Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Conference Do’s and Don’ts

SCBWI conferences are wonderful for networking, staying up to date on the ever-changing publishing industry, and absorbing craft-related instruction. To some, the most important benefit of attending a conference is the potential to connect with an agent or editor. The vast majority of conference exchanges are enjoyable and enlightening, and here are some tips to keep them that way.



Don’t stalk the editor or agent. Let them go to the restroom in peace.


Don’t sneak your manuscript into the agent’s or editor’s bag, folder, or turkey sandwich.


Don’t wear or bring gimmicks in the hopes of getting noticed.


If you are asked what your book is about, don’t whip our your manuscript. Revert to your rehearsed elevator pitch. Think one or two minutes tops.


Don’t ask current client of agents or editors to deliver your manuscript in person.


Don’t call yourself the next J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Rick Riordan, etc. Be original.


Don’t disrupt a critique in progress. And don’t exceed your own time limit.


Don’t record a speaker’s session without first asking. It’s generally frowned upon because presentations are proprietary and directly relate to the speaker’s incomes.


Don’t forget to enjoy yourself.


Don’t forget – agents, editors, and award-winning authors are people, too. Be respectful and friendly.



Read books by featured authors in advance. It will make their presentation much more meaningful to you.


Familiarize yourself with books agented by our edited by speakers. You’ll gain insight into their tastes and be ready with conversation starters if the opportunity presents itself. Here are a few places to find such information:


Agent’s or editor’s websites and blogs and online interviews.

Acknowledgements section in books

A good ole Google search by name will often reveal author/agent/editor connections (be prepared to scroll)

Publisher’s, which lists editors and agents for specific titles and newly reported sales.

The Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market Guides.


Sign up for conference critiques. Remember to keep an open mind. Leave emotions at the door. Take notes. Ask for clarification.


Dress accordingly. Most conferences are casual to professional casual. Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. You never know if the room temperature will be tropical or arctic.


Practice your elevator pitch out loud. Think one-minute summary.


Be prepared to take notes.


If you are attending alone, befriend someone right away. Get out of your comfort one and mingle.


Bring plenty of business cards to share. You never know where you’ll meet your next critique partner or supportive fan.


Leave your manuscript at home. Editors and agents are traveling and don’t have the space to lug around pages. If an agent or editor asks to see your work, they’ll let you know how to submit.


Come prepared with questions for Q&A sessions, about featured books, about process and craft, about submission possibilities. Be brave and raise your hand.


When appropriate, shake the speakers’ hands and strike up a casual conversation. Feel fee to ask general questions, but do not pitch your book unless the agent or editor ask what you write.


Be your genuine self. Remember that agents, editors, and award-winning authors are people, too. They appreciate a friendly chat. But at the end of the day, respect that speakers are tuckered out.


Thank the conference planners. They’re writer and illustrators, too. After planning for months, they’re probably working behind the scenes, missing all the wonderful action.


After the conference, follow up: touch base with your new friends. Send thank you notes to your critiquer.


Harness your new-found inspiration and vigor and dive right into your projects.


– written by Donna Bowman Bratton