By Gavin Summers
Publishing is a people business. When we kicked off the first ever BookMachine event in the corner of a crowded London bar back in 2011, our aim was to help people meet people and, over time, create and strengthen industry friendships. The aim is still the same in 2013, only more so.
Though the founding team remains London based, so far this year there have been BookMachine meet-ups for publishers in New York, London, Toronto, Oxford, Barcelona and Brighton, often with more than a hundred attendees each. We have more cities on the way.
At every event we keep to a common format: a short insight talk mixed with an informal drinks social. Whichever city you find yourself in, you’ll find a familiar experience, a similarly friendly crowd and a great chance to build relationships in and around the industry.
We partner with local event founders who invite the best speakers from their city to talk openly about their careers to date and the most significant projects they’ve worked on: the things they’ve done well, what they’ve learned, and what they’d do differently next time.
The events draw a wealth of inspiration from the supportive communities that have built up around the tech startup scene, where entrepreneurs swap best practice and tales of success and failure between slices of pizza. We felt that publishing needed something similar — informal nights promoting collaboration within the industry and for people at all stages of their career, from companies large and small, and who may not necessarily have access to an expense account.
Our new site, BookMachine.me, is planned to be the digital glue that brings all the events together. The site has been in closed beta since November last year, during which time we’ve been steadily growing the user base, absorbing user feedback like a sponge and refining the feature-set. Version 1 of the site was built with seed funding from the British Council, whose creative economy initiative encourages projects that show ambition for global collaboration in the creative sector. Aside from that, this has been a truly bootstrapped project, and being sure to practice what we preach, it has been a global collaboration between people within and outside traditional publishing circles.
We were delighted to be a finalist in O’Reilly’s (now sadly departed) Tools of Change Startup Showcase in New York earlier this year, and being part of this event was a fantastic learning experience that helped us immeasurably in refining things.
The site is all about discovering new collaborators and services, and being discovered yourself in turn. We’re not trying to become another bulging social network, rather we want to follow the principle of doing One Thing Well, and be the best service out there at making the introductions that help great new projects get off the ground. The site gives users a very visual way to showcase their skills and the projects they’ve worked on. We’re building a badges and ranking system allowing users to have greater visibility on the site based on several factors including recommendations from fellow users. If BookMachine.me proves to be a service that the industry wants, we have much more planned.
A Wild Idea That Might Just Work
September 25th will be our public beta release and to celebrate, we’re taking a wild idea that has been running around in our heads for a while and making it reality. We’ll be hosting 6 events in 6 cities, all on the one night. There will be events happening in New York, London, Toronto, Barcelona, Oxford and Brighton, with a formidable line up of speakers including Eric Huang (Made in Me), Julia Kingsford (CEO, World Book Night), Sophie Kahan (Kobo), Emma Barnes (CEO BiblioCloud/Snowbooks), Julietta Lionetti (Consultant) and Brett Sandusky (Bdigitl Media Labs).
The value of discovering new people, from authors, editors and designers through to developers, packagers and marketeers is now doubly important in a publishing industry that, for all the alarmist headlines about the future, is actually in the midst of a steady and successful transition to digital. Our bet is that companies will, for sure, become leaner. A core circle of staffers will expand and contract as projects demand, encompassing new niche skills and ideas as needed. The role of the specialist freelancer or agency will come into it’s own, and collaboration between publishers and outside industries will be key.
So with all that in mind, BookMachine is our attempt to provide the industry with its own global, informal and inclusive group that everyone can plug in to throughout their career.
We hope you like it.
Gavin Summers is co-founder of BookMachine