Note: This post is up to date as of April 2022.
The New Voices Award is open to all authors of color and Native nations who have not previously had a children’s picture book published. The winner receives a cash prize of $2000 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 $1000.
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 purposes of our New Voices Award specifically, we accept contest entries from people who self-identify as African, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latinx, 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 Publisher Stacy Whitman.
I am a self-published author. May I still submit to the New Voices Award?
Yes. Authors of self-published books are eligible, but they should submit a new manuscript, not a project that has been previously self-published. Writers cannot have had a picture book traditionally published if they’re applying for the New Voices Award.
Is Work for Hire considered traditionally published? Am I eligible for the New Voices Award if I’ve done Work for Hire?
With regards to the New Voices Award, if a writer has completed a work for hire picture-book project and owns the copyright to the text they wrote for that project, then we consider them to be traditionally published and ineligible for this award. If you do not own the copyright to your work for hire project, you remain eligible for the 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.
Do I need an agent to submit my manuscript?
No. In fact, only submissions from writers without agents are considered for the award. The New Voices Award is for unpublished children’s book writers who are trying to break into publishing.
How do I contact an Editor with my question?
Most answers about the contest can be found by thoroughly reading the contest guidelines. Please refer to the New Voices Award guidelines for complete information about the award, submission qualifications, and how to submit your manuscript.
Can I receive confirmation my submission has been received by Lee & Low Books?
After completing and submitting your application using the New Voices Submission Form, you will receive an automated email confirming that you’ve successfully submitted your application.
For what kind of manuscripts are you looking?
Please refer to the Submissions section of our New Voices Award page for information regarding our manuscript interests.
I’m a citizen of a Native sovereign nation, not of the US. May I submit to the New Voices Award?
But I write for older readers. Is there a contest for me?
Yes! Our annual New Visions Award is for middle grade and YA manuscripts. See the submission guidelines.
Here are some Lee & Low titles that started out as New Voices Award entries:
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds
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!
154 thoughts on “New Voices Award FAQs”
New Voices Award Question – Do illustrations need to be included with submissions? Thanks
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.
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.
Yes, the 1,500 word limit is a requirement since it’s a standard picture book. Looking forward to your submission!
I am still working on Manuscript. This is my first try at writing a children’s book.
Is 1500 word the complete book? that is do I have to stay with that framework. Also Can I submitted a work in progress for consideration? I have been working with a illustrator that I would like to stay with does this present a problem with your firm business model?
Thanks so much
I only found out by reading the FAQs, that the new voices award is a text only writing contest. Would this then be grounds that possibly disqualified my submission? Is it possible to get feed back on a submission?
Hi Chola, If your submission included the text of the story, then your submission still qualifies. Unfortunately, we cannot provide feedback on each submission.
Hi: I am hispanic, born in the United States. Am I eligible for the New Voices Award?
Yes you are!
The website mentions that the manuscript should not be submitted anywhere else while under consideration. How long does one wait after submission for consideration by Lee and Low? When are the results announced?
The Award and/or Honor Award winners will be notified no later than December 31, 2021. We will announce the winners by January 18, 2022.
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?
Yes, you can count them as one word.
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?
It’s not a problem either way, but you can’t go wrong with industry standard.
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?
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!
I have an eBook published, does that disqualify me? I am still trying to break into the traditional picture book market.
You may submit a different manuscript to the contest, just not the one that has been published as an ebook.
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?
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.
Regarding the US residency requirement, does that mean that an American citizen of color living abroad is not eligible to submit? Many thanks!
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!
Is there an age limit?
No, there is no age limit for the contest.
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?
The 1500 word limit does not apply to the author’s note.
To whom should we address our cover letter? “Dear Editor” seems wrong. Thank you!
“Dear Editor” is just fine. Thanks for checking!
What does it mean in the submission guidelines that “folklore and animal stories will not be considered?”
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.
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?
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!
Hello – A question on 2015 sumissions: The guidelines say we must not have previously published a PB. But what about other genre’s? I published a NF middle grade book some years back. Am I eligible? Thanks.
Hi, I have the same question (or similar) as Rae: I have self-published adult work, and have a self-published YA work (for ages 16+) forthcoming, etc. But I have never published or been published as a children’s author. Am I still eligible?
