Why Kidlit Authors Need to Join SCBWI
All authors have lots of questions when they first start out. But as a kidlit author, you’ve probably found that a lot of information online doesn’t really apply to writing for children and teens.
Sure, there are lots of kidlit resources. But just about everyone agrees: you need to join SCBWI.
That’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, an international organization for authors and illustrators with local chapters all around the world. You can look on their website to find the one that’s closest to you. They offer all members a number of resources, which you can read more about here.
From their About page:
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, is the only professional organization specifically for individuals who write and illustrate for children and young adults. Our mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books in every region of the world.
Several years ago, I had heard about SCBWI, but I wasn’t sure it was worth it to join. I kept checking out my chapter’s website and reviewed their conference information, their scheduled events, and just about everything else on the site. (Confession: I over-research at times. And by “at times,” I mean most of the time.)
But I still did nothing for over a year. Didn’t join, didn’t attend the conference at the non-member rate. Nothing.
(My book ideas stayed ideas too. Hmm.)
The next year, I watched the new conference information get posted online. And I thought and thought and thought some more. And then I registered.
I could register at the non-member rate—or I could join SCBWI for a year and register for the conference as an SCBWI member. The cost was almost the same, so I went for it. That was a few years ago, and I recently renewed my membership. I just don’t have an in-person conference to go to this year.
So why should you join?
Join because there are so many things you can do.
- Attend conferences. You can sign up for your chapter’s conference as well as conferences hosted by chapters around the world. SCBWI also hosts larger conferences in New York and Los Angeles each year. (COVID-19 disclaimer applies here, of course.)
- Attend online conferences. This is a new development, but hopefully a permanent one, as it will allow more people to attend. Chapters have already hosted critique sessions, craft lessons, and interviews, with more on the horizon. Yes, you have to pay for these, but it’s often less than what you would have paid to attend an in-person conference.
- Learn more about the craft of writing. You’ll have the opportunity to attend/view conferences and webinars hosted by authors, illustrators, agents, and editors that expand your knowledge base. You will hear more about traditional publishing, but there will be self-publishing authors there too (although not necessarily at the podium).
- Be part of a supportive community with a shared purpose. While attending my chapter’s conference, I often heard it said that the published authors took seriously the idea of helping those who were not published yet. And since joining, I’ve seen that in action.
- Gain credibility. Others may be watching you, and the fact that you joined a professional organization speaks volumes to your commitment to your writing.
- Gain access. If you plan to query agents, being a member and attending conferences gives you opportunities and access to agents you wouldn’t have otherwise. Plus, during most conferences and webinars, you can pay an additional fee to have your first ten pages (or complete picture book) critiqued by an agent or editor from a publishing company.
- Learn year-round. You have access to webinars hosted by all of the chapters, not just your own, and if there is a fee, you will pay a reduced rate. (And some webinars are for members only.)
- Meet others. Admittedly, this is not a strength of mine. But I’ve heard countless stories of writers who met writing friends at conferences and events. There are also opportunities to meet members online in chapter Facebook groups and online critique groups.
Joining SCBWI is an investment in your writing career that, if you take advantage of what your membership offers, will benefit you personally or professionally.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have just a few days left to watch the sessions from last month’s online SCBWI conference.