William C. Morris Debut YA Award

About the William C. Morris Debut YA Award
The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

The award's namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Bill Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award celebrates the achievement of a previously unpublished author, or authors, who have made a strong literary debut in writing for young adult readers. The work cited will illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence, demonstrated by:

  • Compelling, high quality writing and/or illustration
  • The integrity of the work as a whole
  • Its proven or potential appeal to a wide range of teen readers

Administered by:

Young Adult Library Services Association logo

Award and Frequency

This award is given out on an annual basis.


   1. The award and honor book winner(s) must be authors of original young adult works of fiction in any genre, nonfiction, poetry, a short story collection, or graphic work.
   2. The award winner(s) must not have previously published a book for any audience. Books previously published in another country, however, may be considered if an American edition has been published during the period of eligibility.
   3. Works of joint authorship are eligible, but only if all contributors meet all other criteria. For example, graphic works created by an author and an illustrator are eligible, but only if both contributors have never published before.
   4. Books must have been published between January 1 and December 31 of the year preceding announcement of the award.
   5. Edited works and anthologies are not eligible.
   6. The short list may consist of up to five titles.
   7. The award may be given posthumously provided the other criteria are met.
   8. The winner and short-listed book authors are encouraged to attend an award ceremony at the ALA Annual meeting, following the announcement of the award at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting.
   9. If during a specific year, no title is deemed sufficiently meritorious, no award will be given that year.
  10. The chair, with assistance from designated YALSA staff, is responsible for verifying the eligibility of all nominated titles.
  11. To be eligible, a title must have been designated by its publisher as being either a young adult book or one published for the age range that YALSA defines as "young adult," i.e., 12 through 18. Books published for adults or for younger children are not eligible.

Application Instructions


  • Both field and committee nominations will be accepted for books that meet the published criteria.
  • Publishers, authors, agents, or editors may not nominate their own titles.
  • Field nominations must be seconded by a committee member prior to December 1.
  • Nominations may be accepted from the field and from committee members up to December 1.
  • Final selections are made at the ALA Midwinter Meeting during a series of committee meetings closed to the public.
  • Only committee members attending the ALA Midwinter Meeting will be allowed to vote.
  • Members can vote only on books they have read.


Contact Information

Displaying active committee roster as of 10/19/2021. Last retrieved on 10/19/2021. Members can log in to view full contact information for committee members.

Selection Criteria

   1. This award recognizes excellence by a first time author writing for young adults.
   2. The winning title must exemplify the highest standards of young adult literature and must be well written. The book’s components [story, voice, setting, accuracy, style, characters, design, format, theme, illustration, organization, etc.] should be of high merit.
   3. Popularity is not the criterion for this award, nor is the award based on the message or content of the book.
   4. The book must have teen appeal or have the potential to appeal to teen readers.
   5. In the sum of all the criteria, does the book represent the highest achievement in a debut work for young adults?