There has been a call for change.  And some people are actually doing something about it.

The publishing industry has been widely criticized for its lack of OwnVoices.

#OwnVoices is a term coined by the writer Corinne Duyvis, and refers to an author from a marginalized or under-represented group writing about their own experiences/from their own perspective, rather than someone from an outside perspective writing as a character from an underrepresented group.

At She Writes Press and SparkPress, they are well aware of the need for more and broader representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors on their lists.

That is why, in an effort to address this issue head-on, they have launched the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) contest in 2018 to offer two authors publishing packages (plus a 500-book print run), one author per season, to publish on either She Writes Press or SparkPress, which will be determined by the publisher based on genre and writing style. The purpose of this contest is to support inclusivity across their own lists, and to fortify their mission to give voice to women writers.

Both packages include the full services of the She Writes Press and SparkPress Publishing Package (each valued at $8500):

  • Custom interior design for up to 100,000 words
  • Custom cover design
  • e-book file conversion and upload to 127 distribution partners
  • Traditional distribution to the trade via Ingram Publisher Services
  • Proofreading of your final manuscript
  • Copyright filing and obtaining your Library of Congress control number
  • Warehousing of short-run printed books
  • Preordering and fulfillment of all orders
  • Support and shepherding of your book through the production schedule and post-publication by your assigned editorial manager

*In addition, and not included in the Publishing Package, the Equality Toward Publishing program includes a first print run of 500 copies.

The Top Five Entrants (including the two STEP recipients) will receive a written assessment of their submission.


The STEP recipients will be selected on the basis of the merit of each entry, which consists of a query letter and at the first 50 pages of the work. You can also submit a query letter and a full-length nonfiction book proposal. They will ask as part of the submission process that you tell them about your heritage or background.

Contest Parameters



One entry per person. Open to the U.S. & Canada (void where prohibited). Entries for the STEP program were be accepted from April 15, 2021 to July 5, 2021. Entrants must satisfy all the following requirements:

  • anyone over the age of eighteen
  • women only (trans/non-binary or genderqueer women welcome!)
  • woman of color (by which we mean people whose heritage is African, Indigenous to the Americas, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Arab, or people of mixed racial heritage with one or two parents who fit into the above groups).
  • agented or unagented work qualifies

She Writes Press and SparkPress Publisher Brooke Warner will be enrolling industry professionals to review and vet the submissions. Their external judges and internal editorial team will be reviewing the submissions to select the top five finalists. They will announce the top five contenders on their website and via social media toward the end of August 2021. Lastly, a panel of diverse published authors and literary agents will select the two STEP winners, who will be announced on the Newsroom page at in the beginning of September 2021. The top five contenders and the two winners will also be contacted directly via email.


Since launching the She Writes Press and SparkPress Equality In Publishing contest in 2018, five extraordinary women authors have won a publishing package to publish their books on She Writes Press and SparkPress. Meet them and learn more about their books here.


  1. You will be disqualified if you submit past the due date of July 5, 2021.
  2. STEP is a fiction and nonfiction program only. No poetry, screenplays, or children’s books.
  3. Rewrites are not accepted. In other words, please be sure you are happy with your submission before you click “send” because we will not accept rewrites, follow-up emails, additional material, etc.
  4. Only one entry per person.
  5. We only accept material that is unpublished. We will not accept revised or new editions of previously published work.
  6. You agree to have your entry (exclusive of your contact information) shared with the She Writes Press and the SparkPress community, and to let us use it for promotional purposes.
  7. You must be at least eighteen years old to enter.
  8. You must be a person of color: people whose heritage is Hispanic or Latinx, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Native Alaskan, Middle Eastern or North African, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or people of mixed racial heritage with one or two parents who fit into the above groups.
  9. Women only (trans/non-binary or genderqueer women welcome!)

The scholarship will cover the cost of a publishing package and a print run of 500. Beyond that the author(s) may choose to print and cover the cost of additional copies, or allow the book to be POD status, which means that the manufacturing costs are not paid up front but instead come out of the author’s royalties. 

By submitting your work to us, you agree their our terms and conditions.

Even if you don’t qualify to enter, there are ways you can help.

Share the program on social media so it can reach more women. Consider the samples that She Writes and Sparkspress have provided below!

Or…forward this email to a friend who might be interested.
If you belong to a diverse writers organization, share the opportunity with them.
Order the books by their past winners. Meet them and hear more about their books here!

We can all work together to help ensure that every woman has the chance to see herself in the pages of books.

Example posts (you are encouraged to modify!)
I’m standing with @shewritespress & @gosparkpress to #RepresentOwnVoices. The #STEPcontest deadline is 7/5, all female #WOC can submit

@shewritespressand @GoSparkPress launched the #STEPcontest to address the lack BIPOC authors within the publishing industry & are offering a publishing package to 2 #WOC winners! Apply before the deadline on July 5th! #ownvoices #writingcontests