Note: This post was last updated in May 2020
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:
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!