An Adventure at Hot Key Books

Tara Loder (@Tara_in_London) has supported her reading and traveling habits for a number of years by working as a researcher/writer/editor, and in 2011-12 took the MA in Publishing Studies at City University as the first step in pursuing her dream of working in children’s publishing. She’s now supporting her publishing dream by tutoring kids in the evenings and counts Hot Key Books as the fourth top publishing house she’s interned with.

Shortly after walking into Hot Key Books and armed with a cup of tea, I sat down to work on a manuscript that was partway through the editorial process. Pages and pages of words; the story itself and the story of the author and editor’s journey together written in the side notes, rewrites and edits. I was gripped by both.

The novel itself had me scarfing down my salmon and cream cheese bagel at lightning speed, just so I could get back to work, reading two copies of the same text side by side, marking up changes and checking for continuity. I couldn’t get enough of this subversive tale of pain, romance, defiance and revenge.

The second tale contained in the manuscript was no less riveting for me. In reading the notes, I had a ring-side seat to the delicate dance between author and editor as they work together to trim back verbose passages, plug plot holes, smooth the reading experience with correct punctuation and so much more. For me this dance is one of the most exciting and difficult aspects of being an editor, and I am very excited to have played a very, teeny-tiny role in this process.

The editing process from long ago…still looks very similar today!

By Day Two I was deeply entrenched in the manuscript when I was taken aside and asked what I would be most interested in working on during the week. I had an answer ready and raring to go: ‘I’d like to get involved in the digital side.’

And just like that, Sara O’Connor was telling me all about The Quietness. Now I had another new book and by that afternoon was tasked with some gruesome research into surgery in nineteenth-century London. The Trephine is enough to make me shudder.


The Quietness also led me into an interesting discussion about age-appropriate literature and where the young adult market meets the adult market. It was a recurring theme during the week, as new submissions were discussed.

On Day Three, I was finishing with the manuscript and research, and getting ready to move on to data entry in Biblio. Not all aspects of working in publishing are deathly exciting, but by the end of Day Four, I could happily add using Biblio to my CV. Plus, I’d also spent the day reading the names of industry leaders and getting an idea of the regions that Hot Key Books has been sold into. For me there is something thrilling about seeing the reach a novel can have.

I know it seems odd to get excited about the reach of a novel while entering data, but bear with me for a moment. Picture a girl on a barren shore of an island with an area of 111,390 sq km, which is part of a province that is one-and-three-quarters times the size of Great Britain, yet has a population of 514,536 people. Or to put it into a picture, here is the entire town of Too Good Arm (my childhood home is the double A-frame in the upper-left of the picture).

This little girl has two TV channels, limited internet access and knows how to carry a cod fish as big as she is; the trick is – and only read this if you’re not squeamish – to insert your fingers into the eyes of the fish which retract when pushed. Very little from the world makes it into the rugged beauty of her isolated hometown, but there is a library full of books that are gateways to other towns, to cities, to imaginary worlds… Those books turn life into a chose your own adventure, as each book reveals further options of what to do, where to go, something to aspire to and more. And this is why I’m interning with Hot Key Books and determined to work in publishing. I want to be part of feeding the imagination of little girls and boys, teenagers and adults. Age-appropriate material may differ widely, but a good story can inspire people of all ages.

Day Five rolled around quickly and promised a day of blogging, submission reading and a touch of Biblio. The fruits of my blogging labour are clear to see, and Biblio held no surprises, but submission reading had a real gem waiting for me. With just a few short lines I was intrigued, a couple of pages had me eagerly whizzing through the outline, and altogether the submission made my parting words: ‘I’d buy it.’


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