The Crown Award

The 2019 Crown Award contest is now closed.

For a complete list of our 2019 finalists, click here.

Winners announced November 9th.


The ACFW-VA Crown Award gives unpublished writers the opportunity to have those all-important first five pages of their Christian fiction manuscript evaluated by industry professionals.

The first round is judged entirely by published authors. Entries advancing to the final round will be evaluated by top professionals in the Christian publishing industry—literary agents, editors, and influential book bloggers.



You do not need to be a member of ACFW nationally nor of the ACFW Virginia Chapter in order to participate.

Important Dates

  • July 12, 2019 – Contest is open for entries.
  • August 23, 2019 – Submissions Close (5pm Eastern Time)
  • October 1, 2019 – Top 3 Finalists Announced; Entries Sent to Final Round Judges
  • November 1, 2019 – Scores Due From Final Round Judges
  • November 9, 2019 – Winners announced at the ACFW-VA Conference in Purcellville, VA


  1. Authors must be age 18 years or older.
  2. Any author whose work has not been previously published in novella or book-length fiction (in ANY print or online form) is eligible to enter The Crown.
  3. Authors who are published in non-fiction and picture books are eligible to enter an unpublished fiction manuscript.
  4. There is no limit to the number of entries an author may submit, however, a single manuscript may not be entered into multiple categories.
  5. Contest is open to ACFW-VA members and non-members.
  6. Any author contracted for publication before August 1, 2019 is not eligible to enter. If an entrant receives a contract on an entered manuscript after August 1, 2019, may remain in the contest.
  7. Any author who has entered The Crown may not independently publish any work until after The Crown finalists are announced. However, if they are a finalist in the contest, then they may not independently publish any work until after the winners are announced during ACFW-VA’s November 9, 2019 conference.
  8. In any category, if fewer than five (5) entries are received, the category will be dissolved and the entrant’s alternate choice category on their submission will be used. The author is responsible for choosing the appropriate category for their entry.
  9. Previous winning entries of The Crown are not eligible to be entered in this year’s contest. Previous finalist (non-winning) entries may be entered again.
  10. The manuscript should not contain profanity, graphic sex, gratuitous violence or other objectionable material, and must otherwise conform to generally accepted standards of the CBA. The ACFW-VA Conference Board may order the disqualification of submissions not meeting this requirement.
  11. Manuscripts are not required to be complete in order to enter, but it is strongly suggested as industry professionals will judge the finalists.


Entry fee is payable by PayPal and is non-refundable. Entry fees are used by the ACFW Virginia chapter to finance the contest, as well as raise funds for local chapter events. You may choose to join ACFW VA, if you are a Virginia resident and member of ACFW, at the time of entrance in order to receive the member entry fee rate.

  • ACFW Virginia Chapter Members: $20.00
  • Non-members: $25.00

Multiple entries require separate entry fees.
If an entrant must withdraw from the contest for any reason, they forfeit their entry fee.

Submission Instructions

  1. Start your contest entry by filling out the Registration Form. After the registration form is received, you will be manually emailed a PayPal Invoice for the entry fee. After the entry fee is paid, please email your entry to Please be sure to follow all instructions below for content and formatting.
  2. Each entrant must upload their entry as a Microsoft Word document.
  3. Include a one page single-spaced synopsis in the same file with your manuscript. Do NOT send a separate file for your synopsis.
  4. Do NOT place your name or pseudonym anywhere on the synopsis or manuscript.
  5. Please do not post the name or other identifiers of your Crown-entered manuscript(s) to any of your online profiles (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for judging to be unbiased and anonymous.


Entries with borders or frames on the manuscript pages will not be allowed. For all entries, the following guidelines must be used:

  1. Use 12-point font. The contest requires the use of Times New Roman, Courier New, Garamond, Cambria, or Book Antiqua.
  2. The one-page synopsis should be single-spaced with one-inch margins, and begin one double-space below the header. The synopsis may use indented paragraphs with no spaces between the paragraphs or block paragraphs with a double space between paragraphs. PLEASE insert the synopsis first in the document, then the manuscript pages. (6 pages total) For suggested resources on writing a synopsis, click here.
  3. Start the first page of your manuscript 4 double spaces (8 single spaces) below the header. The manuscript should be double-spaced with indented paragraphs and one-inch margins.
  4. Include a header on each manuscript with the title, category/genre, estimated manuscript word count, and page numbers. NO entrant’s name or pseudonym should be in the header.
  5. Your entry will contain, in this order, a one page, single-spaced synopsis, followed by your first chapter, up to the first 5 pages of your manuscript. Prologues are acceptable and are included in the 5-page count. The entry will be 6 pages total, including synopsis. You may send less than 6 pages. DO NOT SEND MORE THAN 6 PAGES.
  6. To indicate a scene break, insert a single hashtag (#) or three hashtags (###) or three asterisks (***) one double-space down from the last line of the previous scene. Begin the new scene one double-space down from the hashtag(s) or asterisks.

Entries not fulfilling the above specifications will be returned to the entrant with one opportunity to correct and resubmit. After this, the entry will be rejected. Entry fees will not be refunded.

If you have any questions, please e-mail the contest coordinator at


Projected Categories

The Contest Coordinator reserves the right to combine categories if a minimum of five entries are not received per category.

