Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2021 Conference Critique FAQ

Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference 2021

We’re thrilled to offer critiques with our brilliant faculty members at the 2021 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference.

We believe in working on craft as much as possible, so we highly recommend critiques. Getting a critique with a more experienced and established author, editor or agent can teach you things you will be able to use in all your future writing. And it can make the difference in polishing your manuscript before you send it out to agents and editors for consideration. Read this article by author Erin Heger about Why Author Critiques Can Be a Career-Maker.

Critiques cost $50 and are for a max of 10 pages. For novels, this means the first 10 pages of your manuscript. For picture books, this usually means the full manuscript, however, if the picture book is longer than 10 properly formatted pages, you will submit only the first 10. Please note: Each critique is for only one (1) manuscript. If your picture book manuscript takes up only five pages, you may NOT submit another manuscript to get to 10 pages. For dummies, you will also submit the full dummy. Please see below for more details.

You will submit the pages 5 weeks prior to the conference to give your critiquer time to critique them. On the Saturday of the conference, you will meet with your critiquer for a 10-minute one-on-one via Zoom when your critiquer will go over their notes and answer any questions. We recommend you bring a notebook to make notes of what’s said. If you’d like to record your conversation, please ask your critiquer’s permission at the start of your critique time.

You can sign up for a critique when you register.

Manuscripts that are critiqued are automatically eligible for Austin SCBWI’s Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award. If you would prefer not to be included in the award, please note that when you submit your pages.

Scroll down for submission information.


Who will critique my manuscript or dummy?

At Austin SCBWI, we do curated critiques, where we match manuscripts and dummies with the best faculty member. We have a committee who reads every submission and creates the best match. This means, you’ll get a quality critique with a faculty member who’s best suited to helping you take your work to the next level.

Can I request a specific faculty member?

Yes, you can. When filling out the online critique submission form (details in the how to submit section below), you will have the opportunity to list up to three (3) faculty members. While these will be taken into account, we cannot guarantee that you will get one of your choices. However, you can rest assured that our committee will work hard to match your submission with the best faculty member. We want you to succeed! If you request a faculty member, we highly recommend you research the faculty BEFORE you submit your materials. Faculty members critique different categories of children’s books and have different styles. Make sure you request a faculty member who critiques your types of manuscript.

How do we decide which faculty member will critique each submission?

Austin SCBWI has a committee of experts dedicated to reading every manuscript and dummy critique and matching them with the best faculty member. Assignments are made based on faculty preferences (i.e. MG manuscripts will go to a faculty member who knows MG books well), quality of the work (i.e. whether it’s ready for an agent or an editor or whether a critique with one of the authors on our faculty will help get it ready for sub after the conference) and whether the creator is agented (that information is taken during registration). Since our faculty have limited critique slots, preference will also be given to early registrations as well as SCBWI members. Please note, everyone who purchases a critique will get matched. If slots for, say, picture books fill up, we will bring in extra faculty do the remaining critiques.

When will I know my critiquer and critique time?

You’ll receive the name of your critiquer and your critique time in an email prior to the conference. Please note: The one-on-one-meeting critique time will be outside of conference time.

Can I sign up for more than one critique?

Yes! When you register, you’ll have the option to choose an MG critique, a YA critique, a PB critique, or a Dummy critique. You may choose one or more. If you choose, say, a PB critique, you’ll then have the opportunity to choose a second PB critique. And if you choose a second PB critique, you’ll have the opportunity to choose a third PB critique. The same goes with every category. If you run out of options and would like to add another critique, please email Regional Advisor Samantha M Clark. Please read our Conference FAQ for more.

Can I add a critique after I’ve registered?

Yes, however, changes to your registration must be handled manually. If you have already registered for the conference, you will have to email Regional Advisor Samantha M Clark to add a critique. Please read our Conference FAQ for more.

What if I have to cancel?

Critiques can only be canceled before the March 24 submission deadline. Please read our Conference FAQ for more.


What to Submit for a Manuscript Critique

Critiques are for the first 10 pages of your manuscript, or your full manuscript in the case of a picture book that’s shorter than 10 pages.

Manuscript pages must be submitted as a Word doc formatted correctly to the industry standard, including:

• typed with black ink on 8 1/2 x 11-inch white paper
• in a 12-point font that’s either Arial or Times New Roman
• double-spaced
• numbered consecutively
• and have margins that are 1-inch on each side of the paper.

For more information on how to correctly format your manuscript, look at SCBWI’s From Keyboard to Printed Page.

For novels, you may include one additional page with a brief synopsis. This page will not be critiqued but it allows the critiquer to get a better idea of your story. The synopsis can be single-spaced, but keep it brief! Think book jacket copy. You want just enough information to introduce the critiquer to your story and what you’re trying to do.

Name your file in this format: CATEGORY_KEYWORD FROM YOUR TITLE_YOUR NAME.doc, where category would be one of: PB (picture book), ER (early reader), CB (chapter book), GN (graphic novel), MG (middle grade) or YA (young adult). For example: Samantha M Clark’s The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast could be MG_BEAST_SAMANTHAMCLARK.doc

For any other questions on format, email Assistant Regional Advisor Lindsay Leslie.

What to Submit for a Dummy Critique

Author/illustrators, save your picture book dummy (pictures and text in the book’s layout) as a .pdf with a maximum file size of 10MB.

Double-page spreads are recommended (i.e. each single page in the pdf would show the two facing pages of the spread of your book)

Up to three fully illustrated and colored spreads are standard, with the rest of the dummy being pencil sketches. If you’ve only got one finished spread, that’s ok. If the entire book is finished out, that’s ok too.

Name your file in this format: DUMMY_KEYWORD FROM YOUR TITLE_YOUR NAME.pdf For example: Liz Garton Scanlon’s All Around the World could be DUMMY_WORLD_LIZGARTONSCANLON.pdf

For any other questions on format, email Illustrator Coordinator Rivkah LaFille.

How to Submit Pages for a Manuscript or Dummy Critique

Once you have your .doc for a manuscript or .pdf for a dummy ready in accordance with the instructions above, click here to fill out the form and submit your file.

If you have multiple critiques, fill out the form for each one separately. Do NOT include materials for multiple manuscripts or dummies in one form submission.

NOTE: All critique materials MUST be submitted through the form by 11:59 p.m. CST on March 24, 2021.

Other Information About Critiques

Critiquers will read and make notes about your pages prior to the conference. During your 10-minute one-on-one meeting, they will discuss their notes with you, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Remember, the critiquer is here to help you take your work to the next level. If you feel the critiquer didn’t understand some aspect of your manuscript or dummy, do not use this time to defend your work. Instead, listen to what the critiquer has to say and ask questions that will help with your future writing.

Critique meeting times will be scheduled outside of the May 1-2 conference dates. You will be notified of your day and time via email closer to the conference. Your critique meeting time may NOT be changed on the day. If you miss your critique time, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to get another 10 minutes, so please keep an eye on the time. Aim to login into the critique Zoom meeting at least five (5) minutes before your scheduled critique time. Instructions for your Zoom critique meeting will be emailed to you.