Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 17, 2021

Opportunity: Own Voices, Own Stories Award – Sleeping Bear Press

Sleeping Bear Press is a publisher of quality children’s books. They publish a wide range of books, including board books, beginning readers, picture books, and select middle grade titles. Over the last few years you have seen many of their beautiful books featured right here on Writing and Illustrating. They accept both fiction and nonfiction submissions and are committed to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion and welcome stories from diverse authors. You can browse their website or catalog for examples of the types of books they publish.

In addition to their standard submission process, they offer a publishing award for new authors who identify as BIPOC and/or LGTBQ+. Please see the Own Voices, Own Stories Award section at the bottom of this page for information on the award.

For standard submissions, at this time, we are only considering email submissions. Please attach your manuscript as a Word document and send to the following email address:

The subject line of your email should include “New Submission,” the title of your work, fiction/nonfiction, and the subject (science, nature, humor, etc.). The body of your email should be your cover letter and include: your full name, your postal address, any previous publishing experience, word count, and a brief summary of your manuscript (please do not send cover letters as an additional attachment).

Unfortunately, due to the volume of manuscripts they receive, they are unable to personally respond to every submission. They do, however, make every effort to carefully consider each submission they receive. If they are interested in your manuscript, they will respond within six months of receiving it. Additionally, when receiving a submission, SPB assumes no obligation not to publish a book based on a similar concept. Please understand that they are unable to respond to follow-up emails or phone calls.

Own Voices, Own Stories Award

The Own Voices, Own Stories Award is offered annually to a children’s picture book manuscript written by a BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ author with the intention of recognizing and amplifying new and diverse voices with underrepresented perspectives. With this award, we hope to reflect the authentic perspectives of BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ children (and/or families), thereby highlighting the universal experience of our shared humanity through the prism of multifaceted experiences.


The Own Voices, Own Stories Award contest is open to BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ writers. Applicants must be United States residents and at least 18 years of age. Only unagented projects and authors who have not had a previously traditionally published children’s book will be considered. Manuscripts that have been previously submitted to Sleeping Bear Press and/or the Own Voices, Own Stories Award will not be considered. Authors who have self-published books will be considered, but the submitted story must be original (i.e. not the self-published title).

Submissions: January 1 through March 31.

Submitted stories should speak to the authentic experiences of BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ children—or children of LGBTQ+ families—with the purpose of engaging readers in narratives that reflect underrepresented perspectives and communities. Consistent with our dedication to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, those stories should both inspire and empower readers.

Submissions should be for ages four through ten and may be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Text must come in at under 1,300 words (not including backmatter or ancillary material).

Only stories with human protagonists will be considered.

Applicants must submit via the Sleeping Bear Press award submission email address:

Subject line should include title of the project, author’s last name, and the year of submission (ex: Sarah’s Own Voice Story, Smith, 2020).

Submissions must consist of a cover letter in the body of the email and attached manuscript. Cover letter should include author’s contact information (phone, email, postal address) as well as a synopsis of the story and a brief author bio. The author bio must explicitly state how the author identifies as a member of the BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ communities.
Authors may submit up to two manuscripts per award period. Each manuscript must come via separate submission email.
Please note that these must be exclusive submissions. Manuscripts cannot be submitted to additional publications, publishers, agents, or contests concurrently.

Sleeping Bear Press is not responsible for late, lost, or incorrectly submitted projects.


Grand Prize winners will receive a $2,000 cash prize, in addition to a publishing contract with advance and royalties standard for new Sleeping Bear Press authors. Honor Award winners will receive a $500 cash prize as well as one consulting session with a Sleeping Bear Press editor.


Manuscripts can be submitted from January 1 through March 31. Manuscripts arriving before or after those dates will not be considered.

Winners will be notified by August 1 and announced by September 15.

At least one Honor Award will be offered each year, but a Grand Prize winner will be offered at the discretion of the judging committee. All judgments are final.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great info! Thanks again, Kathy!


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