Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Dark Side of Publishing

It’s hard to believe, but there is a dark side to publishing.

And we here at Hot Key Books have a sworn duty to expose it. We have video evidence of this evil that we risk our lives to show to you.

We have secretly recorded the CEO arriving for another day, to bend the dark side of the Force to the will of the Bonnier Publishing Empire.

May the Force be with you.

P.S. We’re trying to make the Dancing CEO a monthly feature. See this video, at about 1.00. We’ll let you know if we suceed!


Guest Post: It’s not all pink…

A little while back we invited the blogging community the chance to guest blog for us, and today we have our first taker! Please welcome Duncan from Literature for Lads who takes the floor to talk about boys and reading…

Boys just don’t read”.  Is this perhaps one of the most popular myths of contemporary education?  I would certainly argue that the concept of boys being reluctant readers or unwilling to read fiction is not an experience that rings true with me in my role as school librarian at the all-boys school,  Stewart’s Melville College, Edinburgh. Although I have a somewhat captive audience here the sheer number of titles published and aimed squarely at young adult males would suggest that there is a real appetite for fiction amongst this particular demographic.

However something I have recognized in my role as librarian is that despite the popularity (not to mention influence that they can have) there are very few book review blogs dedicated to the discerning male reader.  Apart from the excellent and longstanding Book Zone for Boys, the blogging world can appear as a rather large sea of pink and purple.

There are many excellent book blogs out there ( & are two great blogs which provided inspiration for my own blog) but many are not particularly ‘boy-friendly’.  (Boys are notoriously bad at ignoring anything that can be construed as girly, i.e. flowers, the colour pink, cute pictures of kittens).  In order to try and redress this balance I decided to launch the book review blog, Literature for Lads.

The concept of Literature for Lads was, and remains, a simple one.  Read and review books that I feel boys (and men, as I review across a range of ages from 10+ – adult) would be interested in reading.  In addition to the book review I felt it was important to include some extra information at the end of the review as I feel boys are always keen to be able to explore further.  At the end of each review I include a link to the author and/or book website and also a You Tube video.  The video is usually a book trailer, or if a trailer is not available, a video which links to the story or the author of the book.

Within the site I also feature interviews with authors and sometimes I’m lucky enough to have authors write guest posts.  Each of these appeal to boys as they enjoy finding out about the person behind the books.  The reviews follow the same structure, (book summary followed by approx. 300 word reviews) and I’ve tried to keep the layout as clear and easy to navigate as possible.  Boys are notoriously lazy and easily distracted so it’s important to keep distractions to a minimum!

Literature for Lads was launched in September and I have been overwhelmed with the response I’ve received.  Authors, publishers and fellow librarians have all given valuable feedback and the site does seem to be attracting a regular readership.  (Maintaining this readership whilst balancing my day job can be a tricky balance!)

There have been a number of books published recently which are guaranteed to be a hit with boys and I have been lucky enough to be able read and review some of them. Here are a few of my highlights…
•    May Contain Nuts (The Word of Norm) – Jonathan Meres, “Full of jokes, comedy scenes, and rip-roaring laughs”
•    Socks are not Enough – Mark Lowery, “A hilarious debut novel from Mark Lowery….full of both laugh out loud moments and points where you will find yourself snickering behind your hands.”
•    Blade 1: Enemies – Tim Bowler, “The pace of the book is electric, with suspense and mystery in nearly every chapter”


Thanks Duncan! If anyone else would like to take the floor and blog about a subject of their choice please email me!

Smart People

It’s been a little while since my first Did You Miss? post, so I’ve built up a few more good things to highlight for you lovely blog readers.

There are so many people out there who are quite a lot smarter than me. Luckily, these people write down some of the smart things they think so that I can read them – sometimes for free, sometimes not. Here are a few people, all connected either largely or loosely to the publishing world, that I think are smart:

John Green – YA author and online personality. Have you seen his and Hank’s new educational vlogging? It’s a Crash Course in the history of the world and the basics of biology in weekly video blogs. It’s smart and funny and informative.

Darcy Pattinson – writing coach and author of the must have, go and buy it, DON’T QUESTION IT, JUST BUY IT revision workbook called NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS. Or at the very least, look at her website.

Rob Horning at The New Inquiry – He’s written a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of the Hunger Games. Here’s a good extract from the article: “We’re all supposed to use Facebook and Twitter, etc., but no one can read and “share” for very long without starting to have some reservations. The creepy voyeurism and exhibitionism of it is palpable, no matter how much of a digital native one might be.”

Robin Sloan – if you have five minutes and an iPad or iPhone, I was very impressed by this free app called Fish about the difference between “like” and “love” on the internet.

Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz – she’s a business coach for small businesses and writers. She sends around a very useful, very amusing free newsletter with practical thinking about how people can sell things better.

Let me know if you like any of these!

Hot Key Carnegie Reading Challenge

A big day for many authors and illustrators today – the shortlists for the Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Award were announced. Cue lots of congratulations all round and happy authors and publishers. There are some absolutely fantastic books on the shortlists this year.

