualifies them as candidates for book award medal consideration.). If you are a Finalist go to our web page and check the expiration date of your dues as you must be current to be considered in the process. Your dues must be paid up past October 1st. The final decision on awards is made in early September so if dues are not current based on these dates please renew no later than August 31st of that year. 

Not all awards are given out each year. Even if one book is all that is entered in a Genre it is no assurance that it will win Gold or even a medal. It is the final score that determines if and what award may be given if any.

Reviewers are provided with spreadsheets which ask 20 questions. They comment on applicable issues of technique or approach in a general way in the public review. However, they are encouraged to provide more detailed notes/comments to boost or detract from the general score.

The standard measures quality in five areas - content, style, visual, and technique.

  • Content: These criteria evaluate plot, characterization, message or theme, believability, intent of book, storytelling, and construction.
  • Style: These criteria evaluate readability, book structure, language, % dialogue to narration, % description to action, % passive to active voice.
  • Visual: These criteria evaluate cover design, cover art, book block layout, font size, font serif, use of illustration.
  • Technical: These criteria evaluate redundancies, spelling, grammar, word usage, sentence structure, adverb and verb tense usage.
  • Comments: This is an opened-ended area where reviewers are encouraged to provide details about their decisions. They are also encouraged to tell us why they believe a book should win an award or why it should NOT receive an award.
  • The relative weights are: Content - 5, Technique - 4, Style - 3, & Visual - 2.


The public review is posted to the website. If the reviewer is enthusiastic about a book, he/she may post it on Amazon, or any other site, provided they wait until it is published to our website. Authors can use reviews any way they wish. An author may appeal the review if he/she feels it doesn't represent the value of his/her book. In that case, a new reviewer will be selected by the Lead Reviewer. The second review will be posted and the two scores will be averaged for ranking. Both reviewers’ comments are evaluated during the awards process. The detailed analysis and score is stored in a spreadsheet and ranked with others in the same category.

Author of the Month, Book of the Month & Quarterly Reading Lists reflect those books that reviewers have ranked highest in the period before publication.

At the end of the Award Year (July 15th. of each year), reviewer scores of books entered into the Awards Contest are ranked within their individual categories and the top finishers are named as "Finalists.". At that point, a committee assigns books to judges. Judges are provided with spreadsheets that mirror the spreadsheets used by the reviewers but the questions are designed to confirm specific criteria required for awards.The Lead Reviewer and VP keep track of scores no one else has access to them until the decision process for medals, at that time the President and Lead Reviewer meet to make those decisions.

In the case of Kindle books or iPad Books the author is responsible for purchasing Gift Downloads which are forwarded to the Lead Reviewer. Manuscripts and or PDF's are not acceptable for judging. You cannot get FREE copies forwarded, you must make a purchase (Gift Download).

Contact by an author (Finalist) with a Judge in any way or form automatically results in the removal of your book from consideration.

Member books winning an Award receive a medal and one-hundred award stickers to be placed on their books at the Awards Banquet. If a member wins and does not attend the conference they need to forward a check to; MWSA, P.O. Box 264, Bridgeville, PA 15017 in the amount of $7.00 to cover shipping/processing. MWSA does not guaranty arrival, members may wish to have their shipment insured at a cost of $2.50 (Up to $50), $3.50 (Up to $100), $5.00 (Up to $250), $7.00 (Up to $500), and $14.00 (Up to $1,000), MWSA does not replace lost shipments.

When judges complete their inspection of the books and submit their spreadsheets, those numbers are compiled. At that point, four different people have examined each nominated book and assessed its quality based on the criteria defined above—content, style, visual, & technique. The final score consists of 25% for each judge plus 50% for reviewer. To be recognized, a book must have a minimum technical score of 17 for Bronze, 18 for Silver, and 19 for Gold. Minimum total score for Bronze is 54, for Silver 59, and 65 for Gold. Those books with scores that qualify for awards are then ranked. The winner in each category has the top score. If two books have the exact same score, that category will be called a tie and both will receive the same award.

It must be noted that this process only allows us to reach a consensus of opinion about the quality of a book. The spreadsheets focus reviewers & judges on the specific criteria that we have decided to recognize with awards. The comments and the scoring also give us an idea of the kinds of classes, articles, & blogs we need to provide our membership to help our authors grow. If individual authors want more specific critiques, that would be a different process which hasn't yet been defined.

MWSA encourages reviewers and judges to measure against a standard rather than a more general, "I like this book better than that one." In fact, judges aren't asked to make a choice between one author or another. We only want to know how well they think a given book fits the criteria. That way, authors know the criteria they will be judged against and can work to improve their writing before they submit a book for review.

These techniques are based on the principles of Critical Analysis which are widely recognized in the writing industry.

