The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is considered to be one of the best professional organizations for writers and illustrators who work from picture books to YA. Last Christmas, I became a member. On my critique group's blog, one of the members asked whether or not the $75 annual dues was worth it. I told her it was, but I thought I'd share my answer with a wider audience.
-Maybe it's just me, but I don't think $75 is very expensive. Sure, it was when I was in college a few years ago, but even then, I thought it was reasonable. (Especially considering my $400 annual National Education Association dues).
-Professionalism: Being a member proves that you take writing seriously. Several agents and editors have posted on blogs and websites that membership should be included in the biographical area of a query. Since I don't have much for my bio anyway, a whole sentence of "I am a member of SCBWI and a member of a SCBWI based critique group" pads out that tiny paragraph well.
-Professional publication: The bi-monthly SCBWI magazine is tiny, and some of it is just plain inapplicable to me. However, there is always at least one article that I find fascinating or inspiring, and the Publisher's Corner section is gold, I tell you, gold. Inside, up-to-date (or early) information on publishers, editors, and agents, submission guidelines (including submission from SCBWI members only), info on new agencies (who are more likely to sign someone because they need to build their client base)...see? Told you it was gold.
-Conferences: There are two national conferences--one in NY, one in LA. I've not had a chance to go to either, but they look amazing. The book-world gods (like Arthur A Levine and a wish-list of agents) attend.
Local benefits vary based on the area. I'm a part of SCBWI-Carolinas, and since I live out (waaaay out) in the country, I can't get to some of the events. Still, I've have plenty of local benefits.
-Email/Web Information: My local has a very strong and active listserv, and a shiny new website. The listserv always has something new on it: discussions of craft, notices about publishing business, success stories, info about contests, openings for critique groups. Whenever I've had a question, I've been answered by at least 2-3 people within the day. People swap info about agents/editors, too, and talk about advantages of publishing without an agent, etc.
-Critique Groups: There are lots of possibilities to join crit groups. I've actually joined another one based in SCBWI (in part to say on my query that I had). I'm a member of two crit groups, which has worked out well for me because I take the revisions the first one suggest, revise, then submit to the second one to see if it worked well.
-Critique Opportunities: Not only that, but SCBWI-C offers critique services for members where another published member reads part of a manuscript and offers advice for a small fee. I've not tried it yet, but plan to soon.
-Face to Face Opportunities: I have not had a chance to attend one of these face to face opportunities, but I plan to. There are "schmoozes" where you meet and greet with fellow authors in SCBWI (there have been 3 or 4 within an hour or two driving distance from me since I joined in Decemeber), and there are constant announcements of book signings and author talks.
-Conferences: I'm going to the state conference in September, and the line-up looks amazing. It's really not feasible for me to go to one of the big conferences in LA or NY right now, but I can make it to Durham for a weekend and meet professional authors and editors--exactly the boost I need right now as I work on revising my manuscript.
...So, those of you not in SCBWI, why not? And those of you who are members, what other benefits do you think you could find--or what are some SCBWI success stories that you would like to share?