Category Archives: Digital

Help us make our blog better!

Hello and welcome to day 2 of our blog survey! In case you missed it yesterday, we’ve decided it’s high time for our blog to undergo a bit of renovation, and we need your help to do it.

Don’t worry, our construction project won’t take quite as long.

Will you help us? Today, the focus of the survey will be the blog content itself — we want to know what you like, what you hate, and what you wish we would do more often.

Like yesterday, if you take our survey, you will get a super-secret code to use on our web site to get 30% off an entire order of books! How about that!

(Just a note about the code: you must be logged into the web site to use it. Just log in/create an account first, then place your order and apply the code. Email us at if you have any problems!)

BLOGGERS! We know you probably have loads of brilliant ideas about what we can add to our blog. If you submit an idea for a regular feature and we end up using it, we’ll credit you in the first post and post a link to your blog on our main blog page for a month.

If you’re not a blogger and you submit a regular feature idea that we end up using, we’ll still give you a massive shout-out!

So without further ado, here’s survey #2:

Cue makeover montage…

Our blog has been a part of daily life at Hot Key Books since the beginning. From our very first post, we promised that our blog would chronicle the ups, downs, insides and outs of Hot Key. And for the most part, it has!

my office being built


We’ve done lots of crazy things beyond just chatting about our day-to-day — we’ve given our authors a chance to share their experiences and advice, offered our space to young readers, and devoted entire weeks to our favourite places in London.

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 16.02.48

Our blog has become a part of us, and it is one of our favourite ways to engage with you. But like all good things, we want our blog to be even better than it is. We want to strive to make every blog post is one you want to read and share and comment on.

So, in order to do this, we need your help. Today and tomorrow, we are posting surveys which will help us improve the blog. You don’t have to fill them out — but it would be a huge help! If you are willing to participate, we will:

1. Be eternally grateful.

2. Give you a coupon code (one of each survey) to take 30% off your entire order of books through our web site, plus free shipping!

Not a bad deal, eh? The surveys aren’t long, no more than 10 questions each. The first one will help us get to know you better, and the second one is focused on getting your feedback about how we can improve blog content.

Ready? Here is survey #1. We can’t wait to read your responses! Oh and all the responses are anonymous, so don’t hold back. Thank you!

The facts behind the fiction: our new iBook!

For a fiction publisher, we’re pretty obsessed with non-fiction. Especially when it comes to our historical fiction books. We could just let them stand on their own, as they are brilliant stories in their own right. You don’t need to know everything about the Spanish Civil War to enjoy A WORLD BETWEEN US, just like you don’t need to know anything about baby farming to fall in love with THE QUIETNESS. Our authors enable you to time travel without ever getting in the Tardis.


But we feel that part of our job as a publisher is to bring you great stories that don’t end with the last page. Once you start to pull back the layers of history which inspired these great stories, it’s hard to stop. Over the past few months, we’ve told you a bit about all the places we visited to gather information for our non-fiction companion to THE QUIETNESS. We felt compelled to create something special for this book, because the history is so fascinating, so local, and so recent. THE QUIETNESS is set at the end of the Victorian period, only 140 years ago. Now, sure, 140 years isn’t exactly yesterday, but it’s really a mere blip in the timeline of British history.

Throughout our research, we were constantly amazed at how people lived in London during this period. Alison says one of the reasons she is so drawn to write about this period is because of the extreme darkness that lies beneath the polished veneer of Victorian life. It was supposed to be a time of beauty and chastity and propriety, but in fact, it was overrun by ugliness, poverty, and oppression. And who wouldn’t want to learn more about that?

So we’re opening the door for you just a little further. After you’ve enjoyed THE QUIETNESS, you can continue your journey through Victorian London through maps, photos, and original police reports. We’ve collected video interviews from experts at The Foundling Museum and The Old Operating Theatre, and there are even excerpts from Martina Cole’s LADYKILLERS program about the notorious Amelia Dyer. It’s all yours to explore, on your iPad, for only £0.99.

