The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is the international professional organization for authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults.
On the landing page of SCBWI’s website, you will find 4 major points of member benefits and they are: Promotional Opportunities, Awards and Grants, Regional Chapters and Information Resources.
I will leave you to read those for yourselves. Today I want to highlight some things which can help you truly make the most out of being a part of this wonderful community.
Member Profile Page
When you log into the SCBWI website, as a member, you have a member profile which can be found on the My Home section. It’s important to keep your member profile up to date because these are likely the first pieces of information others will see.
Your mailing address determines which region’s newsletter you get so you should update this if you move. Your profile page also showcases your latest work so whether you have a new book out or have new artwork, it’s a good idea to make sure you are showing off your latest accomplishments. This is useful for illustrators as publishers often browse through member profiles if they are looking for a new illustrator. Every new book you list in your profile will show up in the SCBWI Member Bookstore. Books in the Bookstore can show with buy links or without, which means you can already be promoting your latest book before it launches.
As a member of SCBWI, you can also submit your new book for the SCBWI Reading List which targets librarians and educators. You can also enter the Crystal Kite Award that is an annual peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.
Once you are a published author or illustrator, you qualify as a PAL member (Published and Listed). Please note that a publisher is considered as listed if they pay authors or illustrators standard industry fees for their work, so vanity presses do not qualify.
Publications from SCBWI
There are 10 publications listed under publications on the SCBWI website, including a monthly podcast which feature interviews with people within the industry. These are all for members only and help you stay informed on industry news and the craft of writing and illustrating children’s books. I want to highlight 4 of those publications here.
The Bulletin is a quarterly publication containing comprehensive and current information in the field of children’s literature. In addition to features each month, regular departments include the latest market reports, information on school visits, book reviews, art tips, information on contests and awards, information on the illustration market, news of SCBWI members, and information about ongoing SCBWI activities throughout the world. Two hundred and fifty issues of SCBWI’s Bulletin, representing forty-two years of articles and advice, are now archived and easily searchable on the SCBWI website.
Insight is a monthly digital publication featuring current children’s book news, hot topics, helpful hints, exclusive interviews, and monthly contests. Members receive the SCBWI INSIGHT in their inbox on the first of every month as a supplement to our quarterly Bulletin.
La Cometa is a bi-monthly digital publication in Spanish featuring current children’s book news, calls, and contests in the Spanish speaking market as well as exclusive interviews and articles by members. Members can receive La cometa in their inbox if they subscribe.
Last but the most information-packed is The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children. We simply call it The Book and the PDF version is updated throughout the year so that you always have access to the most up-to-date information in the field. The Book is filled with up-to-the-minute market surveys as well as information on preparing for submission and maximizing social media, creating book trailers, enhancing your career though school visits, best practices in independent publishing, grassroots promotion, legal questions, PAL speaking opportunities and much more. Members can also order a hard copy of The Book for the cost of printing and shipping. It also has a list of agents, but you need to do due diligence and always double check agents’ information on their relevant websites before submitting as there are always lots of changes.
SCBWI Community Online
While you may be hard at work crafting your latest book or artwork, by yourself, in your little study or studio, your SCBWI community is always here for you. We have great online communities, which in these pandemic times have become more important.
The Blueboards are an important part of our worldwide online community. This started independently of SCBWI and is a great resource for all writers and illustrators. There is a public section as well as a members-only section on the Blueboards. This is where you can post questions, find crit exchanges and more as there are lots of sub-groups within the Blueboards.
If you are based in Europe, the European regions come together for a Europe-wide online social quarterly and there are various regional meetups (locally or online). Check with the different regions’ pages for details. Many SCBWI regions are also on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
There is also a Translators group, and you can be added to the Translation listserv via this page.
Hone Your Craft
SCBWI hosts 2 major conferences a year, the New York Winter Conference which is usually more industry focused and the LA Summer Conference which leans more into the craft of writing and illustrating.
The various regions also host local conferences or online webinars, which members from across the world can participate in.
SCBWI Digital section is where you can find digital workshops, SCBWI’s YouTube channel and a list of regional webinar, all available free, just for members.
The Portfolio Showcase is also a vital part of SCBWI conferences and the link is sent to conference participants.
Getting Feedback on Your Work
You have worked hard at your desk and are now ready to show someone your work. But before submitting to an agent or publisher, you should get some feedback on it. From one-time manuscript exchange to participating in an ongoing crit group or partnership, your SCBWI region will be able to help you. There is also a Europolitian/International Central region crit directory you can be listed on if you are interested in getting and giving crits. Speak to your RA (Regional adviser) if you want to be part of that directory. Of course, the Blueboards (mentioned above) are a great way to find crit partners too.
Just a word about crit groups/partners, you can learn just as much from giving crits as from receiving them because you see a work differently when you give a crit and you can use those insights on your own work. I would also like to highlight that finding the right crit group/partner is a bit like dating, not everyone is going to match perfectly. So be gracious.
How Can I Promote My Published Work?
SCBWI have several avenues through which you can feature your latest work.
Bookstop is where once a year in October through November, members are given the opportunity to create a special sales page on the SCBWI website for a newly published book. SCBWI BookStop pages are available online for six weeks. Visitors can browse, purchase, and enjoy learning about you and your book.
SCBWInvite is a project of community building and is a comprehensive listing of events hosted by SCBWI members all around the world. The events are organized by location, date and type of event, and made available to SCBWI members and the public. You can submit your book event via your member profile for the approval process.
Reading List is where traditionally published authors may opt to have their books listed. This list is distributed to independent bookstores and libraries across the country, as well as conferences such as ALA (American Library Association) and NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), both are US-based organisations.
Speakers Bureau allows traditionally or independently published authors and illustrators to advertise that they are available for speaking engagements. This online database is used by teachers and librarians to find speakers for school visits. You must check the box in your member profile to be listed, only for PAL or Full membership.
Illustrator Gallery is a searchable database of all SCBWI Illustrator member online portfolio pages which is visited by art directors and others looking to hire illustrators. Each month an illustrator member is selected to be featured.
Art Spot gives illustrators the opportunity to submit their art to the quarterly Art Spot column of the SCBWI Bulletin. The Bulletin is seen by our 27,000 members, including top industry professionals.
Awards and Grants
SCBWI has many awards and grants members can benefit from. I wrote about some of them here for the Swiss Regional Blog in 2019. I will leave you to read about the rest which are listed on the website.
One last benefit of membership which some may not be aware of is that SCBWI members can get discounts on software such as Scrivener and Scapple, as well as discounts on subscriptions to US-based trade resources such as Publisher’s Weekly and Nielsen Book Scan. You can get the discount codes under the member benefits section of the website once you are logged in.
I hope you have found this helpful and will now be able to make full use of your SCBWI membership.
This is the blog for the International Central Region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). You can learn more about SCBWI here and about the International Central Region here.