My month in London is almost over and for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing my hardest not to look like a tourist anymore. I refuse to look at my tube map in public. Instead of waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to turn green (because I still have no idea from which side I will be crushed if I cross on a red light), now, like a lemming, I follow the hordes when they storm the streets as soon as they deem it safe and hope there are enough people to the left and right of me that they get hit first if they overlooked a vehicle.
I’ve even been brave enough to say “Yes, I do!” when asked if I would like some tea even though nobody ever specifies what kind of tea they’re actually going to get (I might have strategically placed some fruity infusion stuff at the office that probably doesn’t even count as real tea around these parts though before I said “yes” the first time). And whenever I have no idea what people are actually saying to me…okay admittedly, I still stall and stare weirdly until my brain has caught up, which I’m pretty sure is neither very polite, nor does it make me look less like a tourist, but let’s move on.
Still, it took some time adjusting to the way things are, because a lot of things are just a little bit different here in England than they are in Germany. Not only do people drive on the wrong side of the street, even the little green guy in the pedestrian traffic lights is walking in the other direction. Rush hour is a whole different ballgame (I haven’t been this close to accidentally fondling someone on the train since I lived in New York, where…admittedly, that might not always have been as accidental as I said it was…) and I still don’t get why on earth one would have two separate faucets for hot and cold water (what if you want lukewarm??).
But don’t get me wrong, when it comes to Hot Key, “different” is a good thing! For one, the probability of getting lost at the office here: preeeeeetty slim. At Carlsen, it’s a common sight to see new employees roaming the halls trying to look confident while actually having no idea how to get from A to B (Especially since we really enjoy switching offices in regular intervals. And because our stairwells are evil and never lead where you expect them to lead.).
The phones ring a lot less here. Why? Because everybody’s so close by that you can actually go and talk to each other when you have a question. Having over 130 employees (and the aforementioned evil stairwells) at Carlsen, it’s often simply simpler to make a quick call than to venture to the other end of the building to realize the person you wanted to talk to isn’t even there (…or has moved to a different office).
When a manuscript comes in, everybody can read it and join the discussion about whether it fits the Hot Key lineup, no matter which department they’re from or what their position is. At Carlsen, we get several hundred unsolicited manuscripts a month, plus the ones our editors are actively pursuing. If everybody read everything AND had a say…let’s just say we’d probably never actually publish a book because we’d be too busy discussing them to ever get any actual work done.
Moreover, where everyone working at Carlsen has often more than a dozen regular meetings on their calendar each month, here at Hot Key there is one big production meeting once a week, where everybody sits together and discusses everything from new cover ideas to sales figures for every current and upcoming title. Which, admittedly, is a lot easier with 20 titles than it is with 5,000, though (not to mention the fact that we’d probably have a hard time fitting 130 people around a table).
And that’s basically the crux of it all: With 130 employees working on 700 new titles a year (plus a backlist of several thousand in-stock titles), you have to work a lot differently than you do with 20 people working on 50 titles, whether you want to or not.
However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything in common! The printer NEVER works. There are the same emails about dirty dishes in the kitchen. When our server or our internet fails, we’re all just running around like chickens with our heads cut off. And there’s a seemingly endless supplies of snacks in the kitchen. But much more importantly, we all come to the office every day because we’re enthusiastic about writing and because we want to publish the best stories and the best authors out there. We want to inspire, excite and entertain the little and the not so little ones. Basically, we are all a bunch of geeky fangirls and fanboys ourselves, championing the tales we love and getting them out there for others to enjoy. And ultimately, that is the only thing that really matters.