A: Be an SCBWI member! Individual paid manuscript critiques are open to SCBWI members only. You can be a member of any region, not just the Midsouth. Make sure your membership is current.
B: Be informed! The Midsouth Fall Conference offers three different paid critique options: 1) face-to-face: choose your own critiquer ($79), 2) face-to-face: critiquer chosen for you ($50), and 3) written-only critique ($50). For more information, see the manuscript critiques and submissions page. Read your options thoroughly and choose which experience may be best for you. If choosing your own critiquer, be sure to research the faculty in order to choose which person might be the best fit for you and your work. This means not choosing a picture book editor to critique your YA Fantasy, etc.!
C: Be prompt! Your manuscript must be emailed by the due date given in the conference website. We have promised to deliver your manuscript to your critiquer by a certain date. If we don’t have your pages, we can’t deliver them. See the conference website for email instructions, including the correct email address and subject line, as well as the cut-off date. Refunds for paid manuscript critiques are not available.
D: Be detailed! Your manuscript must have the correct formatting and number of pages, as specified on the conference website. Read the website instructions for formatting and submission guidelines AND FOLLOW THEM. Follow the link to sample pages if needed, and when in doubt ASK QUESTIONS (email Erica Rodgers at firstname.lastname@example.org). If your manuscript arrives with formatting issues, we’ll let you know and give you a chance to resubmit, but you still need to make that due date.
E: Be PROFESSIONAL. We all walk into these meetings with a sense of expectation. While it would be a dream for an editor or agent to look at you across the table and ask to represent or publish your manuscript, this is an extremely RARE occurrence. More likely, they will simply give feedback and perhaps…PERHAPS…ask you to submit to them after the conference. In ANY case, we are expected to act in a professional manner. Treat your critiquer as a co-worker/professional peer deserving of respect. Even if you do not agree with specific feedback or, universe forbid, you have a negative experience for some reason, you are expected to be civil. Raised voices, rude or unkind words, or behavior otherwise deemed inappropriate or abusive will not be tolerated. If you are asked to leave your critique or the conference, refunds will not be issued. Of course, this probably goes without saying. We ALL know how to treat other amazing human beings with kindness and respect!
F: Be excited! Someone great is going to critique your manuscript.
The Midsouth does not randomly match critiquers with manuscripts, nor do we dole out manuscripts in the order they arrive. Each manuscript is read thoroughly and matched to the very, very best critiquer possible. We strive to give each attendee the most pertinent, useful information about their writing. This is a process with many variables! The number of critiques a faculty member is willing to do, what genres a faculty member has requested to see (or to not see!), and how many critique slots are available for a specific age level are all factors that must be taken into consideration. It could mean, for example, that almost all middle grade fantasy goes to an agent one year while almost all middle grade fantasy goes to an editor the next year. It’s a giant puzzle requiring time and brain power to sort! It is the passion, goal, and mission of SCBWI Midsouth that every manuscript finds the opportunity for improvement and every writer finds their dream editor or agent.
G: Be ready! When you register for a face-to-face critique at the conference, you will be scheduled for a 15-minute time slot with your critiquer either on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The name of your critiquer and your time slot will be in your personal registration folder. MAKE A NOTE OF THE TIME OF YOUR CRITIQUE! Missed critiques cannot be rescheduled and will be given to you as a written critique with NO further opportunity to talk to the critiquer. Study the conference map ahead of time and know where your critique will take place. Arrive five to ten minutes early. Be prepared to take notes and to mostly just LISTEN. Let your critiquer finish their complete thoughts and be prepared for criticism. Perfect manuscripts do not exist! That’s why we submit for critique. It’s also a great idea to have a list of questions ready for when your critiquer has finished communicating their ideas. Written-only critiques will be in your conference folder when you pick it up at registration. Read your critiquer’s comments thoroughly, take the time to digest them, and then read them again. And again. You may not have the advantage of your critiquer’s inflections or tone of voice with a written-only critique, but you do have the advantage of pondering their exact thoughts several times.
H. Be inquisitive! Writers and illustrators, be ready to ask questions. Don’t just take compliments on your work. If the critiquer doesn’t offer up front, ask what is working, what is not. Illustrators, ask what pieces should stay IN a portfolio, which should come OUT, and which piece (if any) would make them want to see more of that kind of work, etc.
Critique = Constructive Criticism = Better Manuscript = Better Writer
With the right attitude and preparation, your individual paid manuscript critique will provide a springboard to improve your writing.