  • Contemporary/Contemporary Romance: Novels or sagas set in any location with a contemporary setting. This category includes literary fiction, women’s fiction, and mainstream fiction. In Contemporary Romance entries, the love story is set in any location in a contemporary setting, and is the main focus of the novel. The end of the book is emotionally satisfying. The stories in this category can be dramatic or comedic.
  • Historical/Historical Romance (through Vietnam era): Novels or sagas set in any location, in which the time frame of the majority of the story is historical rather than contemporary. The time period can be up to and including the Vietnam era.
  • Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Novels set in any location in which suspense or mystery is an integral part of the plot, including those with a strong romance focus. The story can be in any location, but the time frame should be contemporary. Historical romantic suspense stories should be entered in the Historical category.
  • Speculative: Novels in which the science fiction, the future, other planets, a fantasy world, or paranormal happenings are a major element of the plot or setting. This category includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, futuristic, allegory, and alternate history fiction. Stories targeted primarily at young adult readers should be entered in the Young Adult category.
  • Young Adult: Novels targeted toward young adult readers ages 12 through 18. The stories in this category can be dramatic, comedic, romantic, or non-romantic. Science Fiction/Fantasy/Allegory stories targeted primarily at young adult readers can be entered in this category. Stories targeted at Middle-Grade readers are included in this category.


Under no circumstances should comments provided by a judge be used for publicity purposes without the express consent of the judge.


During the first round, two judges (published authors or experienced writers trained in judging The Crown) will score each entry, up to a maximum of 100 points per entry. Judges will use a scoresheet to evaluate entries. The use of track changes to leave comments for contestants is encouraged but not required. Both scores will be averaged. Discrepancy judges will NOT be used due to the logistics of the contest.

The top three (3) finalists in each category will continue to the final round.


Final round judges consist of industry professionals (agents and editors). During this round, a minimum of two judges will score each entry, and the scores will be averaged. Discrepancy judges will NOT be used. In each category, the entry receiving the top final round score becomes the category winner. In the event of a tie, the previous round scores of the tied entries will be used to break the tie. If any category winner is disqualified or withdraws for any reason, the next highest-scoring finalist will be moved up to become category winner.

Final round judges will not utilize the score sheet used in the first round of judging. Instead, judges in this round will assign each entry a score between one (1) and ten (10), with one (1) being a low score and ten (10) being a high score. Final round judges have the option of giving comments on the final round entries but are not required to do so. All scores will be averaged.

Contestants who do not advance to the final round will receive their manuscripts via e-mail by October 5, 2019. Entrants are asked to please be patient as coordinators return entries, due to the sheer volume of entries and emails.

All judging is blind. Entrants’ names are only known by the coordinator.

The Crown Award Final Round Judges 2019

Tamela Hancock Murray – Tamela Hancock Murray is a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency. She lives out her real-life romance with her Knight in Shining Armor in Northern Virginia.

Marisa Deshaies – Editor, fiction coach and book reviewer who has a way with words.

Carrie Booth Schmidt – Carrie is passionate about story, KissingBooks, and Jesus (not in that order); she is a professional reviewer and a co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat AND JustRead Publicity Tours.

Jessica Nelson – Jessica loves acquiring clean romances that feature heroes and heroines who are strong, bold, and compelling.

Leslie McKee – Leslie L. McKee, an editor, reviewer, blogger, and published author, is an avid reader with an eye for detail who loves helping authors on their literary journeys

 Jim Hart – Jim Hart is an agent with Hartline Literary Agency and works with both non-fiction and fiction in the CBA and general markets.

AE Schwartz – Author, editor, and teacher

Bethany Kaczmarek – Teacher. Author. Editor. Traveler. General Storyteller. Realm Makers Faculty Liaison

Nicola Martinez – is the editor-in-chief of Pelican Book Group, where she is blessed to work with many amazing authors and staff.

Cynthia Ruchti – Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotions, and through speaking events. As a literary agent with Books & Such Literary Management, she advocates for other authors on their writing and publishing journeys.

Beth Jamison – Freelance editor of award-winning work

Reagen Reed – An editor with more than 12 years’ experience specializing in the intricacies of an alternate reality, dragon lore, and spaceship maintenance.

Rel Mollet – An avid reader from childhood, Rel has been blogging to showcase Christian fiction and its writers since 2006 and is a founding member of the INSPY Awards. Rel resides in Melbourne, Australia with her movie-loving husband and three sometimes book-loving daughters.

Sarah Freese – Sarah Joy is a literary agent with WordServe Literary. She loves reading through queries, working with her authors on various proposals, and attending writing conferences to meet new excellent writers. Sarah especially enjoys working with authors to make their manuscripts even stronger.


Each category will have one first-place winner. Winners and finalists in each category will receive a certificate and a Crown Award Finalist Badge to use for promotion on your website and social media. In addition to a certificate, first place entry in each category will also receive a silver crown lapel pin or tie clip.






Winners will be announced at the 2019 ACFW Virginia Annual Conference on November 9.

Previous Winners:

2 thoughts on “The Crown Award

  1. Pingback: Loving the short story–and why it feels like Christmas! | Angela K Couch

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s