Hello – would you accept a manuscript from an author who is Canadian by citizenship, residing in the US for work (on a valid school/work visa)?
I’m Rosa. I am half Jamaican and half Caucasian. Can I still enter in the New Voices Award even if I am not 100% Jamaican?
Hello- The guidelines say that previously submitted manuscripts can not be re-submitted. I have a story I submitted for last year’s New Voices Award that I have re-worked. May I submit an updated version of my story for the 2015 awards? Thank you.
What format should the manuscript be in? I made dummy picture book on Word with no illustrations (text only)? Is this unacceptable? Also, I am an Artist/Illustrator as well. I did a painting that inspired the story I am submitting for the contest. Can I include it in the cover letter?
Generally, when are winners announced?
Is this years contest over?
No, it’s open through September 30, 2016!
Hello, hello, hello! Last year, I submitted a story for the New Voices contest with an SASE to be notified in writing of your decision by January 31st. I moved this summer and realized that the SASE was addressed for my previous place. I’m wondering if there is still a way for me to be notified of your decision. No worries if there is not. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!
Hi Yia! Unfortunately, we’ve already sent our responses to all entrants of this year’s New Voices award.
Thank you for letting me know! 🙂
When will the 2017 New Voices Award start?
It opens May 1, 2017. Thanks for checking!
If my manuscript is submitted to the contest, will there be a chance for publication if the manuscript is not one of the two selected as winners for the contest?
Hi Naydham! If your manuscript is not chosen as one of the winners, there is still a chance that one of our editors may be interested in working with you to develop it for acquisition. So the answer is yes, though it is not guaranteed.
Thank you so much for your quick reply!
I had submitted a ms for this award back in 2013. Recently, I won a WNDB mentorship with Jane Yolen and with her help, we completely revised the story so that it is no longer anything like the previous version even though the subject matter remains the same.
Your rule #4 says, “Manuscripts previously submitted for this award or to LEE & LOW BOOKS will not be considered.” But would it be eligible if it is completely rewritten (either for the New Voices award or the LEE & LOW in general)?
If I am published as an illustrator for another’s self-published book, am I eligible to enter the contest as a writer?
My husband and I want to submit our manuscript. He is African American and I am Caucasian. Since I am not a person of color, would this be a violation of the rules? Or would it be okay to submit because my husband is African American? Thank you.
Hi Bethany! Yes, you and your husband can submit your manuscript to the New Voices Award as long as the story is from an Own Voices perspective.
Hello. I was trying to find more information about the Award for this contest (2107); particularly the standard publication contract including advances and royalties. I’m having a hard time finding information on the website. Forgive me if I overlooked it. Can someone point me in the right direction? Please and thank you!
…also, can I submit work that is not published but already copyrighted?
Thank you for your inquiry! Unfortunately, we do not share the specific terms of our contracts with entrants.
However, our contract is similar to sample book publishing contracts found online. If you would like an idea of what is included in a contract, we recommend reading these examples as well as visiting the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators FAQ page, which provides a breakdown of the publishing process, contracts, and royalties: http://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/frequently-asked-questions/
Regarding your question re: copyright – yes, you can submit the manuscript even if it’s been copyrighted.
We appreciate your interest in Lee & Low Books and hope you will participate in this year’s New Voices Award!
Hi, the submission guidelines state that the manuscript can’t be out for consideration to other publishers. Can it be submitted to agents? Thanks!
Hi Lily! Thank you for your inquiry regarding the New Voices Award. As stated in our contest guidelines, manuscripts under consideration with other publishers, agents, mentorship contests, writing contests, or Lee & Low’s general submissions may not be submitted for this award.
If I submitted a manuscript in 2016 but have significantly revised it, is it still ineligible for the contest?
Yes, if you already submitted a manuscript once, you may not resubmit it to our New Voices Award. However you can still submit it to our general submissions.
Hi, I was wondering if it’s preferred that we briefly introduce the contents of the story in the cover letter or if it’s better to omit information beyond the title entirely. Thanks for the clarification.
Yes, it’s a good idea to briefly introduce the story in your cover letter.
Hello, I see in the guidelines that stories with “anthropomorphic” characters will not be considered. I just want to clarify that if my human character dialogues with animals, this would make my submission ineligible. Are there any contests that my submission would be considered for a brand new writer?
