New Voices Award FAQs

Note: This post was originally written in 2010. The deadline for the 2014 New Voices Award is September 30, 2014. Good luck!

The New Voices Award is open to all authors of color who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. The winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor winner will receive a cash prize of $500.

We periodically get some questions about the Award, so I’d like to answer a few of them if I can:

What does it mean to be a person of color?

Well, that can be a pretty complicated question, but for the purposes of our New Voices Award specifically, we accept contest entries from people of African, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latin American, Middle Eastern, or Native American/Indigenous descent.

Why is the New Voices Award only open to people of color?

The New Voices Award was founded to encourage and support authors of color in a market where they’ve been traditionally excluded and underrepresented. That was true in 2000 when the award was started and it’s still true today (see these stats for some surprising figures about the number of books published by/for people of color). The New Voices Award is one of the ways in which we’re trying to close the gap.

Does Lee & Low only publish books by people of color?

No! Anyone can submit a manuscript to us through our general submissions. We make a special effort to work with writers and artists of color because they are still underrepresented, but we recognize that quality work is not dependent on an author’s ethnicity. For a good discussion about writing cross-culturally, see this post by Tu Books Editorial Director Stacy Whitman.

I am a self-published author. May I still submit to the New Voices Award?

No. Self-published children’s authors are welcome to submit through our general submissions, but only authors who have not been published before, either traditionally or through self-publishing, are eligible for this award.

Do I need to find an illustrator to go with my manuscript?

No. In fact, you should not submit your manuscript with any illustrations. The New Voices Award is for text only – if a book wins, an illustrator will be chosen and paired with the manuscript at a later point.

Here are some Lee & Low titles that started out as New Voices Award entries:


Sixteen Years in Sixteen SecondsSixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds

Seaside Dream

Seaside Dream

It Jes’ Happened

It Jes' Happened cover

Juna’s Jar

Juna's Jar cover

More questions? Leave ‘em in the comments and we’ll try to answer them. And if you are submitting to the New Voices Award this year, best of luck and we look forward to receiving your submissions!


  1. Elie
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    New Voices Award Question – Do illustrations need to be included with submissions? Thanks

  2. Posted August 16, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Elie—No. The award is specifically for picture book manuscripts—that is, the text of a picture book. If you are also an illustrator, you may mention that in your cover letter. There’s more about the relationship between author, illustrator, and editor on our children’s book publishing trivia page.

  3. ls998
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Is the 1,500 word limit a suggestion or a requirement? If my story had a little over 1,500 words, would it be disqualified? Thank you for your time.

  4. Hannah
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi @Is998,
    Yes, the 1,500 word limit is a requirement since it’s a standard picture book. Looking forward to your submission!

  5. ls998
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Hannah. If I were make references to names of people in a Chinese family (for example: mei mei, which means sister in Chinese, or ni ni, which means Grandma) would these two syllabic sounds count as one word because they are referencing one person?

  6. Hannah
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Is998,
    Yes, you can count them as one word.

  7. ls998
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for responding to my questions. Another one– do you want us to head our manuscript or format the first page in any particular way? For standard industry submissions, I understand we’re supposed to start the story half way down the page with our address and page count on the first page. But since our address and page count will be on the cover sheet anyway, perhaps it’s not necessary to include this in the actual manuscript of the story? Should the story just begin on the top of the page?

  8. Posted September 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s not a problem either way, but you can’t go wrong with industry standard.

  9. jayanthi rangan
    Posted September 17, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Dear New Voice Award editor,

    I have submitted a story called “Little Yelli,” to Lee & Low general submissions on July 2nd. Only today I learned about this award and would like to participate.

    Is there any way I could do that?


    Jayanthi Rangan

  10. Hannah
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jayanthi,

    The manuscript that you’ve already submitted to us is not eligible for the New Voices contest, but you’re welcome to submit a different manuscript. Let me know if you have any other questions!


  11. Romelle Broas
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I have an eBook published, does that disqualify me? I am still trying to break into the traditional picture book market.

  12. katrinamoorebooks
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    If I have my first children’s book published this year through another publisher, but want to submit a different manuscript for the new voices award, am I eligible?

  13. Hannah
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Hi Romelle,
    You may submit a different manuscript to the contest, just not the one that has been published as an ebook.

  14. Hannah
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Katrina,
    Congratulations on having a book about to be published! Unfortunately if you already have a book slated for publication this year, you are no longer eligible for the New Voices Award. You are welcome to submit through our regular submission process though.

  15. Posted May 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the US residency requirement, does that mean that an American citizen of color living abroad is not eligible to submit? Many thanks!

  16. Hannah
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    The guidelines ask for authors to be residents of the US, because when an author is located abroad it has implications for book promotion. However, an American citizen currently living abroad who will be back by the end of the year may submit. Let me know if you have any further questions!


  17. Len Nguyen
    Posted June 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Is there an age limit?

  18. Hannah
    Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Len,
    No, there is no age limit for the contest.

  19. Kara
    Posted July 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I have an author’s note at the end of my manuscript for cultural references (Native American). Does the 1500 word limit include the author’s note?
    Thank you!

  20. Posted July 7, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Kara,

    The 1500 word limit does not apply to the author’s note.

  21. Posted August 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    To whom should we address our cover letter? “Dear Editor” seems wrong. Thank you!

  22. Hannah
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kara,
    “Dear Editor” is just fine. Thanks for checking!


  23. Josh
    Posted September 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    What does it mean in the submission guidelines that “folklore and animal stories will not be considered?”

  24. Samantha
    Posted September 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Josh,

    For the New Voices contest, we are looking for realistic fiction, nonfiction, and poetry submissions. If a bit of folklore is woven into a story that is otherwise realistic fiction, then that would be acceptable. From our published books, HOT, HOT ROTI is an example of this.

    Folklore is a story that represents an idea or stories that are not true but that many people have heard or read; the idea or stories reflect traditional customs, beliefs, stories, and sayings. Animal stories have animals (talking or not) as the main protagonist.

  25. Joaquin Flores
    Posted September 28, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Please advise on the following questions:

    1. Does 1500 word count include title?

    2. Is a non-English word (written in Spanish, Chinese or other language) acceptable in title?

    3. Is there a word-count limit for author’s notes?


  26. Samantha
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joaquin,

    1) The 1500 word limit does not include title.
    2) Non-Engish words are acceptable in a title, but the word should be easily readable/pronounceable by English readers.
    3) There is not a hard-fast word limit for an afterword, although we suggest that you don’t exceed 600 words for an afterword/author’s note.

    Thanks for asking!

7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] it is much broader than you first might have thought.  Hannah has posted a lot of information at:  You should check it out.  It even says you do not have to be a person of color to get published […]

  2. […] of color for a picture book manuscript. You can see more about the whys of the award at my post here, so without further […]

  3. […] are answers to some frequently asked questions about the […]

  4. […] eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Voices Award page and answers to some of our FAQs. Happy writing to you all and best of […]

  5. […] more eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Voices Award page and read these FAQs. Spread the word to any authors you know who may be interested. Happy writing to you all and best […]

  6. […] Another small but important detail that we appreciate when reading New Voices submissions is when an author pays close attention to the contest guidelines. It might seem trivial, but a good cover letter that follows the guideline requests—especially author information—creates a great first impression. You can see the full submission guidelines here and the answers to some frequently asked questions here. […]

  7. […] New Voices Award FAQs […]

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