My First Writer/Illustrator Conference

Last weekend, I attended my first children's book writers and illustrators conference. The SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers & Illustrators) winter conference was held at the Grand Hyatt in New York. Well over a thousand authors, illustrators, editors, agents and bloggers congregated over two days to share, learn from and inspire one another.


Here are my observations and takeaways from the conference:

The pursuit of creating children's books
During this conference, it became crystal clear to me that writing and publishing a book is not like executing a project. It is not even a long haul journey. It is a way of life. Most creators couldn't help themselves but create. 

These children's books are being created by adults for adults! Author after author and illustrator after illustrator admitted creating the content that would please or amuse themselves. When it comes to little kids, parents or caretakers are the decision makers and book buyers. These books are written with that in mind. Kids or their viewpoints don't figure anywhere in the supply chain other than at the very end. As a result there is a tendency to create and choose content that is bit too clever. Stories that are simple & straight forward, which may actually appeal to young little minds, may be a tougher sell. 

The people and their passion
It was apparent that all of the speakers and panelists genuinely loved what they did and shared what they loved. The keynote speakers, each one of them, moved me to tears. 

Almost all of the attendees were equally passionate about their pursuits. Their passion crossed over to other areas of life as well. Given the current political climate, one couldn't escape heated conversations and passionate statements. These creators were not shy about expressing their views at every available opportunity. 

The industry and its ways
It should come as no surprise that the supply of authors far outweighs the demand from publishers. However, this conference reinforced it beyond any doubt. A vast majority of the attendees were "pre-published" creators aspiring to get their book published. As some of you may know, I am one of those aspirants. The publishing industry on the other hand continues to consolidate and shrink. 

Another fact also became quite apparent to me: the publishing industry is much more complex than it needs to be. There are so many players and intermediaries that it is ripe for some large scale disruption. Self publishing, while gaining in popularity, is not an option for the fainthearted because of its own unique challenges since the writer has to don the hats of a marketer, editor, accountant and so on to make the book commercially viable. The traditional approach is equally daunting because you have to knock on many doors before even getting a response. One just has to get really lucky to get that break and I am praying for mine!

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