Hi Jasmine, Thank you for your New Voices Award inquiry. If the animals in your story have conversations with human characters, then they are anthropomorphic which makes the submission ineligible for the award.
Our website has a list of resources for writers and illustrators that you may find helpful in finding the right publishing home for your project, which you can find here: https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators
We appreciate your interest in Lee & Low Books and wish you good luck on your writing journey!
Can you please let me know to whom I should address my cover letter? Is “Dear Writing Contest Judges” adequate, or would you recommend something else? Thank you in advance for your help, and hope your day is going well.
Hi Stephanie, “Dear Editors” works fine. Thanks for checking!
I was just wondering how will the winner be notified for the New Voices Award? Phone call, on your website or by mail? Thanks!
We usually notify the winner by phone. Thanks for checking!
I was just wondering if the 2017 winner was already notified?
Thank you for your inquiry regarding the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award. The winner and honor of the contest were notified at the end of December 2017. We will make a public announcement naming the winner and honor on Wednesday, January 17th. You can look for our press release on our blog (blog.leeandlow.com) at that time.
We appreciate your interest in Lee & Low Books and wish you the best of luck on your writing journey!
When twill the winner of the new voice award or honor award be announced and will the other contestants be informed?
The winner of the New Voices Award will be announced here on our blog in mid-January. Contestants will also be notified of the winner by mail if they included a self-addressed stamped envelope with their entry.
Okay thank you for your response!
If you submitted your picture book manuscript for the New Voices Award and did not win. Is it possible to re-submit it through your normal submission?
Also, for submission can we submit more than 1 picture book manuscript?
Thank you for your inquiry. If you submitted a manuscript to the New Voices Award contest and it was not selected as a winner you may submit it to our general submissions. We recommend revising the manuscript first and making sure it’s as strong as possible before sending it in. You can find our complete General Submissions guidelines on our website, here. You may submit multiple manuscripts at one time.
We appreciate your interest in Lee & Low Books and wish you the best of luck on your writing journey!
Good morning! If I’m submitting a picture book in verse, should I still double space or can I break the lines at the rhyming words? Thanks for taking the time to answer! 🙂
Hi again! Should the author’s note be double spaced too? Thanks again for answering!
Thanks for your question! Since line breaks and spacing are instrumental parts of poetic storytelling, please break the lines and space them in a way that best suits the story. If you’d like, you can break them at the rhyming words. And, yes, please double space the Author’s Note. Good luck!
Hi, I was wondering if the 2018 winners have already been notified.
Hi Pooja! Award winners will be notified no later than December 31, 2018.
Can I submit a manuscript to the New Visions Award if I recently sent to another publisher?
Thanks in advance.
Thank you for reaching out! If your manuscript is under consideration at another publisher, unfortunately it will not be eligible for the New Visions Award.
What is the picture book?, does that mean I have to have pictures in each page?. Do I need to have drawing or illustration of each character base on what they are doing? Thank you
I need to know what consist a picture book? This is my first story so I don’t know what meant of picture book. Do I need to illustrate and put pictures each page? I thought that I only have to create cover of the book with illustration. Please help me understand the picture book.
Thank you for reaching out! Our website has a list of valuable resources about children’s book writing, submission, and publishing processes that you may find helpful. Please find a link to our webpage below:
Lee & Low Writers and Illustrators
For further information about the children’s book publishing industry, we highly recommend visiting this webpage from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) website: SCBWI Frequently Asked Questions.
If you think your manuscript would be a good fit for the New Voices Award contest, our editors would be happy to consider it. Please find the submission guidelines here:
New Voices Award Submission Guidelines
We appreciate your interest and wish you the best of luck on your writing journey!
I am planning to submit a manuscript for this year’s New Voices Award, but by the time I do, it’s possible that I will have submitted a different manuscript to another publisher. Should I be lucky enough to be offered a contract for that other manuscript before the New Voices Award is announced, would I need to withdraw? If so, how would I do that?
Thank you for reaching out!
If there are any changes to the status of your submission or your authorship after you submit to the New Voices Award contest, please send us an update via email at editorial[at]leeandlow.com with the subject line: NEW VOICES SUBMISSION UPDATE. In the body of the email, please include your full name, the title of your submission(s), and briefly explain any changes that may affect your eligibility for the contest. An editor will respond with next steps.