If you’re already familiar with our iBook editions (yay you!) you might notice that this one is a bit different. Instead of sitting the content next to the text of the book, we’ve condensed it all into a 40-page iBook. You can think about it like the bonus disc in a special edition DVD. Here’s a little preview of what you’ll see:

To celebrate the release of this book, we’re offering the ebook on Amazon and Apple and the paperback from our web site for 1/2 price! Plus, if you email us ( your receipt, we’ll enter you into our drawing to win one of 10 free copies of THE HISTORY BEHIND THE QUIETNESS!

It’s only for the iPad right now, but one day we hope to make our enhanced content available on many more devices. If you do download it, please let us know what you think!

Apps vs. eBooks: What’s the difference?

With all the whizz-bang things you can do with ebooks these days, and all the apps that are built to accompany print books, it’s no wonder that there’s a great deal of confusion about how these two things differ.

It's not an app, it's an ebook!

It’s not an app, it’s an ebook!

Since we started using iBooks Author to create our own enhanced ebook editions, we’ve fielded a lot of questions about whether our books are apps, or eBooks, or multi-touch books, or ePub 3 versions, etc. So, inspired by the wonderful, brilliant people at RSA Animate, I thought I’d try to help clear up the confusion around eBooks and apps with this little video:

(Warning: I am, as you will see, less than skilled in the art of drawing, so please excuse my crooked lines and weird angles)

Was that helpful? I hope so! Let me know what you think below.

The Digital Generation

EVIE Photo_Use.JPGOur guest blog today comes from Evie Prysor-Jones, who we met a few weeks ago at City University. As her MA in Publishing Studies at City University comes to an end, Evie (@Evelyn_PJ) is trying to spend less time reading young adult fiction and more time actually studying. She is a frequent tweeter, blogger and ponderer of the world at large and is pursuing a career in children’s publishing.

I was once told the Internet was in my blood. This thought terrified me not only because it reminded me of some twisted Charlie Brooker program, but it also seemed like an awful responsibility. If the Internet is in my blood surely I should know everything, know how to do everything, and have a built-in navigation system in my brain. My frequent wanderings around London have disproved that theory at least.

This comment, that I’m sure was meant to be off-hand and not designed to instigate a tirade of panicked thought, got me thinking about how much digital technology is in my life now. I have a smart phone, tablet, eBook reader and a laptop, and I NEED them all.

Sure, they look clever, but can they change a light bulb?

Sure, they look clever, but can they change a light bulb?

Most people of my age can swipe, type and discover things with alarming precision and speed. But I’m starting to worry this efficiency is wiping our common sense.

For example; recently my friend and I were on one of our many London strolls (due to our lack of inbuilt Google Maps) and decided the cold was too much for our shivering bones and we would get a taxi. She fumbled with her freezing fingers for the ingenious app on her smart phone that could tell her where the nearest black cab was. While she was tapping, I did something crazy – I stuck out my arm. It is getting to the stage where we expect technology to do everything for us, and when it doesn’t, we’re left stranded in the foolish position of realising the shortest route from A to B did not require a “slide to unlock.”


If this is happening to people of my age now, people who do actually remember a time before the Internet and mobile phones, then what is going to happen to those being born into it? In Hanna Rosin’s article The Touch-Screen Generation, she calls people like me ‘digital natives’. We pick up how to use technology very quickly because we’ve grown up with it to some extent. On the other side of the spectrum are ‘digital immigrants,’ who are coming into the swipe-and-tap world as complete strangers. But I am only the first generation of digital natives and I’m starting to worry that as time goes on, the next digital natives are going to be more digital than human.

