This is a guest post from Elisabeth Watson, who writes about international publishing for Publishing Trends and is the founder and editor of Publishing Trends’ blog for young book professionals, Publishing Trendsetter. When she’s not nine-to-fiving, she acquires and edits for a small literary press and collects poetry translators’ email addresses with a passion typically reserved for butterflies and stamps.
Just imagine my excitement when, after months of reading BookMachine
and vainly noting event locations on Twitter (“Hm. Manhattan to Manchester might be a bit of a trek for a weeknight”), the currents changed and brought BookMachine floating over, just in time for a gathering in Midtown Manhattan this past Wednesday night.
From my perspective as the editor of a website for “young” book professionals and a writer for a more executive-level publication, one of my constant fixations is pinning down the career-stage of any given audience. BookMachine’s website has intrigued me ever since I started reading it because I could never quite put my finger on who its audience was. All the get-togethers and networking had me on the “very young folk, maybe still interning” trail for a while, but plenty of more established book professionals pop up as well. Given my own sometimes-frustrating experience of trying to speak to the newcomers and the pros simultaneously (let alone getting them to speak to each other), I was curious to see how the range of career experience on BookMachine the Website would manifest at BookMachine the Event. Is it as difficult to reach varying age groups with a single happy hour as with a single blog post, I wondered?
Difficult or no, the intergenerational aspect was far and away the greatest success I witnessed at BookMachine NYC. My experience has been that, of course, the intern and the CEO can attend the same function, but don’t go looking for them rapt in conversation. The chit-chat with strangers is hard enough for everyone, and making the extra effort to start conversation with someone at a vastly different career stage (and let’s say it, age), with whom you have very little in common and who may offer you very little in terms of concrete “networking” can seem little worth the time and trouble.
BookMachine very successfully attracted people whose primary goal was to meet other people, and different people than they might normally cross paths with, at that. I didn’t meet any CEOs at the event, (though that doesn’t mean they weren’t there), but I did speak to people in a greater age-range than at any other industry social in the past year, from those a bit younger than me to those several decades older.
Whenever I get off my “intergenerational” soapbox, it’s usually to ascend my “cross-pollination-between-traditional-and-newer-or-nontraditional-positions” soapbox, and if there was any imbalance in the crowd I met, it was in the ratio of freelancers to “traditional” 9-5 folk, with non-traditionals making up the great majority. Nevertheless, I certainly met some Big 6-ers (are we calling them “Big 5-ers” yet?), and one or two from smaller houses.. I even met a few authors (legacy and self and not published) in the course of the evening.
Even if the crowd was heavily weighted in one direction, meeting nontraditional and freelance folk of such varying specialties and levels of experience is rare enough that I’d call it an enriching evening on the strength of that alone. I showed up hankering for unfamiliar viewpoints more than for collegial gossip or commiseration, and that’s absolutely what I found. The biggest joy was encountering other people gamely in search of the contrasts that illuminate.
Here’s hoping that BookMachine stays seaworthy and makes the crossing again soon.
The next BookMachine event in New York is on Wednesday 16th January. Drop us a line here, to make sure you get an early invite.