Monday 28 May 2012

Hot Key Books - Launching a list of authors, not books.

Today on the blog, I am really excited to welcome Sarah Benton, the Sales and Marketing manager from Hot Key Books. Hot Key Books is a brand new publisher who will be launching their first Young Adult book in August.  Sarah is here to tell her us all about the philosophy behind their new company with a little help from a few of their authors. 
Sarah Odedina said to me in my interview something that I hadn’t heard in a long time in publishing. She said, “I want to publish authors, not books”. She had a very strong vision when launching Hot Key Books – and that was to invest in careers and talent of authors, not just ‘trendy’ books, or ‘one-hit-wonders’ to use a music analogy. It seems stupid to say it, but for an industry focused on taking an amazing author’s work to market, authors do at times get left out of the equation. And that’s why, in my opinion, many authors see self-publishing as a better option, and chose to remove publishers and agents from the equation altogether.

Well, I’m going to say it right here, on the excellent Serendipity Reviews (thank you for having me!) that at Hot Key Books, we are putting authors, and author care, back at the centre of what we do. It’s hugely important, in a creative industry, to invest in creativity. And quite simply, an author’s imagination is the most creative part of what we do, and this should never be forgotten.
It’s been hugely exciting therefore to work with the editorial team to build that list of authors. Since we all got the jobs last year, we immediately started reading submissions, and I think before most of us even had a desk we had several contracts done already! A mixture of debut and established authors, from the UK, US and Australia filled the first list. Many authors who agreed to publish with us did so knowing they would say goodbye to social lives, family time and Christmas holidays in order to meet our (slightly punishing – sorry!) launch list schedule. But they did so as they are as excited as us to be part of something new and different. Our first books - the epic INSIGNIA by debut author S. J. Kincaid, and the urban love story ANGEL DUST by Sarah Mussi - will publish this August, less than a year after our company was even founded.

Many people have asked us what we are looking for in the books and authors we are buying, what is the ‘secret formula’ that makes us say yes. We always say this: it’s not one genre, not one trend, but simply fantastic storytelling by great writers. Our launch list is a bit different from what’s out there at the moment - not everyone will like every book, and that’s the point. People’s tastes are varied, and books should reflect this. In our list we have brought together a set of stories in which diversity, originality and just good quality writing are order of the day.
When I was putting this blog together, I asked a few of the authors on our launch list if they could write a few lines about the experience and I was blown away by the comments we had. I think I’ll just leave it to them to sum up how we’re all feeling at the moment. I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I have.
Sarah Benton, Sales & Marketing Manager – Hot Key Books (
I have a debut novel, and Hot Key Books is a debut imprint. The Hot Key staff and I are all in a situation where we're beginning a new chapter in our lives, and we're helping to launch each other. I kind of feel like that links our fates somehow... I can't wait to see what happens next.
S. J. Kincaid, author of INSIGNIA
It is a huge thrill to be part of the Hot Key launch list. Sarah Odedina has been there for me since the publication of my first book in 2007 and I'm pleased she's still a part of my life. Sarah believed in Constable & Toop from the very beginning, when it amounted to little more than a couple of sketchy paragraphs, and her enthusiastic ideas have played no small part in shaping the writing of what I believe to be my most ambitious book to date. I love being part of this small, dynamic company and having my book on this fantastically diverse list.
Gareth P. Jones, author of CONSTABLE & TOOP
Over a plate of yummy sushi and a cold beer, Sarah calmly invited me to become one of the first authors to release their title on the new launch list. Thrilled to bits and trying not to choke on wasabi, I calmly said, ‘Yeah sure, why not?’
‘Can you get the completed manuscript to us by January?’ Sarah added.
I tried not to bat an eyelid - GET THE MANUSCRIPT IN BY JANUARY! But being one of the first titles on a launch list for an editor like Sarah Odedina and a new and exciting publisher like Hot Key would, I knew, more than compensate for the lack of sleep, FOR CANCELLING CHRISTMAS and being disowned by my family. AND I WAS RIGHT. The experience has been life changing. I’d do it all again tomorrow. I want to thank Sarah Odedina from the bottom of my heart for that invitation. ‘THANK YOU Sarah,’ and ‘THANK YOU Hot Key team,’ for being such awesome people.
Sarah Mussi, author of ANGEL DUST
"You're almost Worzel Gummidge then." So said a friend on seeing the no. 4 on the spine of the beautiful proof I was showing off to her. A vision of my favourite scarecrow flashed through my mind and I glowed at the parallel my friend had drawn. Barbara Euphan Todd's enduring scarecrow story was the first novel ever published by Puffin. The imprint broke the mould in 1941, and books like Worzel Gummidge shaped my childhood. Now Hot Key Books looks set to do the same. Who knows? Perhaps one day its launch list will have the same iconic status in the history of children's publishing. That aside, being there right at the start of the adventure makes me feel incredibly privileged in so many ways. It's fascinating to see how the whole thing comes together from scratch. (And Hot Key are more transparent about the process than most.) Everyone in the company seems genuinely to be as excited about your book as you are, and I simply can't believe the amount of effort that's gone into every single detail at every stage. What a boost - especially when it's your first novel! To be honest, I still wake up most mornings feeling as if I've won the publishing lottery.
Lydia Syson, author of A WORLD BETWEEN US

Wow! Hot Key Books will definitely be a publisher to take note of. I can't wait for August to get a chance to read the books they are bringing out. Well done Hot Key Books for bursting onto the YA scene. 

Want to see their complete launch list? Then please click here to find out what delights they will be bringing us. 
To find out more:
Twitter: @sarahbenton, @LydiaSyson @sarahmussi @jonesgarethp @SJKincaidBooks
Author Blogs: 


  1. I'm looking forward to the launch! This was a very interesting interview, thanks for sharing :)

    ~Ailsa @ The Book Bundle

  2. Here's to fantastic storytelling by great writers. good luck to all at Hot Key Books.

  3. Wonderful post! Best of luck to Hot Key Books. It sounds like they have a great vision.

  4. How wonderful with another YA publisher on the scene :) Sarah's vision is awesome I think. I wish Hot Key Books all the best! Thank you for letting us peek behind the scenes. Oh yeah and I'm so glad to read that Sarah Mussi didn't choke on sushi, now that would have been a bad beginning to it all ;)

  5. I hope they will be a publisher to look for :)

  6. Very interesting post. I am looking forward to seeing the books and authors launched.


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