Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

What is First Impressions?


Sunday 8:00-10:15 AM, during the Illustrator’s Café

This is a conference session in which images from illustrators are projected onto a screen so a publishing professional can comment on them “cold,” sharing the thoughts and reactions he or she might have in response to an illustrator’s samples arriving unsolicited on their desk at work. It’s the illustrator’s equivalent to the First Pages event for writers, with comments about mood, setting and character.

Who may submit to First Impressions? 

All illustrators attending the conference are encouraged to submit a piece to be critiqued. The work is put up anonymously, just as First Pages are presented anonymously, so there should be no worries about being “called out,” or put on the spot. In our experience, the professionals commenting are very supportive, but we do ask them to be honest, and if something about the piece does not work for the market, we hope they will point it out and offer constructive criticism. It’s also true that an illustrator’s work may be more readily recognizable by other conference-goers—especially if the illustrator’s portfolio is on display. The bottom line is—this is an extremely valuable opportunity to get inside the head of an art director or agent. So don’t be shy!

Why First Impressions?

Because what we’re asking for is a snap judgment—a “save or toss” reaction. This is the reality for most unsolicited submissions.

Who selects the First Impressions? 

Illustrators are instructed to send files devoid of signatures or anything that would identify the artist. The session coordinator gives each one a number and compiles the images at random into a PowerPoint presentation to be projected onto the screen. We usually have time to get through all the submissions in the First Impressions session, but if we don’t, having them appear at random ensures that each submission has an equal chance of being seen.

What is the format for submitting? 

ONE ILLUSTRATION; jpg or pdf format; RGB mode
, SIZED to fit either vertically or horizontally on an 8.5” x 11” page at 100% SCAN at 300 dpi if possible
. SIGNATURE must NOT be visible: crop or mask out

Please note: Artwork will be viewed as part of a PowerPoint presentation on a screen at the conference; the images will be sized and compiled into slides, with no other adjustments. Be aware that the viewing environment may affect the relative intensity of color and/or sharpness of detail, but that this is an unavoidable consequence of the medium, and one that the art director will take into account in commenting on your work.

How do I submit? 

As ATTACHMENT via email to:
 Elizabeth Rawls at

Put FIRST IMPRESSIONS in the subject line. You will receive an email confirmation when your submission is received.

What is the submission deadline?  

Last day to submit is SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 

Why is First Impressions important to me if my submission isn’t viewed?

For the same reason that hearing an editor’s reaction to another writer’s manuscript is valuable. You learn what an art director is looking for—what’s the most important quality about a piece. These are things that can help you edit your portfolio more effectively. Besides, submitting a piece—ONE piece—forces you to take a hard look at what represents you best. More and more art directors say they prefer to receive postcard mailings—which means your fortunes may hinge on ONE image. Developing that mindset will help you focus.*

*Something to consider: Those of you taking advantage of the promo postcard opportunity may want to choose a different image for your First Impressions piece—maybe something you’re not quite as sure about that you would like feedback on.

Contact Elizabeth Rawls at if you have any questions about First Impressions.