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.

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 The New Voices Award is for unpublished children’s book writers who are trying to break into publishing.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?

If you wish to receive confirmation that we received your submission, please send it via a service (such as FedEx) that provides you with a tracking number or mail it with a US postal service return receipt attached. Both these provide you with a way of checking on the delivery of your submission.

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.

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!

48 thoughts on “New Voices Award FAQs”

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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

  6. 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!


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

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

  8. 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?

    1. 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.

  9. Jane,
    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!


  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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?


  13. 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!

  14. 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.

    1. 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?

  15. 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)?

  16. Hello,
    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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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!

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