Riot Communications to handle PR for newly created Nero Book Awards

nero book awards logo

Riot Communications has been hired to promote the newly created Nero Book Awards, launched today (Tuesday 23rd May 2023) by the premium coffee house, Caffè Nero.

A set of multi-category awards celebrating the craft of great writing and the joy of reading, the Nero Book Awards will point readers of all ages and interests in the direction of the best books of the year by authors living in the UK and Ireland.

Established as a not-for-profit organisation, the awards will be run and underwritten by the independent, family-owned coffee house group with support from partners The Booksellers Association, Brunel University London and Right To Dream. They will recognise outstanding books across four categories (Children’s Fiction, Debut Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction) to provide readers of all tastes with a recognisable mark of quality and readability.

The Nero Book Awards will be judged by representatives from across the world of books, who will select shortlists of four in each category, choosing the books they would most want to recommend to others.

Gareth Hopley, Head of Communications, Caffè Nero, comments:

“Caffè Nero was founded in 1997 on the principle of being a place to bring people together in a warm and welcoming environment. Our stores are filled with books, and we have a rich history of supporting the arts. These awards are the natural continuation of that, and we’re delighted to be working with entertainment specialists Riot Communications to promote them to book lovers all over the country.”

Riot Communications specialises in arts, culture and entertainment and has worked on a number of other national book awards, from the Costa Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize to the Royal Society Science Book Prize and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Its clients across the entertainment world include 4 x Oscar winning animation studio Aardman, publishing giant Penguin Random House, family brands including Moomin Characters, and cultural institutions including the Royal Institution and the Science Museum Group.

Riot has played a key role in the creation of the Nero Book Awards, bringing its knowledge of the publishing industry to ensure that the prizes will support publishers, authors and booksellers as well as helping readers to find their new favourite reads. Riot Director Katy MacMillan-Scott will sit on the Management Team of the Awards alongside Awards Director Amanda Johnson, formerly publicity and project director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and, most recently, Director of the Costa Book Awards, Alan Staton from the Booksellers Association, who will oversee the administration of the Awards, and Gareth Hopley, Head of Communications, Caffè Nero.

Katy MacMillan-Scott, Director, Riot Communications, said: “Book prizes play such a vital role in helping authors find new audiences for their work and introducing readers to titles they’re going to love. In recent years, several major book awards have come to a close, leaving a vacancy for a set of prizes that celebrate the books that we love to read, share and recommend. We’re thrilled to have played a part in the inception of these new awards, which can exist thanks to the vision of the team at Caffè Nero, and to be working with the Nero Book Awards team in this incredibly exciting inaugural year.”

The Nero Book Awards will open for entries on 19th June 2023. Category shortlists will be announced in late 2023 before four category winners and an overall winner, The Nero Book of the Year, are revealed in early 2024. Further details will be announced in due course.

The prize fund totals £50,000, with the four category winners receiving £5,000 each and the Book of the Year winner receiving an additional £30,000.

A website and social media channels have gone live today to coincide with the announcement. More details can be found via

Riot Communications works with Susie Dent on joyful campaign for Roots of Happiness

Riot x Susie Dent

Penguin Random House (PRH) Children’s has hired Riot Communications to deliver a high-impact PR campaign for a new book by bestselling author, broadcaster and word expert Susie Dent. Roots of Happiness is a joyous collection of 100 positive words and their origins, paired with beautiful illustrations by Harriet Hobday. 

It takes just a short browse through the dictionary to see how negative English can be, but Dent has searched far and wide to unearth happy and uplifting words and phrases that – in some cases – have been long forgotten, while others have only just been discovered. It’s an ideal first introduction to the joys of language and a perfect match for those looking to expand their vocabulary with some uplifting words. 

Riot will deliver a creative PR campaign for the launch of the book and lead on talent management while ensuring the book successfully finds its readers. They have previously been hired by PRH Children’s for the launch of Emma Thompson’s festive classic Jim’s Spectacular Christmas, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, which was released in October 2022. 

