When it comes to buying and selling books, even in the digital era and for the most digitally savvy, it’s still all about old-fashioned connections.
Nearly seventy young editors and agents gathered at the Housing Works bookstore in Manhattan one night this week to prove the point. Organized by the League of Assistant Editors, a small, informal networking organization founded by Allyson Rudolph, an assistant editor at Hachette, and Meredith Haggerty, formerly an assistant editor at Hachette and currently an editor at dating website HowAboutWe, the event was aimed at helping young editors and agents form connections through “speed networking.”
This was the organization’s third event and the first focused on children’s and young adult literature. Editors showed up from HaperCollins, Hachette, Harlequin, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and many others. Literary agencies represented included Defiore and Company, Writers House, Foundry Literary + Media, Foreword Literary and many others.
Pieta Pemberton, an assistant editor from Penguin Random House was just promoted to being able to acquire works and didn’t have much of a network of agents to send her ideas. She came to meet people. Marlo Scrimizzi, an assistant editor at Running Press in Philadelphia, made the trip to New York for the same reason.
Editors and agents were paired up for four-minute “speed networking” sessions with editors shuffling around the room, visiting the stationary agents. Think “speed dating” but instead of sharing what you want out of a relationship, the participants shared what they wanted out a book deal. Business cards were flying.
Avery Reed, an editor at Penguin Random House, heard about the event through word of mouth from a colleague who found the last one helpful.
“It feels like it’s hard for young editors to make agent connections,” she said.
There were fewer agents than editors, so every so often, an editor had to sit out a round from being pitched.
“Agents are the ‘dudes’ of speed networking; men don’t show up for speed dating,” said the organizer Rudolph.
For her part, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin agency assistant Amanda Panitch wasn’t there to pitch.
“I just came to meet people and find out what they like,” said Panitch. She fanned out a fistful of business cards and pointed out notes she took about each editor she met on an information packet designed for the purpose and distributed by the organizers.
The League of Assistant Editors was founded in September 2013 and plans to continue running such networking events. Attendees were charged $15 and got a ticket for free drink in addition to the opportunity to network. All proceeds from the evening were donated to Housing Works, a community organization that helps those living with AIDS.