Monday Interview: Publisher Jason Low, of LEE & LOW BOOKS

Today I’m thrilled to interview Mr. Jason Low, of the independent award-winning publishing house LEE & LOW BOOKS.

LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 by Chinese American Tom Low and Philip Lee. The company specializes in multicultural children’s books and its goal is “to meet the need for stories that children of color can identify with and that all children can enjoy.” LEE & LOW BOOKS has won numerous major awards and honors, including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pura Belpré Honor Award and the Parents’ Choice Award, to quote a few.

Mr. Low, I thank you for joining us today. LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 by Tom Low and Philip Lee. Tom Low stated that “there was a lot of interest in books focused on diversity,” when the company was founded.

Would you say that that statement still apply today? Has LEE & LOW BOOKS observed any significant variations in the multicultural book market?

JL: Thanks, Nathalie, for having me. I am sure your readers are aware of the statistics kept by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) that track the number of children’s books by and about people of color. Here is the link: http://www.education.wisc.edu/ccbc/books/pcstats.asp”.

According to the CCBC, 13% of children’s books published each year contain diversity. This number has not increased or decreased significantly since 1994, when the CCBC started tracking the number of “multicultural” books published. Even though the statistics do not show an increase in output by publishers, my impression is that a substantial demand for diverse books exists, but it will require greater effort on our part to make people aware of our mission and our books. I know this from the emails we receive and the people we meet at conferences. They confirm the need, but almost always say: “Where have you been all this time? I’ve never heard of you!” This response leads me to believe that even after 17 years of publishing, we still have an exposure problem. To gain more exposure will take patience and many more years, but we are determined to solve this problem over time. One thing we are grateful for is people like you who help spread the word about our books and our accomplishments.

LEE & LOW BOOKS works closely with educators. You provide a variety of educational titles for traditional, home schooled, and ESL students through your imprint Bebop Books, as well as free online resources. Is the submission process for Bebop Books different, meaning is there a call for submissions to address specific needs observed in the classroom?

JL: The submission process is different for Bebop Books since these books are designed as educational tools. We receive direct input from educators as to the kinds of subjects and topics they are looking for and we try to respond editorially through the books we publish for this imprint. We usually solicit submissions from teachers and writers who are familiar with the educational constructs these books need to address. The books are leveled, and also coordinate with national standards.

Do you publish authors who live abroad?

JL: We have  worked with a number of illustrators who reside outside the United States, but no authors yet. Not that we would be against working with authors from overseas, but we simply have not received any manuscripts quite right for us.

Congratulations to LEE & LOW BOOKS, to your writers and illustrators for the incredible list of awards earned since your creation. You work with established authors and illustrators like Ted and Betsy Lewin; however, you also actively seek to discover and showcase new talents through the LEE & LOW BOOKS annual New Voices Award.

Assuming that prospective writers follow scrupulously the submission guidelines, is there an ultimate advice you would give writers and illustrators honing their craft?

JL: I am extremely proud of our New Voices Award and the books we have published from this program. To learn more about our New Voices Award go here: http://www.leeandlow.com/p/new_voices_award.mhtml

My advice for new writers and illustrators honing their craft is to do your homework. If you are interested in submitting a manuscript to us, familiarize yourself with what we have published. Remember, the preferences of LEE & LOW’s editors are reflected in the books we’ve published, so you can figure out a lot about the kind of stories we are drawn to and the type of illustrations we like by the browsing our books on our Web site or in your local library. One also has to develop a sense of what sells. Read the books of all publishers, and take special notice of award winners. Personally, I make a point to read award-winning books from other houses so I can form my own opinions about why a certain book was deemed special enough to win a prestigious award. It is helpful habit to surround yourself with good books. Reading and studying them will help you see how successful writers and illustrators tell stories in both words and pictures, and that knowledge should have a positive influence on your own work. Last, try to be bold and surprise us. Editors love to discover original stories they have not seen before and are willing to work harder to help you realize your vision if it is unique.

Mr. Low, it has been an honor to interview you. I thank you for your time and for sharing your experience.

JL: Thanks again, Nathalie, for having me.

Note from Multiculturalism Rocks: Congratulations to John Parra for winning the 2010 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for his work on the bilingual picture book Gracias/Thanks, written by Pat Mora! :)

Some publications of LEE & LOW BOOKS include
Picture Book: Balarama: a Royal Elephant, by Ted and Betsy Lewin. 2009.
Non-Fiction: Sacred Mountain: Everest, by Christine Taylor-Butler. 2009.
Middle Grade: Tofu Quilt, by Ching Yeung Russell. 2009.
Young Adult: Alicia Afterimage, Lulu Delacre. 2008.

For information on this year’s New Voices Award Honor Winner, click here!

For more information on LEE & LOW BOOKS, click on the following links:
Website
Blog: The Open Book
JacketFlap
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter

Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful week! :)

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About Nathalie Mvondo

Nathalie Mvondo lives in Northern California and studies anthropology and nutrition. She is a Christian and children's story writer. Nathalie Mvondo vit dans le nord de la Californie, aux Etats-Unis, et fait des études d'anthropologie et de nutrition. En tant qu'écrivain, elle se spécialise en litérature chrétienne et pour enfants de tous âges.
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14 Responses to Monday Interview: Publisher Jason Low, of LEE & LOW BOOKS

  1. Pingback: Jason at Multiculturalism Rocks! « the open book

  2. linda covella says:

    Thanks for the interview, Nathalie, and to Jason. Lee & Low produces wonderful books, and they *should* be proud of their New Voices award!

  3. Tamara says:

    Another great interview Nathalie! I was not aware of the CCBC website and will be sure to check it out :)

  4. YAY for Lee & Low books…and yay for such a great interview, Nathalie! I’m going to tweet it right now!

    hugs,
    Donna

  5. Tarie says:

    Lee & Low Books is my favorite publisher. Every single one of their books is excellent! Thank you for featuring them, Nathalie. And whoa, I am so glad to discover those CCBC stats… But alas and alack, they are low stats. :(

    • Tarie, I remember Stevie Wonder saying during the fund raising for Haiti, “a whole lots of littles makes a whole lots of lots!” Hm, along those line. :D

      I’ve noticed more and more diversity featured in ads here; that gives me hope that the same phenomenon will pick up book wise. :)

  6. Cheryl says:

    Great interview Nathalie. Lots of wonderful information.

  7. Thank you all for the support, and a big thank you to Lee & Low Books for making that interview possible!

  8. Ari says:

    Wonderful interview nathalie! I dind’t know about the CCBC statstics so I’m glad Mr. Low shared that information. I agree, there is a demand for dverse books and while it started off small, it is growing bigger and louder. I didn’t know Lee & Low published YA and I will be sure to check them out now. I love what they have done for children’s books!

  9. What an illuminating interview with Jason Low! Thank you for highlighting Lee & Low and its important role in bringing multicultural voices to young readers.

  10. Pingback: NewsFlash: MLAG Conference, LEE & LOW BOOKS Acquires TU PUBLISHING « Multiculturalism Rocks!

  11. Pingback: Q&A with Jason Low of Lee & Low Books, publisher of First Come the Zebra

  12. Pingback: BBAW Registration « Multiculturalism Rocks!

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