Guest post: Writing in the digital age

One writer’s witty pro’s and con’s about being a writer in the digital age.

Down the rabbit hole...

A few months ago, I was sent a review copy of Andrew Shantos’ debut novel, Dead Star Island. You can read my review here. Andrew is here today to tell us what it’s like to be an author – particularly a debut author – in the digital age.

Writing in the digital age

Displaying Digital-Age.jpgComputers, what’s not to like? I can write something, delete it, change it, save it, send it, publish it, promote it. And all without getting out of my pyjamas. But then again, it did take an awfully long time to finish my book, what with all those emails to check, viral Youtube videos to watch, inane tweets to mark as favourite.

So do I like writing in the digital age? Well I know no other age. But they do still sell pens and paper in shops. Apparently.

Here are 5 reasons I love it, and 5…

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What have tabloid reporting and Book PR got in common?

So I recently wrote this piece for the Independent Publisher’s Guild (IPG) website….

What do tabloid journalism and book PR have in common? In a follow-up to a recent IPG blog, former hack turned publicity consultant Katy Weitz explains

‘Failure is not an option.’ Those five little words might as well have been tattooed on my soul throughout my decade working as a tabloid reporter and later editor. Whenever I was sent on an assignment—whether it was working in a care home suspected of abusing patients, interviewing a politician at the centre of a scandal, breaking into Wimbledon or buying drugs at Ascot—I was expected to get the goods, no matter what. Failure was never an option. If you didn’t get the story they had in mind you weren’t sent on important assignments again—so every chance felt like your last chance. Fear of failure can make a person very brave indeed.

Working for the tabloids was excellent training ground for working in book PR because, like many red top investigations, the quality of your work is almost entirely judged on your results, not your effort. Nobody cares if you nearly got your author into a paper or if you nearly landed a review. Nearly doesn’t cut it. So you have to be brave, persistent and prepared to go the extra mile to get your book noticed. It is not always easy or comfortable—‘selling’ does not come naturally for every personality type, and approaching busy, hard-working journalists can be intimidating.

That’s where a little insider knowledge can help, and on our ‘Press My Book’ course, for authors and publishers, my colleague Emma Donnan and I talk through the practicalities of putting together a PR campaign and outline the mechanisms of the press so that our clients’ stories stand the greatest chance of success. As former editors and authors ourselves, we’ve seen every aspect of this business, so we understand the job completely.

It is so easy to publish a book these days—last year in the UK more than 20 new titles were published every hour—and the competition to land publicity for each book is harsh. Even securing local press for a new release is getting tougher. You need angles, hooks and fresh ideas to stand out from the crowd, and to get them you need to be a little bit brave and ballsy—good qualities in both journalism and PR.

Here are five of my top tips for great book PR.

1 Find the story

Journalists are looking for stories, not plugs, so you will need to do some work of your own to turn your book into a story. It could be about the author themselves, the book, the length of time it has taken to write it, the way they have researched it—anything! In fact, you could probably find several stories per book. Here’s the test: is it interesting and can you sum up the story in a headline of ten words of less? Which brings me neatly on to…

2 Keep it short

Pitching your story to a journalist only needs a few lines, and no more than 300 words. After that, you have lost them. So try and grab their attention with a great headline and then hit them with the What, Why, Where, When and How. No need to prattle on.

3 Target!

Aim your story at the person who most wants it and focus it entirely on them. The thing that bothered me most as a feature editor at the People newspaper was untargeted press releases, and there was certainly no quicker way to my Delete folder than to address me as ‘Dear Sir / Madam’. On a local news desk, for example, don’t target the busy editor—look for a junior reporter who is hungry for a scoop. Find out their name and contact details, and send them a dedicated email followed up by a telephone call. Then nurture that relationship for the future.

