SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board


FAQ list

This message board is for writers and illustrators of children's literature, published and pre-published, as well as editors, agents, librarians, and others who are interested in sharing information about books and stories for children of all ages, from toddlers to teens.

Welcome, members! Here's a summary of basic Blueboard rules.

1.  Be respectful.
If your post could offend, either revise or don’t post. We discuss ISSUES here, not people. You may post concerns about publishers and agencies as long as the posts cannot be considered defamation of character. Stick to facts, rather than judgment or snark.

2.  No political or religious discussions.
You may post about writing or marketing these topics for kids, but NO specific discussion of political parties, candidates, office-holders, or religious beliefs.

3.  No double posts.
Do not post the same topic twice anywhere on the board. We will merge or remove double posts without notice.

4.  No solicitation.
We prohibit Kickstarter campaigns, Patreon and other fund solicitations, along with social media vote solicitation and requests for reviews and blurbs. These posts will be removed without notice.

5. Self-promotion is limited to SCBWI members on the SCBWI portion of the board.

6.  Don't post the entire contents of a letter, email, or review, including rejections  from editors and agents.
Post a line or paraphrase, but do not reprint. This is a copyright issue.

In short—respect others, avoid posting inappropriately, and enjoy all the benefits of this message board. It's a caring, sharing, informative community!

No Solicitation or Advertising of a Business is allowed on the Boards unless you have been a member in good standing for at least two consecutive years with at least 100 posts AND have gotten permission to post your message/s with one of the Administrators of this board.  

This forum doesn't exist to provide free ad space--it's here for people with a serious interest in writing and illustrating children's books and literature. This isn't Craig's List or eBay, and we can't check out each business that wants to advertise here and make sure it's legitimate.  Therefore, only people who have been members here (in good standing) for at least two years may advertise their services on this board, and only with the approval of Verla or an administrator; we also reserve the right to ask you to edit such posts.  Please note that approval will in no way be considered an endorsement of such services. We will not endorse any services offered by any members of this forum.

Advertising goods and services in the SCBWI areas is also restricted: the goal is to provide education and camaraderie to writers and illustrators, not free ad space.

You may advertise on the Blueboard if:
1. You have been either a current SCBWI member or a current Blueboard member for at least two consecutive years AND
2. You have made at least a hundred (100) contributory posts (i.e., posts that contribute substance to conversations, not just offer congratulations or say "me too!") AND
3. You have received permission from an Administrator.

Advertisements of any kind made by members who do not meet these criteria will be removed without notice.

Thank you for helping keep the Blueboards a supportive, informational, spam-free place!

For members who qualify: please keep your posts advertising your services short.  We prefer you post a link to your webpage rather than including all details here, and request that you PM Verla or an Administrator before posting.

Occasionally some of our newer members approach some of our published members with requests for critique and/or mentorship.

Here's the deal:  We are a friendly, inclusive community here at Verla's, with a place for everyone from experienced professionals to the newest of newbies, and we welcome everybody.  Our more experienced members hang out here because they want to.  They like it for the same reasons all our members do--for the camaraderie, for a bit of a break from work, for shop talk.  Our published members are willing to "pay it forward."  They know that they were once unpublished, too, and they're willing to answer questions here on the boards, and furthermore, my guess is that if you were to run into someone at a conference and offer a greeting  of "Hi, I'm so-and-so from Verla's" that it would elicit a huge smile, a hearty handshake or even a hug from these folks.

However, the truth is that the leap from "willing to answer questions on a message board" to "willing to do extensive critiquing/offer personal advice/provide mentorship" is awfully big.  If you're asking someone you don't really know for this kind of help, you're probably saying to yourself that the worst they can say is no; that there's truth to that old saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained"; that it's worth a shot.  

However, we're asking you to consider that putting an author on the spot with such a request is very likely to backfire.  At the very least, it puts the author in a situation where they have to say no, which can be awkward and stressful.  A more unpleasant consequence for all of us would be if our published authors feel pestered to the point where they decide that participation on the boards is no longer worth their time.  Then we all lose, because we've lost some of our greatest resources.