Children are incredibly fast at picking up how to use things. Show a child once and suddenly they are swiping and tapping their way to taking over the world. Whilst I don’t believe digital means the end of books, and certainly think children can have just as much fun making mud pies outside, there is no point denying that digital is here to stay. And it’s us, the current generation of adults that are responsible for what digital products these techy toddlers are getting access to. It is our responsibility to create products which encourage children to do something creative.


Wonderful products like the Toca Boca digital toys (I especially like the Toca Boca Tea Party app), and websites like Hot Key’s own Story Adventure encourage children to use digital platforms to create their own entertainment. They get to have fun, they get to play and they get to access exciting content in brand new ways. It gets them thinking, inventing and most importantly, using their imaginations. This is critical, because if we expect the next few generations to solve problems and handle chaos, we better make sure they know how to think for themselves.

Creative thought is a survival skill in today’s society. I still stand by the belief that the best way to ensure we remain human is through a combination of playing with new technology, spending time with people and being chucked outside to make mud pies. Being a ‘digital native’ doesn’t necessarily mean you are just ‘digital’. You can have a million devices and still be a creative individual too. Perhaps having the Internet in your blood is too exclusive, but having technology at your fingertips is nothing to fear, you just need to think about it.

Sneak a peek at The History Behind THE QUIETNESS

For the past few months, we’ve been running around to London’s archives and museums gathering a treasure trove of interesting material for our third iBook. This interactive ebook is a companion to Alison Rattle’s brilliant novel, THE QUIETNESS, which is set in Victorian London. This novel tells the story of two girls from very different parts of society who ultimately end up embroiled in the dark world of baby farming.

The facts behind this book — the real hardships of life in Victorian London, the real criminals who were convicted of murdering infants for money — are endlessly fascinating. This iBook will take you deeper into the world of Victorian women, children, doctors, and policemen. Plus, you’ll get an exclusive videos about Alison’s writing process, her research, and a bit of insight into her next book. If you’ve downloaded our other iBooks, you’ll notice that this one is just a bit different — it sits separate to the text of the novel. It’s something to download after you’ve read (and loved) the book, so your experience of the story doesn’t have to end with the last page.

We’re just a few weeks away from releasing the iBook, but in the meantime, here’s a screenshot of one of the sections:


Just wait until you see the full iBook!

Bowling, group love-ins and metadata…

Last Thursday and Friday, a bunch of us went down to Chelsea Harbour for a Bonnier Group Love-in, including food, presentations and bowling, officially known as the Bonnier Manager’s Conference. This is an annual event where all the publishers in the Bonnier Publishing group get together and we all get an update on what our lovely sisters are doing.

And then we all lose all that sisterly love, just like in a real family, and battle it out on the bowling alley in the evening. Hot Key Bowling Report: Sarah Odedina is actually a secret bowling star, Emily Thomas wins the most enthusiastic member of the team ever and Jet Purdie was the one that actually scored most of our points (who isn’t surprised by that?). It all got a little serious at points I must say. For instance Autumn publishing took things VERY seriously:

Things got serious(ly competitive)

Things got serious(ly competitive)

But anyway, I digress. Being part of a group like Bonnier Publishing is great. Firstly – nobody takes themselves too seriously, and everyone is very approachable. Nobody is corporate. For instance – which other CEO would let themselves be caricatured and put right there on the website?

The Bonnier Publishing CEO Richard Johnson reading CEO for Dummies.

The Bonnier Publishing CEO Richard Johnson reading CEO for Dummies.

It also means though we have strength in numbers – we can share some functions like having a group sales and accounts team – but then also each company is decentralized which means we all have full editorial control and each have our own identities. Look out for our sister companies blog takeover in a few weeks time where you can get to know them all a bit better.

I was given the unenviable task of task of talking to the group about metadata. SAY WHAT NOW? I hear you ask. Well…metadata is how people find our books online, so it is mega important. But only to a data-geek I hear you say? Well here’s how I convinced people otherwise with a little video conversation…with a little help from

What can I say, apart from after that, metadata was certainly the word of the conference!