We appreciate your interest in Lee & Low Books and look forward to considering your manuscript. Best of luck on your writing journey!
If we are including a cover letter, do we still write our name on the manuscript?
Also how long should the brief biographical note be?
And is the relevant cultural and ethnic information about the author or the story?
Thanks for answering my questions.
Thank you for reaching out, Joanna! Yes, please include your name on your cover letter and on your manuscript. Your biographical note can range from a few sentences to one paragraph, and the cultural and ethnic information is about you (the author) and your story. Please include this information in your cover letter.
Hi, I am a Kenyan Citizen living in the US. Am i legible to submit a manuscript?
Thanks for reaching out. If you are a resident of the United States and you fit all other eligibility requirements listed in our guidelines here, you are eligible to submit.
If I self-publish a totally different book after submitting a manuscript to the contest (but during the judging period), will that disqualify my entry?
Hi, I would like to submit a manuscript to this contest. However, I’ve also been planning to self-publish a picture book. If I self-publish after submitting my manuscript in the contest, will my entry be disqualified?
I had a picture book published in Mexico back in 2006. Does this disqualify me from submitting to the New Voices Award? (I am now a US Citizen)
Greetings….Is Work for Hire considered traditional publishing? Is one eligible for the New Voices Award if they have done WFH? Thanks in advance for clarifying this.
Hi J.P.! With regards to the New Voices Award, if a writer completed a work for hire picture-book project and owns the copyright to the text they wrote for that project, then we consider them to be traditionally published and ineligible for this award.
If the author is an author-illustrator, and she/he chose to write the book in a dummy form (which often happens for illustrators, since for them images comes first), can this author submit book dummy instead of manuscript?
If so, is there any difference in the submitting process?
Thank you for contacting us! The Lee & Low New Voices Award is a writing contest, so if an author/illustrator submits a picture book dummy, only the text portion of their work will be considered. Please note, all contest submissions must be in Microsoft Word format.
Hello – I hope you are all keeping well during this incredible time in our world.
I am inquiring concerning the requirement that writers be “US residents”. I am an American citizen who moved abroad in Dec. 2019. We are not permanent residents where we’ve moved – am I still able to submit?
I am hoping so, I have been anticipating the opening date for the contest since the beginning of the year – and only paid attention to that detail with my last visit to the site.
Thank you for the inspiration and for this incredible opportunity for our voices to be “heard” through these publications! Your work is significant!!!
Thank you for contacting us about the Lee & Low New Voices Award. Participants who move abroad are eligible for the award as long as they retain US citizenship.
Tengo en mi poder un libro para niños que escribió mi madre (profesora de español) para sus nietos. Lamentablemente falleció sin publicarlo.¿Puede entrar en el concurso?
Saludos!Mi madre falleció y nunca publicó su libro de poemas y cuentos para niños.¿Puede entrar en el concurso?
Nuestra más sincera lástima por la muerte de su madre. ¡Estamos seguros de que fue una maravillosa narradora de cuentos infantiles! Desafortunadamente, no podemos considerar historias de escritores fallecidos. El New Voices Award es una oportunidad para escritores interesados en convertirse en autores de libros infantiles. Nuestra esperanza es que el concurso abra la puerta a una carrera editorial duradera. ¡Le deseamos suerte en encontrar una casa editorial para las historias de su madre!
Hello! Would a submission with two authors be accepted for this contest?
Yes, the New Voices Award accepts co-authored submissions. Please include the contact information for both writers in the cover letter.
I’ve been having difficulty with uploading my Word manuscript on the submission page. Is there a place I can find out more regarding the restrictions for uploads, i.e. size limit? thank you
Hi Lu, Thank you for reaching out. Sorry to hear that you’re experiencing trouble with the online form. Please try refreshing the webpage and completing the form again then uploading your manuscript. Also, please make sure your submission fits the criteria listed below so the manuscript can upload correctly:
– Only pdf, doc, docx, rtf, and odt files are accepted.
– The max file size is 20 MB.
– Only 1 file can be uploaded per form submission.
If you still encounter an issue, please contact editorial(at)leeandlow.com with the specific error message which will help us determine the best solution.
Hello. Does publishing a book with a small indie press count as having been “traditionally published” for the New Voices award?
Thank you for reaching out! A book published by a small, independent press is considered as traditionally published.