Bottom line:  If you need critique, find a writing buddy or a good critique group.  If you don't have a group or buddy yet, advertise or ask for help in our Critique Group thread.  If you need or want a professional critique, find a reputable service--there are a good number of them, and their fees are generally reasonable.  Please don't take advantage of our camaraderie here on the boards by alienating the published author members who offer so much to us all.

Yes. Any registered member may look here to join or form critique groups/partnerships:

In addition, SCBWI members can request critiques right on the Blueboard at these links. Illustrators:  Writers:

Hi! I’ve just written a children’s book! What do I do now?

[Note: Many links in this post can be accessed by everyone. However, some are in an area open only to Registered Members, and a couple are in the area of the Blueboard only available to SCBWI Members.]

First, congratulations! Good for you for having the passion and drive to create...and create something for the most important people on earth—kids.

Now that you’ve written it, what should you do with it?

If you just want to be able to share it with family and friends, there are services that will print your book for you—perfect for sharing it with a small circle. But if you want to seek out a larger audience, it gets a lot more complicated.

Before you start, understand that being a children's book author or illustrator is not going to make you rich and famous overnight...or probably ever. This thread might prove illuminating:
6-figure deals for debut novelists

Publishing is an industry, just like fashion or insurance or medicine. It’s not something you do on a whim, or for the heck of it. As with any other career or industry, there’s a lot to learn before you can be a participant, even on a small basis. You wouldn’t, say, open a clothing store in your town before you’d thoroughly researched everything about it: the potential clientele, earnings projections, what fashions sell best in your area, store locations...on and on. The same is true for publishing. Here’s a link you might find helpful:
Beginner's Most Frequently Asked Questions

The first step is to make sure you know what kind of book you’ve written. Children’s publishing can be broadly divided into a few main age groups: picture books, chapter books, middle grade books, and young adult books. Each has its own definition and expectations. Here are a few links to help you figure out what you’ve written:

Picture Books:
Rising above the slush
What makes a good picture book?
Myths and misconceptions about picture books

Chapter books:
The difference between MG and chapter books
Easy reader or early chapter book?
Word count for chapter books

Middle grade:
Tweens and MG books
So it's MG?
Middle grade vs middle school

Defining YA
YA? What ages?
Simplifying for young adults?

The next step is to make sure your book is of publishable quality. Most authors and illustrators of published books spend years learning their craft. They take classes, go to conferences, read craft books, join critique groups or find critique partners to exchange manuscripts with. This is true even of those who want to self-publish. See:
It's all about the work: giving and getting critiques
Questions about beta readers
Favorite writing books

The Blueboard has a wealth of information about writing, illustrating, and publishing books for kids. Perhaps the best thing you can do if you’re serious about writing or illustrating for children is take time to just wander around and read different topics that catch your eye, or use the search engine to find information on specific topics. Here are a few pointers on using search:
How to use basic and advanced search functions

Okay, got it—making my book the best it can be comes first. But what’s next after that? How do I get my book out into bookstores, libraries, and schools?

For now, the best way to have your book reach the largest possible audience is to try to find a commercial publisher. Commercial publishers—companies like HarperCollins and Scholastic—pay authors and illustrators for the right to publish their books. They will:

- Do further editing to make a story as good and as salable as possible (don’t forget, they’re in business to earn money); this includes content editing, copy/line editing, and proofreading.
- Typeset and format the pages
- Create a cover (and hire an illustrator if it's a picture book)
- Print the book
- Prepare an ebook version if electronic rights are part of the contract
- Send advance copies to professional review journals, select bloggers, and other "pre-buzz" generators
- Use their sales force to get your book into the hands of distributors and ultimately, your hometown bookstore

It’s very, very hard to sell a book to a commercial publisher—they only take what they think is the best of the best. A few commercial publishers, especially smaller ones, will consider direct submissions from authors and illustrators. Here is a helpful link:
Researching and querying editors
SCBWI members may find this link helpful:
How to Submit a Manuscript

But most commercial publishers take submissions only through literary agents. A literary agent is a professional who not only sells books to publishers via their carefully fostered connections with editors (it’s their job to know which editors are looking for what kinds of books) but helps clients with all aspects of their writing or illustrating careers. Not every agent represents every kind of book, just as not every publisher publishes every kind of book. You will need to research which agents represent which kinds of books and what their individual interests are. Once you’ve done that (most of which can be done online), then you craft a query letter, which briefly describes your work.

