Behind the scenes at BookMachine: interview with co-founder Gavin Summers

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There are a lot of new members in the BookMachine team – can you talk us through some of the changes, and how BookMachine is growing?

Yes, we are excited to have announced so many changes at BookMachine HQ over the last few months!

We have three strands to what we do at BookMachine: the Community and events have always been at the heart of it all, where we aim to bring people together and help share ideas from the best in our industry. CAMPUS is our social learning hub, which teaches members how to implement such ideas in very practical ways they can use in their day-to-day working lives. Our Creative Agency, meanwhile, is about providing stand-out digital marketing services to book trade and education publishers and industry-related businesses.

As we grow the team to support all three areas, Laura and I are thrilled to have Suzanne Kavanagh join the board as Client Director. Suzanne has been central to BookMachine events, (and increasingly to most things we do as a company!) for several years, and her experience and enthusiasm will be a huge asset.

Underpinning everything, we’re very lucky to have the expert design eye of Aimee Dewar, overseeing all Community and CAMPUS activities, and taking the creative lead on several client projects. Aimee was our first employee, and very much part of our recent growth.

In recent weeks we’ve responded to the strong demand we’ve seen from publishers for digital marketing campaign support: joining Louise Dickens on our team of Digital Strategists, we have Gemma Rostill, who has worked most recently as Head of Marketing for Penguin Random House Children’s, and Olivia Tanner, who has delivered award-winning marketing campaigns for publishers, EdTechs and charities.

Later this month we’ll also be welcoming Niamh Wallace, who joins us as Digital Marketing Executive, having built up her experience as a content creator on her own platforms of Instagram and TikTok (do check out @booksarebrainfood for a taster of Niamh’s work!). Niamh will be working closely with Emily Cameron, who has been heading up our Social Media Influencer services for publishers. Meanwhile, Joseph Clark, our Digital Projects Assistant, continues to support our client reporting, analytics and digital product development.

We’d also like to offer our very best wishes to Connie Baxter-Mulvenna who has now finished her Kickstarter placement with us. Connie did some fantastic work supporting Aimee on the Community and we have no doubt she’ll do great things in her career.

What’s a typical day like at BookMachine HQ?

We’re proudly ‘Remote First’ here at BookMachine, with members of the team based in various parts of the country. On a typical day though, there are usually two or three of us in the BookMachine office on Greenwich Peninsula in London. We’re based in an entirely new collection of buildings near the O2 Dome called the Design District, which is an initiative to bring to bring together lots of (very different) creative business in one place. To that end, we are neighbours with artists, an app developer (our good friends at Novellic), a tattoo parlour, a rug maker and a lighting gallery. It’s certainly a fun place to be based.

There’s no truly typical day at BookMachine though; we all work across a diverse range of projects. By design, we don’t have many traditional meetings, but we bring everyone together twice a week on a call and talk through our goals and projects. Every few months we all meet in person as a team, which is always a real highlight.     

The publishing industry is facing economic pressures at the moment, just like the UK as a whole; how does this impact BookMachine’s activities?

I don’t think anyone can predict quite how things will go over the next few months in terms of the wider economy, though our industry is an incredibly robust one. Our agency is uniquely well placed in such an uncertain climate, where we’re able offer flexible digital services to publishers via the combined skillsets of our team.

How do you see BookMachine’s activities developing as we go into 2023?

While it may not be the sexiest topic, our challenge as we grow as a company is to ensure our ways of working and processes keep up the pace. Our internal project, the BookMachine ‘Operating System’ aims to do this, where we continuously evolve and document the way we do things, building in incremental improvements along the way.

Another big goal of ours for 2023 is to become a certified B Corp. The principles of this initiative, whereby a company commits itself to doing business in the right way, meeting high standards of transparency, accountability and social and environmental performance, are very much in tune with the way we operate.

What changes happening at the moment in the publishing industry are you most excited about?

Influencer marketing isn’t new, but we are seeing amazing reach from our campaigns – working across a range of genres – and we are excited to see the results of this and can’t wait to deliver on more of these projects for our clients.

My own background is in educational publishing, and within digital product development in particular. I think we’ve yet to see the full potential of digital brought to bear on education and there are some truly exciting products out there. Watch this space!

Gavin Summers is Director and Co-Founder of BookMachine. Gavin runs the operational side of BookMachine and leads on our digital product development services for clients. In a 15-year career in publishing, he has focused on the intersection between books, education and digital, helping agile teams create ground-breaking services for customers.  

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