FutureBook Innovation Workshop (#FIW12): A new company’s view

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend this:

which was run by the lovely people below:

You can see the fantastic line up here…

Now, as I mentioned last week after #BookApps – I don’t like to do a full moment-by-moment write up as other people do that better than me! The best way to catch up on key themes of the day are by search the #FIW12 hashtag on Twitter where you can read good soundbites, plus Jeff Norton posted a round up of the first half yesterday and there was a good piece from The Bookseller today

What I will do is highlight a few of the brilliantly innovative projects that are going on out there that really impressed me and started sparking my own imagination:

Jeff Norton kicked off the show, and talked brilliantly about how he allowed readers into his process for Alienated. Philip Jones’ piece above sums up some great points about working with your consumers, and I loved the idea that an author can be brave enough to take on feedback from 11 year olds. As Jeff said – “Nothing cuts down arrogance like an 11 year old saying ‘I don’t get it'”. INDEED.

Something that I was really interested to see and hear more about was Magic Town – a subscription based story platform that brings users into classic picture book worlds. Things I LOVE about this (there are a lot) – it’s routed in child development, it brings picture book worlds to life (you can build your house next to Curious George’s), it brings lots of great picture book characters together regardless of publisher (no-one saying, I don’t want this character next to that character – which believe me, happens!), it is an interesting, new subscription model (parents pay £8 a month for access), it provides a free story each day to non-subscribers (great sampling, plus helps literacy) and IT MAKES READING FUN! Please have a look if you haven’t already – it’s brilliant and I’d love to see more things like this.

Talking of new models, &OtherStories presented their start-up which is a version of a crowd sourcing publisher, where members can pay a little money a year to be part of the acquisition process (and get the books at the end of it). The community they are building are people who love books, and want more interesting books to be published. Reading Groups play a big part, where submissions could be passed on to lots and lots of readers, who all then have a say in what gets taken up. Translation is a big part too. A very interesting company that we’ll definitely be keeping our eye on!

And finally, Night Zoo Keeper – a website (and soon to be App) which is a home for children’s creativity. Driven by a hugely active author / performer and a school teacher – Night Zoo Keeper’s work with schools has been inspiring I thought. Anything that pushes children’s imagination and makes them part of the creative process is brilliant in my opinion, and this lovely video can explain it better than I can:

Those are just a few of the exciting projects that were discussed yesterday. I love going to these events, not only to get inspired for ourselves, but to see how much energy there is around stories and storytelling out there. And at the heart of stories, come authors – and writers – no matter what the format is. As one speaker Mike Jones (Skyped in from Australia) said – “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” – as in, it may be a new environment for writers, but that doesn’t mean a lot of what works has to change. People always love a good story – whether that is in book form, app, ebook, TV, radio or online webisodes – and being a good writer is as important now as it ever was.

There are several recurring themes at the last few digital events I’ve attended, and many make me feel pleased and reassured at what we’re trying to do here at Hot Key. They are:

  • Don’t be afraid to fail but make sure you learn from it – I think this could be the third time I’ve written that here!
  • Everyone should ‘Think like a start up’
  • Build. Measure. Learn (And read The Lean Startup! *adds to ever-increasing reading pile*)
  • Be open, and consumer facing and not afraid of getting feedback

Each and every one of these points have been discussed over and over again in publishing meetings, blog posts, conversations over coffee and email exchanges over the last few months here at HKB. And as we approach our first publication month with, let’s be honest, a decent amount of fear (faced with the knowledge that hmm, 90% of start-ups fail), I think we have to find a way to steal our nerve, continue to always experiment and hope that we are doing a few things right.

And please, please absolutely do tell us if we’re not.


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