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The Walkley Foundation has tightened the criteria for the 2023 Walkley Book Award which opens for entries on Monday, May 29.

Walkley Chief Executive Shona Martyn, previously the publishing director at both HarperCollins and Transworld/Random House, led a review of the Walkley Book Award. Decisions resulting from a separate five-yearly review of the journalism categories in the Walkley Awards will be announced on May 18.

The Walkley Book Award is judged annually by nine expert judges in a two-step process. Past judges, authors, literary editors and journalists were consulted during this year’s review.

“Above all, these awards are for longform journalistic endeavours published in book form,” Martyn said. “Books do not qualify simply because the author is a journalist. I am urging publishers to review the new criteria to ensure books that are entered qualify. The changes are not radical, but they are important.”

Past winners of Walkley Book Awards have been impressive and provide a clear indication of the calibre of works sought. Bronwyn Adcock was the winner in 2022 with Currowan and Kate Holden in 2021 with The Winter Road

“The Walkley Foundation recognises that books give Australian journalists the scope to explore subjects in a greater breadth and length,” Martyn said. “The quality overall is extremely high and judging is a time-consuming and considered process. The review recognised that the terms of entry had not been as specific as they should be – hence the decision to tighten them this year. I hope this guidance will be helpful to publishers.”

Martyn highlighted that memoirs will only qualify if they include significant additional research and offer a balanced approach to the topic.  

“A first-person memoir, told solely from the perspective of the author is not eligible for this award, nor are ghost-written, lifestyle, self-help and academic books. In the case of authorised biographies, the writer will be asked to detail any approval process and indicate how their book adhered to journalistic practices and ethics to ensure balance and accuracy in preparing a work of public interest”

Chair of the Walkley Judging Board, Michael Brissenden emphasised the rigorous process of judging the Walkley Book Award and commended the quality of submissions received in previous years.

“Books present an opportunity for journalists to dig deep, to contextualise and to take readers somewhere new,” Brissenden said. 

“Constructing a coherent and engaging narrative at such a scale is demanding and important work that requires specific skills and dedication. The Walkley Book Award celebrates this pinnacle of long-form journalism and past winners are a testament to the strength and depth of great Australian writing. Judging these awards is also a huge task and this award is judged by industry leaders from both publishing and the media.”

Entrants for the book must have been published in book form in Australia, based on an Australian or international topic. Judges will be looking for writers who have used journalistic skills and processes to craft a compelling and readable narrative for a general readership. Skill in storytelling, news breaking, newsworthiness, deep research, analysis, public impact, structure, readability and creative use of the book medium will be among the qualities assessed.

Books may cover current or historic subjects including investigative journalism, political analysis, true crime, biographies, war reporting, sport, and foreign affairs.


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