Monthly Archives: February 2012

Judge a book by its cover?

Let’s start with a scenario: you’re at the grocery store in front of the wall of tomato sauces. Which one do you think would be the most delicious?

Before you read the ingredients or the nutritional information, you inevitably make a choice to pick up the jar that most appeals to you. You probably make that judgement call based on the label, jar size, and possibly the proximity of a given tin to your hand. Because let’s face it, you’re a human in the 21st century, and you come into contact with thousands of products that have been specifically designed to catch your eye and send you messages about the quality of the contents.

So why shouldn’t the same logic apply in the bookstore? The choices are no less daunting. There are literally millions of books to choose from! And more are coming out every day! Just walk into your local bookstore and look at the new fiction table. There are AT LEAST 30 books staring up at you. And that’s just one tiny table in a shop full of books. Maybe you look for a familiar name (see Julie Bosman’s article in the NYTimes), but I also bet you look at covers. Because again, you’re human, and you have eyes. I bet if you think really hard, you can remember a time where you picked up a book just because you thought it was pretty, and ended up buying it because the story summary on the back piqued your interest. I do it all the time, whether I’m buying physical books or clicking on the covers to download books to my Kindle.

It can’t be a coincidence that all of the books I’ve read and loved lately have  beautiful covers (see Super Sad True Love Story, Why We Broke Up, and A Monster Calls). For me, the covers of my favourite books are all tied up with the images of the characters and narrative in my brain. And honestly, what’s the point of writing a wonderful new book if you’re going to stick it in an ugly old package?

Here at Hot Key Books, I’m proud to report that the incredible designers are working their magic to make the outsides of Hot Key’s forthcoming books just as amazing as the stories inside. Need proof? Check this out:

Isn’t that gorgeous? Don’t you want to hang that on your wall? Or at the very least, read it? Stay tuned for more beautiful, amazing, and wall-worthy covers. I encourage you to judge Hot Key’s books by their covers. One look, and I bet you’ll decide to read them all.

Thank you!

A huge thank you to everyone who is helping us with our Week of Woo. There is more to come today, but we just wanted to give a special shout out to our two YouTube commenters.

That is exactly what we’re after – unconditional love. Okay, not really. But we are most definitely here to bring authors and readers together. In this particular case, in real life, if we can!

We also want to show you all how much we enjoy what we do. We are so proud to have done something to make someone say, “Why are more companies not like this?” Because we think other companies can and should be like this. Celebrate your successes, have fun, don’t be shy!

Stay tuned for a new Week of Woo vlog post… at 3pm.

Ed’s note: Just as I pressed “publish” on this post, an email landed in my inbox. Are you all getting the fantastic Trend Briefings from TrendWatching.com? Their latest summary of the mood of the market says be FLAWSOME: people respond well to companies that act human, and aren’t afraid to be transparent.

So… this is us at Hot Key Books, warts and all.

Welcome to the Week of Woo!

When was the last time YOU were a part of a campaign to get an author to publish his or her book in the UK? Well, now’s the time. Today is Day One of our Week of Woo, and we need your help. We’re reaching out to everyone in the Twittersphere, Tumblrsphere, Facebookosphere and general atmosphere to help us to bring John Green to our neck of the woods.

Now, we know this is a bit unconventional. Usually publishers talk to agents, or other publishers, and work out some deal for a book. But we are not your standard publisher. Sure we’re going to do all the necessary paperwork-sign-at-the-x things, but we love this author so much we felt that we needed to do something special.

Today we posted a hilarious video to provide a bit of an introduction to our campaign: http://weekofwoo.tumblr.com/. As you’ll see, even the Queen approves of this project.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Prepare yourself for a week of wackiness. In addition to posting new videos all week long, nerdfighters across the UK and Ireland will have the chance to put our editorial director’s love for Mr. Green to the test. We even have prizes to give away! Yes prizes!

So what can you do?

  1. Stay tuned to weekofwoo.tumblr.com all week long.
  2. Got more time? Post a British-themed happy dance video on our YouTube, Twitter or Tumblr, or a vlog with you/ your friends/ large groups of people saying “DFTBAintheUK”.

And of course, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!

Read and Tell Monday

My weekend was consumed largely by reading Maus, a graphic narrative, written and drawn by Art Spiegelman.  Maus  is a biography of the author’s father Vladek and is the story of a Polish Jew’s experience and survival of WWII, including a 12 month stay at Auschwitz.  Published in two volumes, the first in 1986, and the second in 1991, Maus has won the Pulitzer Prize Special Award and has been acknowledged as a seminal text. Throughout, each nationality, or race is represented in anthropomorphic form, human bodies support animal heads, with Jews as mice, Germans as cats, the Polish gentiles as pigs and the Americans as dogs.