At Hot Key obviously we don’t have any books out yet to qualify (fingers crossed for next year…) but it prompted a series of conversations around the Carnegie Shortlist that all went ‘ooh I love that book‘, ‘ah that one definitely deserves to win‘ and ‘aw, I really must read that!’ (N.B. we’re not snubbing the picture books – we love picture books, we just don’t publish picture books…so, we thought we’d focus on the fiction) Anyway, each year there is an official shadowing scheme which runs alongside the awards involving children from many schools around the country reading and discussing the books from longlist, shortlist and through to the winning announcement. And so we thought, well, why don’t we do the same?

Each week (if we can keep up!) we’ll be discussing a different book on the Carnegie shortlist and we’d love you to join in. Here are the books we have to read:

So far I’ve only read the already multi-award-winning A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (amazing book which as discussed on Twitter today, made me feel VERY SAD at the end) and my one that got away Annabel Pitcher’s My  Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece – which you all know my feelings about (and if you don’t then basically, LOVED IT). But that’s only 2 out of 8, so the challenge is on.

But what to start with? Suggestions and reviews please?

Sales & Marketing with authors at its heart

When I was younger I always imagined being an author was the most glamorous thing. How lucky they are to spend all day in front of a (then) typewriter, making up stories that hoards of fans will read. In my mind they went to posh dinners, fancy clubs and never had to worry about a boring day in an office.

When I started working in publishing, many moons ago as a marketing assistant, authors continued to be swathed in mysterious glamour, protected from us marketing folk by editors and agents, meeting only at the annual author party where we spent a day studying our catalogue for who’d written/illustrated what so we could be trusted not to say the wrong thing on the one day we were allowed to TALK TO AUTHORS.

As my career progressed through various marketing departments and companies, my involvement with authors in turn increased and gradually I started to see through the curtain of mystery. And, I started to realise that being an author is actually quite hard (much like publishing is hard – see here, and here) and in most cases, not glamorous at all.

This has become more evident in recent times when I surprised myself (not to mention colleagues) by accidentally falling for one of these strange, mysterious author beings, and now being the girlfriend of a full time writer. (For those of you who don’t know / hadn’t figured it out from Twitter – it’s teen thriller author Will Hill, who’s epic second book Department 19:The Rising comes out this week). Suddenly I see first hand the ups and downs of the life of an author: I see and share in the delight of a great review, a lovely email sent by a fan, a fantastic event, a foreign rights sale, the proud moment the finished copy arrives from the printers. But I also see and feel the stresses and pressures: how many times in one day an Amazon ranking might get checked; the worries that come near book release that people will like the book, and better still, buy a copy or two; the occasional calculation of how many books need to be sold before an advance will earn out; the challenge of keeping an inbox under control and replying to all those ‘when you have a sec, would you mind sending me…’ emails that come from people like me, who before now didn’t consider that the recipient of said email is also trying to write a book, with all of these things going on in the background.

And being involved in an author’s life, has suddenly gained me access to a whole community of other authors, all of whom share the same worries, joys and stresses. In fact, even here at HKB, we have two secret authors in our midst – in her previous days at Working Partners, Sara O’Connor created the middle-grade My Sister, the Vampire series and wrote four of the books, and our Publisher, Emily Thomas, is *drum roll* behind the scenes, actually author Lee Monroe, of Dark Heart Forever and the other Dark Hearts books.

It’s funny that marketing and sales people tend not to get too close to authors in some companies because as soon as you do, you start to think differently about the way you approach your job. It means that on our first week, we decided it was important for our authors to know who we all are in sales and marketing, and whom they need to speak to if they have any problems/concerns.  It’s also why, when our website launches, it will have a special section just for our authors, where they’ll be able to access marketing materials, sales reports, and event dates from wherever they are, without us spamming their inbox and interrupting their writing time. It’s a small thing, but when I ran the idea past the author I live with, it certainly got a BIG thumbs up from him.

Authors have so many options open to them about how to publish their books than those days when I pictured my heroes swanning around at literary dinners. It’s the role of publishers to make life easier for authors, not harder, and we can only do that by understanding and making them part of the process as much as possible. So to our authors, and future authors – we’re here, we get it and we can’t wait to start telling people about your books.

And until then, I’m off to check the Amazon ranking of The Rising.


The Other Side of Bologna

A small weekly round up.

1. Bologna is over! The news from the front has been hugely exciting and we’re so glad that our amazing titles are being well received. We are glad to have the HKB team back in full force at Northburgh House though!

2. We were all absolutely astounded at the talent and genius emerging from the boys’ pen with Jan’s incredible graphic illustration.

So… Inspired by Jan and Meg, I had a go at creating my own comic charting my first experience of a book fair!  Image

My first Book Fair and my first go at illustration (and my first time going to work as a Tiger)…  That’s what’s so brilliant about working in publishing. Every day brings firsts, things that are new, exciting, and  a whole new challenge!

Bologna Children’s Book Fair: The Walking Tour

Our correspondent in the field, Kate Manning, has been updating us on all Bologna happenings this morning. And there is


… The Pink Bar is closed!

So to compensate for lack of Pink Bar stories and to distract from the fact that some of us are STILL dressed up as animals, we have for you here Bologna 2012: the walking tour. Actually, it’s more of a running tour, so if you do happen to spot any familiar faces, you will be awarded a million points. (1,000,000 = one hot cross bun).

Thanks Kate – now back to the studio!