Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Illustrator Info Conference Prep


In preparation for this year’s NY Winter Conference, I asked the three of the recipients of the 2016 Student Illustrator Scholarships to give their best advice on attending a SCBWI conference for the first time. A lot of this advice also applies to SCBWI events of all sorts, so even if you aren’t coming to the NY conference, read up!


Oge Mora

* Everyone is here to meet new people. If you see someone at a mixer you admire, it isn't weird to approach them and introduce yourself, it's expected. It felt awkward at first, but I slowly got used to approaching people and trading postcards. A lot of amazing people attend SCBWI, so feel free to take advantage of the opportunity to meet them. 

 * Know why you are here. It seems simple, but I think it is important to be clear about what you want from SCBWI. You're going to receive a lot of feedback, whether it is in a workshop, a portfolio consultation, or at the showcase. If you know what direction you want to go with you work, you'll be better able to decide what advice to act on and what advice to simply keep in mind.

* You aren't here for long. The conference goes by faster than you would think, so make sure you do as much as possible. Attend all the lectures, eat with new friends during lunch, ask questions in the workshops, and catch all the social events. It’s an incredible time so enjoy it to the end!


Jia Liu


Jia Liu  SCBWI opened my door to the children’s book market in the US. I am so grateful that I got the chance to go to the conference as a student scholarship winner, right before I graduated! I got my agent and my first book deal after it. Here is some advice I have for illustrators who come to the conference for the first time.


  * Participate in the portfolio showcase if you can, it’s a great opportunity to get access to art directors and agents, also a chance to see a lot of great work by other illustrators.


  * My favorite part were the breakout sessions, they were very specific and right on point. I recommend  workshops about how to write a query letter to agents. What I learned from the workshop helped me a lot  when I looked for an agent later.

  * The Illustrators’ Social was also a great opportunity to talk with the art directors and illustrators, and show them your portfolio of course.

  * A little bit of research about art directors and editors who will attend the conference will also help, sometimes the art director is standing right by you but you don’t know their face…

Suyoun Lee

* Try to have enough business and promo cards in your pocket. You never know who you’ll meet at the NY conference. 

* I know many illustrators are bit shy (myself included). But this is your chance to meet illustrators, authors, agents, and art directors! It's also a rare chance to meet thousands of people in our field. Isn't it? So try to speak up with them, and make new friends. Never miss any illustrator parties (socials) at the conference even though you feel tired. 

* Share the information you hear from the lectures you attend with friends. It’s sad that we can’t all attend everything. But we can get tips from each other by sharing. You can also make new friends as you share ; )



On the Shelves Kids Ink

A thirty-year resident of Indianapolis, Indiana, Kids Ink has some veteran's advice for what's on the shelves. 
What sets Kid's Ink apart from other bookstores?

Often new customers come in and say, "This looks just like the bookstore where we used to live or This is just like the bookstore in that movie."  I don't think of Kids Ink as apart from other children's bookstores.  In many ways we are all alike in carrying quality books and offering the best service possible.  One difference is that Kids Ink is now over 30 years old…a dinosaur in bookstores!

What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?
 If success is measured in sales, the most successful are those visits where one has to have tickets and people line up down the block!  Those visits have included Jeff Kinney, Patricia Polacco, Tomie DePaola, Stephen Kellogg, Jan Brett, Ann Martin, Brian Selznick, Kate Di Camillo, Sara Dessen and Chris Van Allsburg.  For several of these we have partnered with the library to have more room.
Author visit with good sales and great fun:  Has to be the launch parties for my son, Mike Mullin, and his three Ashfall books.  These author events were especially good because he is a former employee and understands how to help make the event the best.  He participated in planning the launch parties and they were big festive events. His books include tae kwon do so he invited his dojang to come and preform.  We couldn't do it in the store so they were out in front with their long spears, etc.  It was really fun to see and attracted lots of attention.  Mike also put on his tae kwon do outfit and broke a cement block. 

What in your opinion makes a bestselling book?
The book needs excellent writing, is well-edited, and honest.  I look for books that are written from the heart ie the author really has a story they want to tell. For nonfiction I look for books that have been well researched, have notes, a bibliography, table of contents if applicable, and the qualifications of the author that pertain to the subject.  These qualifications may not make a best seller in general but can make a best sellers at Kids Ink.

How is Kid's Ink involved in the community?
We are often out in the community speaking about books and selling books.  We are called upon to help teachers find just the right book(s) for their curriculum or help social workers, nurses, etc with books that speak to the difficult problems of childhood.  Kids Ink serves as a resource for many professionals that work with children. We also donate to countless organizations supporting the fundraising efforts of schools and other groups that work with children.

Personal Book recommendation?

This is an impossible question!  I'm really loving Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, a debut novel, and Applesauce Weather, another wonderful poetic novel from Helen Frost.

SCBWI Exclusive with…Arianne Lewin, Executive Editor, G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Ari headshot black and white


Arianne Lewin is an Executive Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House USA. A native New Yorker, Arianne started her publishing career in 2002 at Disney-Hyperion Books for Children, where she worked on picture books with Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Laura Numeroff; chapter books with Deborah Underwood and Whoopi Goldberg; and young adult novels with Cinda Williams Chima; Chris Bradford; and Julie Anne Peters.

Since joining Penguin Random House in 2010, Arianne has acquired and published the work of the Geisel Award-winning picture book author/illustrator Ethan Long; middle-grade and young adult fiction from New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins; and Rick Yancey’s #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling 5th Wave series.


 What are the elements in a query letter that reel you in to make you request a full manuscript?

I most want to hear what a story is about, so I can consider whether it will be a good fit for my list (or entice me to dip into an unfamiliar category).  If an author has a bit of knowledge about the market, I’d be interested in hearing about who they think the book is for, or other stories the work might evoke.  PRO TIP: Query letters are more like business letters than getting-to-know-you opportunities, so I’d avoid saying anything that feels too wacky or personal.


Once you read the full manuscript, what makes you say Yes, I have to acquire this book?

Reading a full manuscript instead of just a piece of the manuscript is evidence that I’m already halfway to a yes.  The characters will be authentic and believable, the world well-realized, and the pages will turn.  After ticking those boxes I think through why the book needs to be out in the world. Moving forward to acquisitions means I’ve come up with a good reason.  


Walk us through your editorial process once you do acquire a manuscript.

After acquisitions I’ll deliver editorial notes (between two and six pages), along with a marked-up manuscript.  I aim to do more querying than line-editing in first drafts, since the work will likely change in revision.  Once I receive the revised draft I’ll do the same thing again.  Possibly again.  And then we’ll go back and forth on a round of line edits before submitting the manuscript to copy editing.

The timeline is something like: two to six months for post-acquisition notes (depending on my schedule and the anticipated pub. date); three to four months for the author to return the draft (sometimes more, depending on how much work the author needs to do; sometimes less, if we don’t have a lot of time until the pub. date); one to two months for me to return notes on the second draft; then we can do another round if we feel that the manuscript needs it, or move to line edits. Altogether, about eight months to a year from acquisition to copyediting, and a year from copyediting to publication.   


What's on your current wish list?

I work mainly on middle grade and young adult fiction, and am always eager to see writing that is fresh and original.