For the Founders and Presidents Awards, books go through the same process. However, they are pulled and awarded special recognition because they represent important aspects of the MWSA mission. They may or may not be nominated for an award so the first time an author knows his/her book has received such an award may be at the awards banquet at the annual conference. Also, if no book qualifies for one of these awards in a given year, they won't be given.

Process in short form: Author submits a book for review and or award contest w/review. If a book makes it into the Finalist portion the author will have to send two more books, one to each judge, this is for the awards process.

The author has ten days from the email notice to get the book to each of the judges. The author needs to check and make certain their dues are current and will be until October 1 of the award year, these are author responsibilites, failure to comply results in their book being removed from the contest. No notes, messages etc. may be included, this would cause your book to be removed from the competition. Author should email the Lead Reviewer that they have received the notice to ship books to the judges. Judges need to inform the Lead Reviewer of the titles when they receive the books.

If you wish to volunteer to become a reviewer contact

General Awards Program (Contest). Consists of Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. 

The Founders, Presidents, and Author of the Year Awards are based on exceptional works and as we only provide one award per book, books considered for these awards are pulled from the medal awards and compete solely in these prestigious honors.

The Founder's Award
. Founder Bill McDonald selects the book that best represents the values of the organization as he intended it to be. It must be well-written and inspiring. He selects books that he feels best fit his criteria.

The President's Award. This award goes to either a person or a book (or both) that focuses on forwarding MWSA's mission in the eyes of the President . If it is awarded for a book, it must be of the highest quality and have content or message that furthers the goals of MWSA. If it is awarded to a person, it represents his/her leadership in thought and deed and how he/she impacts MWSA as an organization. It's about quality, passion and achievement.

The Author of the Year {Guidelines/Requirements]:

The Author of the Year (AOY) is presented annually if there are viable candidates who have been identified by the Lead Reviewer. The winning candidate attends the annual MWSA conference and receives a plaque stating his/her achievement, book stickers to be used on any of their presently published books, and recognition both in Dispatches and on our website. The winning candidate also agrees to commit to responsibilities as outlined below. If time permits the author’s most recent work may be submitted to other organizations such as the Pulitzer and Pushcart prizes provided they meet their requirements.

Requirements for the Award:

     1. Candidate should have a “body of work.” This requires a minimum of three books in publication, 
         including award/recognition. At least one must have a gold medal from MWSA.
         a.) All books are considered as long as the author is the writer of origin.
         b.) Collecting works, articles, pieces from others, participating in an anthology are appreciated but
               they are not self-written books.      
     2. Candidate must be a recognized active member of MWSA.
     3. Candidate must attend the conference to receive the award and be present at the following
          year’s conference to present the award to the next MWSA Author of the Year.

Responsibilities of the Award:

Candidates must be aware of and agree to active participation in MWSA, giving back, and recognition of MWSA members, not self. The award recipient will fulfill any stated/assigned responsibilities to assist and promote the MWSA organization in some manner, including but not limited to:

      1. Providing articles for Dispatches quarterly.
      2. Heading and monitoring a forum in an active manner.
      3. Presenting or sharing the responsibility of presenting a minimum of one seminar at the following
           year’s conference.
      4. Being amenable to represent MWSA on radio/TV when asked, and to take on other opportunities
           that may arise, which could involve sponsored travel by an outside organization working with

If no candidate agrees to the requirements and responsibilities as laid out here, then MWSA will not present the award for that year.

Selection Process:

       1.  Lead Reviewer will do the initial qualifying of candidates. Once the Lead Reviewer has 
            selected three potential candidates he/she will then contact each potential candidate to 
            make them aware of the requirements they must agree to in order to become a candidate.
       2.  Lead Reviewer will present the candidates to the entire board. Each board member will perform
            his/her own independent research on each candidate. At a minimum, board members should try
            to read at least one of each candidate’s books, check the Internet for reviews and comments on
            each author, and read reviews done by MWSA. Board members will have from July 16 until
            August 14 to complete their research.
        3. The board will vote on the candidates on the specified day by email process using “reply all.” If a
             board member is nominated, he/she will be excluded from the process entirely.
        4. A majority vote of the board members will be required to declare a winner.

Not every category will have a winner every year. It depends on what is submitted. Even if a book is nominated, it may not win an award or even a recognition. The judge’s role is to confirm or refute the opinion of the reviewer and his/her opinions can remove a book from contention in highly-competitive categories. Even if your book is the only nominee in a given category, that doesn't guarantee it will win a Gold Medal. The medal it wins or if it wins anything, depends on the final score. Finally, a book may be slotted into a different category if deemed appropriate by the President & Lead Reviewer. (Both have to agree.)

Our goal is to make sure that the process produces recognition for those books that represent our view of quality. We want to insure that we judge every book on the same criteria and that judges are scoring the same issues the same way. The process is now part of our bylaws and once the President confirms an award, there is no appeal.

NOTE: The details of these criteria may change from time to time and when/if they do, they will be posted on the website and discussed in Dispatches.