This is not a speedy process. It takes time first to do your research so that you can best target your submissions...and then it takes time for agents to read queries (they receive thousands a year), request manuscripts, read them, and decide if they want to represent your work. Then they’ll often ask you for revisions that they think will improve your work...and then they submit your work to publishers they think would be a good match...and then you’ll wait some more, and quite likely the news won’t be positive. If it is, then there’s more waiting—a YA novel usually takes 18 months to 2 years from the date it’s sold to the day it’s released. Picture books can take years longer than that, because they depend on the illustrator’s schedule. If you want to be a writer or an illustrator, you have to cultivate patience...a lot of patience. The good news is that while you wait, you can be working on your next story and improving your skills. Here are a few links on the process:
Do I need an agent?
Submitting picture books to agents

I don't think I want to go that route. What else can I do?

Once upon a time, the above was the only way to go. Now, though, there are more options that can be considered, including self-publishing, subsidy (also known as vanity) publishing, and hybrid publishing (sometimes called co-publishing).

Self-publishing means that you are not only the author, but the publisher of your book. It means that you take care of (or hire someone else to do) everything involved in the publication of your book--having it edited, formatted, a cover created, uploading to online distributors for an e-book version, formatting a print version/working with a print vendor, and marketing. It can be a lot of work, and cost a good chunk of money to do it right, but some authors prefer this route: they like the idea of starting their own business and having complete creative control of all aspects of their book. Check out the posts on the Self Publishing board here
Outside links of interest:
An overview of self-publishing from the highly respected Writer Beware site hosted by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
A worksheet to help you decide whether to go the SP route (read through the whole thread; the OP provides an updated worksheet in Reply#2)

Subsidy/vanity publishing means that you pay a company to perform all of the publishing steps outlined above (rather than doing them yourself). Sometimes you choose among several "packages" that include different levels of service for set prices. Subsidy and vanity publishing differ from both commercial and self-publishing in that the publishers' target market is not the reading public, but aspiring authors. These companies make their money from you, not your readers, and do not have a vested interest in whether your book sells. They will usually accept the work of any author who is willing to pay for their services, regardless of the manuscript's quality.

Hybrid/co-publishing is a relatively new development and these publishers vary in what they offer and how they operate. They may be nothing more than subsidy/vanity publishing under a different name, or they may follow some of the practices of traditional publishers, such as manuscript selectivity or the payment of royalties. In any case, with this model you will still be paying fees to get published. Here are two discussions of hybrid/co-publishers:
Researching and Querying Editors
and a blog post by former Writers Digest editor Jane Friedman

The quality of subsidy/vanity/hybrid services, and of your finished book, can range from good to poor, so before deciding to work with such a company it's wise to look at the physical and/or digital books they put out so that you know what yours would look like. Do the same with any printer you consider using if you are self-publishing, or with small or niche traditional presses.

We hope you find this overview of the publishing industry helpful. In general, your best strategy is to decide which path fits your goals and pursue that path, even if it seems longer than others (rather than, say, thinking that "starting small" will give you a leg up toward traditional publishing, which it usually will not). Happy writing and illustrating, and good luck.  :goodluck

In general, no. Occasionally, threads are posted that ask for book recommendations, especially on the Book Talk board, and you many mention books you recommend -- or don't. This means someone may or may not recommend your book, too -- of their own free will. But you may not *solicit* reviews for your own book on the Blueboard, or offer copies in exchange for a review, or offer reciprocal reviews. Such posts will be deleted without notice.

If someone wishes to not see certain sections of the board, they can click on the Up Arrow(^) on the left side of the colored bar of the category name they wish to collapse. When the arrow points DOWN, all boards within that category will disappear, showing only the name of the category. To expand the category so you can see the boards in it again, just click on the plus sign (DOWN ARROW) and you will be able to see all the boards in that category again.

No. Though SCBWI members are automatically registered for the Blueboard, and have some extra boards available to them as a perk of their membership, non-SCBWI members with a genuine interest in children's literature may register to join the Blueboard.