To be eligible, a book must have been published in English in North America and marketed to the United States between August 1, 2004, through July 31, 2005, and must meet one of the following criteria:
- Received a starred review in Publishers Weekly
- Named to Barnes and Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program
- Named to BookSense Picks
- Named to Borders' Original Voices
- Appeared on bestseller lists from Publishers Weekly, BookSense, Barnes & Noble, and Borders
On October 11 a black-tie gala to be held at New York’s Chelsea Piers to present the awards; NBC Universal Stations will carry a one-hour special on October 22.