We had such a great response to our Day in the Life series last week, we wanted to collect all our video posts and a sampling of the questions we got in a single post. We’re giving you another opportunity to ask our lovely assistants questions about their work. But we also want to hear from you — who should be next in front of the video camera? Is there someone on staff you’d like us to follow around for a day? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!
Naomi Colthurst, Editorial Assistant
QUESTION: When you’re writing those blurbs for the books, do you ever just use the blurb that comes from the author or agent when the manuscript comes in? If not, does that mean you actually read every book?
Naomi’s Response: Blurbs are really tricky – we almost always write our own, because usually when an agent provides a blurb (often included in their original email to you, which will pitch the book) it will be quite long and more like a synopsis, which isn’t what back cover copy should be. Back cover copy should be really short and punchy – giving you a good hint of the book (and a bit of the set up) without giving away any of the plot – so it’s no surprise it usually takes me several attempts! AI (Advanced Information sheet) copy can be a little bit easier to do as it’s allowed to be longer and more descriptive. I am always inclined to ‘over-explain’ in my copy, so it’s something I’m working on!
If an author specifically wants to write their own blurb, then obviously we take what they write into serious consideration – but it can take an author a few attempts too, as it really is a very tricky thing to get right! Lots of the big publishing houses have separate departments dedicated just to writing back cover copy, so that should give you an idea of how important it is AND how difficult it is!
But the main thing is, yes, I read every book I am responsible for. I think it’s really important to know what you’re working with, and luckily for me we have a manageable list which means I can read everything and really get to know it. I try to read as much as possible outside my specific list too, just for the same reasons.
Becca Langton, Editorial Assistant
QUESTION: If you could choose any famous author, living or dead, to do the next story adventure, who would you choose?
Becca’s Response: What a good question!! And one that is totally impossible to answer…the first name that springs to mind is Lemony Snickett because I think he would have a brilliant time incorporating all the different ideas and making something really individual. But actually I think my answer would be Roald Dahl because he obviously took such joy in how weird and original kids are and I think a collaborative effort would be insane. In many ways you can see hints of Dahl’s books coming through with this project, especially with the weird pets and crazy confectionery! What about you? I feel like there are so many potential candidates it’s impossible to choose!
Mariana Podmore, Sales Assistant
QUESTION: How do you retain the tone or author’s voice between languages? Is that something you deal with, or is that up to the person who translates it?
Mariana’s Response: Yes, that is an interesting issue. To be honest, it does fall to the translator and the foreign publisher and you have to trust that they love the book as much as you do, and want it to be just as great in their language as it is in yours! I think that is the great challenge for translators – going beyond just having the rights words on the page.
Livs Mead, Sales, PR and Marketing Assistant
QUESTION: I was wondering, though, from a sales and marketing perspective, how much you rely on authors? Writing can be such a solitary profession, and often appeals to the more introverted crowd. I was just wondering how that played into it. Do you rely on them a lot, or do you allow them to return to the caves to do more writing?
Livs’ Response: As for working with authors it completely depends on what the author is comfortable doing. Whatever that is, be it a bit of social media or doing events or going back to writing we’re here to support them – I don’t really think its relying on them as such. All of us at Hot Key and the author want to do the best by the book because we care about it – the way we do that is relative to the author.
Jan Bielecki, Design Assistant
QUESTION: I have always wondered, though, how much influence an author gets on a cover design. None? Do they get to see some sketches of options? Do you ask what covers they’ve seen that they liked that might work for their books? Or do you just tell the author to get out of your kitchen and go back to writing books?
Jan’s Response: Lovely question! I’m sure it differs. Over here, the book has been read so many times, by so many, that we have quite a good feel of what would be a good cover for it. Maybe sometimes more so than the author, who has been so imersed in this world they have created. I also think by knowing the creative process very well, authors understand our creative process too, and know we will do our best to do their works justice. But of course we always want our authors to be happy so they usually have a sneak peak or two through out the process.