Susie Dent is a writer and broadcaster on language. She recently celebrated 25 years as the resident word expert on C4’s Countdown, and comments regularly on TV and radio on words in the news. She has written for the Independent on Sunday, the Telegraph, and The Times; answers notes and queries about words and phrases in weekly columns on Radio Times and in The Week Junior; and is the author of several books, including her latest, Dent’s Modern Tribes

Jessica Jackson, Associate Director, Riot Communications, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with PRH Children’s once again on such a joyful and uplifting book, and can’t wait to bring it to audiences young and old. It’s the perfect gift for anyone with a curiosity in words and language.”

Rosamund Hutchison, Head of Publicity, Penguin Random House Children’s, added: “We were so impressed with Riot’s work on Jim’s Spectacular Christmas by Emma Thompson and Axel Scheffler, which was subsequently shortlisted for a PPC Award, we immediately thought of them as the perfect fit for Susie Dent’s new book. The team at Puffin is really excited to be publishing Roots of Happiness this autumn, and we know that Riot will bring their trademark energy and creativity to the campaign.”

Roots of Happiness will be released on the 5th October 2023. 

Talking Points – Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists list

Talking points graphic

We’re trying something new at Riot. We’ll regularly pick a story from the world of culture and entertainment and look at how it has played out in the media – and beyond – over the course of a few weeks.

First up: James Douglas examines how the media covered the announcement of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ list.

A once-in-a-decade occurrence, this list from the quarterly magazine tips the 20 writers shaping the future of British writing. The magazine is owned by Granta Trust, a charity set up in 2019 ‘to promote new and emerging writing’ and it claims to be ‘celebrated for its ‘Best of Young’ issues, which introduce the most important voices of each generation – in Britain, America, Brazil and Spain – defining the contours of the literary landscape.’

Infrequent as it is, Granta has a track record of spotting emerging stars who have gone on to great success, including the likes of Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of a Day), Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) and Zadie Smith (White Teeth). Outside of publishing, The BRITs Rising Star award offers a useful comparison. 

On 13th April, the magazine revealed its ‘fifth generation’, a selection which got the publishing world talking. (Granta, 13th April 2023)

The Irish question

On the day of the announcement, The Times was baffled by the omission of Irish author Sally Rooney, whose impact on writing in Britain is undeniable. Robbie Millen mourned the ‘death of the celebrity novelist’ and the ‘moment when novelists were sexy’ and questioned why Rooney – ‘a mere two-hour drive from the UK border, and the creator of a thousand young British imitators’ did not qualify. The UK & Irish book markets are considered one in the eyes of British publishing and so this difference when it comes to the Granta list stands out.  (The Times, 13th April)

Pale and female 

A few days later, the weekend papers had their say. The list is less ethnically diverse than in 1983, a fact observed by Johanna Thomas-Corr in The Sunday Times, suggesting this perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise, ‘given that most of the people who commission, edit and promote fiction are white women.’ (The Sunday Times, 16th April)

Rise of the indies

The same day, The Observer noted that several of those featured on the list have been published by small independent presses, suggesting an industry with room for houses big and small in 2023. (The Observer, 16th April)

The writers’ take

Others were interested in what the nominated writers themselves had to say. A Telegraph piece (16th April) saw Derek Owusu, Sophie Mackintosh and Eliza Clark reflect on what the idea of ‘Britishness’ means to them as writers in 2023. 

The view from social media

Book prizes, lists and other literary accolades always provoke a lot of discussion on social media. It’s an industry that is sometimes criticised for lionising youth, something noted by the writer Amanda Craig, who pointed out how this can impact female writers’ prospects, in particular. The writer Jonathan Gibbs and others meanwhile pointed out that the list is still useful for those seeking exciting new writing.

The list-makers’ defence

For all its detractors, there were those who acknowledged the difficulties of putting together such a list without provoking criticism. The journalist and editor Alex Clark (the Guardian), herself a former judge, addressed the question of age, saying in an interview on BBC Radio 4 Open Book (16th April) that the criteria ‘will always exclude as well as include…it’s a snapshot’. On the same programme, Granta publisher and editor Sigrid Rausing explained that the panel ‘didn’t think about any aspect of identity’ in compiling the list. (BBC Radio 4 Open Book, 16th April)

The verdict

As the dust has settled, discussion in the media ranges from glowing profiles of those on the list to disappointment over the omission of certain names. We get the more varied views of writers and readers when we turn to social media – revealing a desire for updated criteria and for greater diversity while acknowledging the achievements of those who have been recognised.