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Claire Ormsby-Potter

Event report: BookMachine Meets Bloomsbury Publishing

On 19th September, BookMachine hosted its second BookMachine Meets… event in collaboration with the Bloomsbury Institute (@BloomsburyInst on Twitter). Held in the beautiful Bloomsbury HQ in the middle of actual Bloomsbury, the whole event had a wonderfully literary feel before the night had even started. The event was sold out, so there was a lively atmosphere as everyone gathered for pre-talk drinks in the conservatory, and I felt extremely fancy.

The panel consisted of two editors – Jamie Birkett, a commissioning editor for adult non-fiction list Bloomsbury Continuum, and Christine Modafferi, an assistant editor for children’s illustrated non-fiction list – and a sales manager, Laura Main Ellen, who works with the children’s and educational lists. 

Getting Started

The talk began with the panellists discussing the different ways their careers began, as their paths into publishing took different routes, demonstrating that there is no one way to get into publishing or into any specific role within the industry. One commonality, however, was the need to get involved and network within the industry. Whether that is through internships or attending events, being positive and willing to get involved with the wider industry can help you both to understand publishing and build the relationships needed to help you find your place. Transferable skills are also useful towards helping you achieve your end goal – working as a bookseller can help you to gain market knowledge, but also an understanding of what sales and marketing roles entail; working within a team dedicated to Biblio and metadata means that you will gain an awareness of the data which can help sell books, and how to place things within a market that can inform editorial decisions. 

A Day in the Life

The panel then discussed what a standard day looked like within their individual roles. This really emphasised the differences that can be found between roles which technically fall under the same bracket – e.g. editorial – but are focused on different disciplines. The patterns of work within children’s illustrated publishing are very different from those within adult non-fiction. Another point which was clear from all three panellists was the high level of interactivity between all teams within publishing. No team is an island, and every function within publishing will work closely and symbiotically with a number of others. This makes communication and organisation key, to ensure efficiency, but with a whole team working towards the same end goal and on the same message it means that collaboration is integral to every part of the process.

Creativity

As the overall theme of the event was creativity, the panel took time to consider how they brought this into their roles. The general consensus was that creativity was not necessarily inherent in any role, but something you had to search for yourself, either by thinking abstractly about ways you could improve or develop your existing work, or by considering new projects which could open opportunities for you and the company. These ideas could come from within your team, or be the result of the inter-function working which is so integral to publishing. The key thing is making sure that you do not just accept the nature of your role as finite, but take time to think about new ways of working for yourself, and for your company. Discussing these ideas with your line manager is a great way to seek out opportunities to develop yourself, and demonstrates a proactive attitude that will make you stand out and help you get ahead in your publishing career.

Once the panel was over, there was a short Q&A session with the audience, and then a large queue formed of people keen to speak more with the panellists. They were extremely generous with their time, and were still working through people when I left to head home. 

I would like to express my thanks again to BookMachine for arranging this event, to Bloomsbury Publishing and the Bloomsbury Institute for hosting us and providing a wonderful welcome, and to the panellists for their time, experience, and enthusiasm.

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