I am an unpublished author. Can I submit to the contest and other publishers at the same time?
Thank you for reaching out. The manuscript you submit to the New Voices contest may not be submitted to other publishers, agents, mentorship contests, writing contests, or to LEE & LOW’s general submissions while under consideration for this award.
How long does it take to hear back if not selected?
Thank you for reaching out. Only the winner and/or honor are notified by the end of the calendar year. In January, we then announce the winners on our blog.
If my submission is selected, will I be required to publish it through Lee & Low, and will I have a say in how I would like the illustration style to be?
The winning manuscript will receive a publishing contract with Lee & Low. In regards to illustration, the editor would ultimately select the illustrator for the winning title though the author can share suggestions.
I am a resident of the US and an indigenous writer. I have published two children’s books abroad in my native language (other than english), is it still possible to enter the contest?
Writers cannot have had a picture book traditionally published if they’re applying for the New Voices Award. Authors of self-published books are eligible, but they should submit a new manuscript, not a project that has been previously self-published. Thank you!
I am a citizen of India currently working in USA on H1B work visa and my visa is valid until July 2022 (which means I can be in USA at least until then). Do I qualify to submit an entry to the New voices competition?
Thank you for reaching out! The New Voices Award was created to help writers from underrepresented backgrounds break into the US publishing landscape, so writers must be US permanent residents at the time of submission to be eligible for the contest.
If I have had 1 page poem published in a children’s picture book of 144 pages with several other contributors, does that count as a traditional publication and disqualify my participation in this contest?
Thank you for reaching out! Writers are eligible for the New Voices Award if they have published work in other venues and genres, including children’s magazines, middle-grade and young adult fiction or nonfiction, and adult fiction or nonfiction. Writers cannot have had a picture book traditionally published if they’re applying for the New Voices Award. Based on the description you provided and with regards to this contest, contributing one poem to a picture book does not count towards being a traditionally published picture book author because you were not the primary author on that project.
Greetings! May I submit a picture book manuscript to the New Voices contest AND a middle-grade manuscript to the New Visions contest? Thank you.
Hi Soph! Yes, you can submit to both contests at once.
Your requirements the New Voices Writing Contest preclude applicants ” who have not previously had a children’s picture book traditionally published.” What about if I have not PREVIOUSLY published but am under contract for publication for a children’s book NEXT YEAR? Would I be eligible to apply with a different story?
Hi Marissa! Because the New Voices contest is designed for debut children’s books—to help writers break into the publishing industry—you would not be considered eligible. But thank you for your interest, and congratulations on your forthcoming book!
Hey there, my question is does the manuscript have to be a final? I have a strong draft with pictures already and wanted to confirm.
Hi Taylor! The winning manuscript will be edited and revised, so it definitely isn’t the final version, but any submissions should be in a finished state.
How much is the basic advance and royalties for first time authors at your company?
We do not share the specific terms of our contracts with contest entrants, but our contract is similar to sample book publishing contracts that you can find online. If you would like an idea of what is included in a contract, we recommend reading online examples as well as visiting the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’s FAQ page, which provides a breakdown of the publishing process, contracts, and royalties:
We appreciate your interest in Lee & Low Books!
I submitted my book earlier in the year to agents, and I received rejections from the agents. May I still submit for the August deadline?
Yes, you are definitely welcome to submit!
Is the expectation that the manuscript be paginated upon submission?
Check out our handy resource for how to set up your manuscript—it even has a template that you can follow!
I saw in the submission guidelines that the manuscript needs to be double spaced; however, my manuscript is written in poetry form and the breaks/spacing inform how it’s read. Do I rewrite it to fit the double-spaced criteria?
I also included some brief art notes to enhance the reading of the manuscript. Is it ok to leave them in?
Thank you in advance for your help.
Thank you for your interest! Please do submit your manuscript double-spaced. But when you change the settings in a document from “single spaced” to “double spaced,” it will retain the extra spaces. Basically one line space becomes two, two becomes four. So we’ll be able to appreciate any extra spaces and such. But feel free to leave in any art notes!
Thank you so much for your response! That makes sense.
Hi! Have you notified winners yet? For 2022? Thank you!
Yes, winners for 2022 have been notified. We are hoping to share the winners on our blog and social media in the coming weeks.
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