I found Maus simultaneously horrifying, and yet tragic in its trivialities – the decline of the elderly Vladek, and Art’s father into infirmity is read alongside the young Vladek’s battle to survive under Nazi rule. Spiegelman makes no attempt to illuminate the Holocaust in a context wider than the protagonist’s immediate experience and so at once the reader is faced with Vladek of old and new. His impenetrable miserliness, the bickering with his second wife Mala, and his causal racism, but also the courage, spirit and fortuity  which ensured he survived.

The troubled relationship between father and son, especially Art’s impatience at Vladek’s stubborn tightfistedness almost threatens to overshadow the story of his life as a young man in Poland, and it is not until the last chapters that the true brutalities of life under Nazi rule are revealed. However this only serves to make the work all the more insightful. It is not often that we are able to witness an individual’s narrative so clearly without their flaws and foibles being hidden in the tragedy of their death or the horrors of their experience. Spiegelman’s frustration at his father drives home how undiscriminating death was between 1939 and 1945. It was not only the good or the bad lost, but everyone and anyone, millions succumbed to the Nazi purges in Europe, and all or any could be telling the same story had they had Vladek’s fortune and circumstance.

I have great respect for graphic narratives, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is by far and away one of my most favourite books, and Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is also up there with the best. But Maus comes under a different category – it is an out and out comic in a traditional form. It is no less powerful than other books that have been written however, possibly the very personal interaction that the reader enjoys – seeing the author’s own hand in every frame – makes this work all the more immediate. I would highly recommend Maus, it is genuinely one of the most moving, and equally, most troubling works on the holocaust that I have ever had the privilege to read.

Really important questions for a Friday afternoon…

Friday lunchtime in the Hot Key office, the sun is (sporadically) shining and it’s been a couple of days since we last had to wear a scarf.  At this time of year, young publishers’ thoughts turn to love.  And thus, our big Friday discussion is… which literary characters do you fancy?

Personally, I’ve had a crush on Lord Peter Wimsey for 24 years now.   Whenever I read any Dorothy L Sayers it always comes flooding back – he’s so dashing!  So intelligent! So quick-witted! So good at coming up with successful publicity campaigns for Whifflets!!  (If you haven’t read Murder Must Advertise, you really should.)

It got to the point when I was about 14 that I stopped reading any of the books that also contained Harriet Vane purely down to jealousy.  I am over that now.

See..?  REALLY important things being discussed here in Clerkenwell.

Key Notes Issue 2 – heading out just as soon as the postman gets here!

Those of you who follow us on Twitter will know that yesterday was a proper mailing day as we franked, labelled and stuffed nearly 600 envelopes with Issue 2 of our newsletter…

Big pile o’ envelopes

They now waiting patiently by the door for the postman to come and collect them (lucky man)- but if you’re a bookseller and just can’t wait, or just really want a sneak peek at some more of our books, here is a look at this month’s ‘What are we reading?’ and a special preview from the lovely (and extremely interesting) Lydia Syson on why she wrote A World Between Us!

Don’t forget, if you want to know more about Key Notes or just want to say hello, tweet @HotKeyBooks or email us on keynotes@hotkeybooks.com !

A note from Dawn, who went to the Brits…

Those of you who follow Dawn on Twitter will know that she’s been busy writing a fabulous new book for us. Having said that, she’s still finding time to do SO many awesome things, we in the office have decided to live vicariously through her fun, starting with a night at the Brits…

So, I went to The Brits last night and it was soooo good! I was invited by Company Magazine, as it is the magazine associated with The Brits. So it was champagne and nibbles as we watched from above in their VIP box. Luckily I got some new glasses yesterday so I could actually see the stage..BONUS!

I was watching Jessie J and Adele walking around but was slightly baffled by why Sid Owen was sitting with Adele and I wasn’t?? Haha, God I love Adele, she is just endlessly awesome.

Rhianna..OH NA NA! I am going to be honest, I never realised what all the fuss was about but now I am going to tell you a fact: in person, live, when she is in the room dancing in her knickers, she is the sexiest woman I have EVER seen. Ever. No more to be said about that.

Blur were brilliant and made us all jump up and down like the last fifteen years never happened. And Coldplay were amazing. Apparently.  I am sorry to say this but I have seen Coldplay live three times and they still do nothing for me. I just don’t feel it!

A good friend manages Lana Del Rey so when LDR won I cried like a proud mum. Then my friend Vic and I managed to sneak backstage where we spied some actual Brit Awards on the floor. Obviously, we grabbed them and posed for the cameras. All HIGHLY illegal and juvenile but WHO CARES!!!

I didn’t go to an after party. I needed to get up early to crack on with writing my new book for Hot Key Books. Hangovers are not my friend these days…must be getting old.

Dawn x