Print and Digital, The Best of Both Worlds

Echoing Emily and Kate, I have to say that starting to set up the digital offerings here at Hot Key is a dream come true. I’m in the enviable position of being able to acquire wonderful authors and also to oversee the digital offerings on the entire list. It’s the best of both worlds.

And it’s only in a company like this can I throw out madcap ideas and everyone smiles and nods and says, “Sure, go for it!” We are all committed to experimenting, measuring, learning, iterating. We are not afraid to believe in something enough to try and fail.

Alongside my traditional acquiring activities, I’ve been meeting people about: digital workflow, ebook conversion, ebook distribution, website development, ecommerce, app development, audio books, social media platforms, data analysis tools… I’ve had about 40 digital-specific meetings, probably about 10 days worth of seminars and read through more boiler plate contracts than one person should ever have to.

Breaking News!
I’m thrilled to tell you all that we’ve been working with our amazing web development partners, The Public Society, for several weeks now. They are an extremely talented design firm with incredible creativity. They took our web philosophy and are putting it right at the heart of their development, and I can’t wait to tell you all alot more about what we have planned.

They have just pulled together the first draft of designs for a website that will actually have some books on it! Don’t worry, though, this blog is the soul of our company and it will remain front and centre and always updated.

Revolucion!
In all my digital wanderings, across London, New York and the international reach of Skype, there have been ups and downs. I have heard people proclaim with all certainty that they will single-handedly revolutionize publishing. I do like ambition, but in the words of the inimitable Inigo Mantoya, “That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

According to Martin Levin over at Publishing Perspectives, “At the end of 2011, Apple had nearly $100 billion in cash on hand. The total revenue of all US book publishers in 2011 was $39 billion. Apple could buy the whole industry and have change left.” Now, THAT’S the (very humbling and frightening) stuff of revolution.

The Death of the Word
People have said that text-based stories are no longer a viable product. Seems a bit harsh when they were sitting across from people who have just started a new BOOK publishing company. A thought which, you might expect, I completely disagree with. Text-based entertainment is the cheapest and quickest to produce. Therefore, a much wider variety of stories can be brought to market which allows for a greater chance of hitting on just the right thing at the right time to produce phenomenons like Harry Potter and Twilight.

A Man’s World?
In the vast majority of meetings, it’s been an exchange of knowledge and a lot of fun, but I’ve also been completely ignored. I definitely feel that I’ve been judged by my gender. I’m young (ish) and perhaps my general demeanour of enthusiasm makes me come across as naive. Perhaps, also, it is because I work in children’s publishing, which people outside the industry might think doesn’t count as real publishing. I have had meetings so patronising that I thought steam must actually be coming out  of my ears.

My mom (Hi, Mom!) is an architect, and when I was a teen, she ran her own residential design business. She would go out to building sites in her five inch heels and the builders would try to push her around. But she knew her blueprints inside and out and would make them re-pour foundations or move walls if they we’re trying to get one over on her.

So, thanks, Mom, for giving me the inspiration to not accidentally spill my tomato juice over that person’s suit. And though I could never fill your shoes (because they are two sizes too small for me), after 48 hours in three inch heels running back and forth between the children’s zone and the digital zone at opposite ends of London Book Fair, thanks for showing me a little of how to walk in them.

(And I’ll be keeping a glass of tomato juice at the ready, just in case I’m lucky enough to have another meeting with that person who must not be named.)

More to come
In the same way that we’re showing you all the pieces of setting up a publisher, we’ll be blogging about our digital projects as they develop, with some sneak peeks. And we’re hoping that if you like it, you’ll tell us, but if you hate it, you’ll tell us too! I promise, I won’t break out the tomato juice.

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14 responses to “Print and Digital, The Best of Both Worlds

  1. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
    Sorry. I had to.

  2. So, so interesting, Sara – not least your thoughts on a man’s world. Don’t they understand that in dealing with you they’re dealing with the face of a female-dominated industry? And particularly in your case, someone with money to spend should they treat you with respect. So not only were they being hugely disrespectful, but they were making dumb business decisions. As a kind of non-relevant aside, I found it gobsmacking a few years ago when I was getting a new kitchen put in – ordered by me, paid for by me. And every time my boyfriend walked into the house, all the builders would start giving him updates on the work. The number of times I felt like shouting, ‘Oi! I’m the one paying you! Talk to me!’ Have you read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman? You totally should!

    • Gah! That would drive me MAD!
      I haven’t read How To Be A Woman, but keep hearing about it. I’m so bad at reading non-children’s-books, but will get the ebook for my next read (after the Hot Key Carnegie Cahllenge, of course!)

  3. All men are rubbish.

  4. A woman who understands technology? Inconceivable! 😉

    Tech companies can be patronising towards publishing in so many ways at the moment – even as a man, I find them assuming that I don’t understand what they’re talking about! But that’s also one way to sort the wheat from the chaff as far as suppliers are concerned.

    • That’s interesting, Nick! Yes, definitely. It’s very clear who we want to work with from these initial conversations.

  5. Apps are the new books because books are dead? Oh yes that’s one I’ve heard several times on technology sites recently. I work in IT publishing and I edit books about how to write apps (most of these books are in both digital and paper format). I seem to be keeping the wolves from the door quite well so somebody, somewhere is still buying text-based books.

    • That “apps are the new books” idea is just as annoying from the other end of the equation, actually. Lots of people want to turn books into apps, but they don’t seem to realise that the app would be rubbish – they are simply adding cost, not value. People need to realise that books and apps are very different things for very different purposes. (rant ends)

  6. Pingback: Editor of hard sums and geek speak | Kate Blackham » Reports of the book’s death have been greatly exaggerated

  7. Pingback: More boys, more blogs and one year at Hot Key Books |

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