4 Think about furniture

Every magazine, newspaper or online media outlet has regular features or ‘furniture’ to fill each week. If you can find furniture fillers, you may be onto a winner. For example, does a magazine relevant to your book have a ‘How I Did It’ feature that you could pitch your author for? Or perhaps there’s ‘A Slice of Local History’ in your local paper? Journalists are usually grateful for ideas for filling the furniture, so look around at the regular features and think about how you can help.

5 Line up your ducks

Have your pictures, press release, author videos and publishing information ready to go so that when your publicity blitz begins you can provide all the bits that journalists need to publish straight away. The easier you make it for them, the greater chance you have of achieving your publicity goals.

Katy Weitz is founder of Press My Book, a PR consultancy specializing in publishing. Press My Book’s next courses are in London on 4 September and 7 November. For more information see the Press My Book website, or call Katy on 07968 381 911. The first 15 IPG members to register their interest in the course with Katy receive a 15% discount on the full price.

Book challenge #29: A book that made you cry

Source: Book challenge #29: A book that made you cry

Book challenge #18: A book based entirely on its cover

Book challenge #18: A book based entirely on its cover.


Amazon customers are raving about Tressa Middleton’s heartbreaking new memoir Tressa: The 12-year-old Mum.

Since it was published two weeks ago, Tressa’s book has received nothing but five star ratings and glowing reviews from customers of the online bookseller.

One reviewer, calling herself mpg, wrote: ‘Beautifully written. Tressa, you are so brave to share your story, you are an inspiration. I hope that one day you are reunited with your daughter and I wish you all the happiness in the world.’

Linzi Beattie wrote: ‘Eye opening read. Just goes to show you should take what you read in the media with a pinch of salt. Never judge a book by its cover. Very brave lady.’

While Debbie Watts wrote: ‘I could not stop reading this true story. It tells of an unhappy childhood in and out of care. Being placed back with her mother done her no good at all. It highlights the failings of social services. I am pleased that Tressa has started to get her life back on track. Excellent reading.’

Tressa herself has received hundreds of Facebook messages from well-wishers supporting her decision to tell the truth about her tragic background.

Tressa was raped age 11 by her own brother and subsequently gave birth to Annie when she was just 12 years old. Nobody knew the truth about the abuse and Tressa, though just a child herself, was vilified in the national press. Finally, aged 14, Tressa found the courage to tell her carers the identity of the father and Jason Middleton was jailed for rape in 2009.

But the pain and trauma proved too much for Tressa, who became depressed and suicidal, which led to Annie being adopted aged two years old.

Since then Tressa, from Bathgate in Scotland, has overcome drug addiction and suffered the loss of her own mother, but now she is determined set the record straight and to reach out to other victims of abuse.

‘The response to my book has been amazing,’ says Tressa, now 21. ‘I never imagined for a moment that I’d get so many people supporting me, people interested in reading my story, hearing my side of things. I’ve found it particularly comforting that people who have themselves been adopted have got in touch to tell me not to worry and that they don’t hold any bad feelings towards their own birth parents. It’s been so wonderful and I’m grateful to everyone who has bought the book and written nice things about me. I hope it encourages other young people to speak out about their suffering and to share their pain. I wish I had told someone sooner what Jason was doing to me. But I can’t change the past – I’m looking to the future now and hoping I can make a difference in somebody else’s life.’

You can read Tressa’s story here:

Tressa gets a hug from Amanda Holden during her appearance on This Morning.

Tressa gets a hug from Amanda Holden during her appearance on This Morning.

Tressa’s Heartbreaking True Story Generates Global Headlines

Unknown Tressa Middleton’s harrowing memoir about being raped by her brother aged 11 and giving birth to their child has generated headlines all over the world.

Tressa’s shocking biography Tressa: The 12-Year-Old Mum about becoming Britain’s Youngest Mum this week made headlines in Indonesia, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Taiwan, Australia and Malaysia.

Tressa, now 21, bravely spoke out on ITV’s This Morning on Thursday in a touching interview which provoked a national outpouring of sympathy.

Presenter Philip Schofield even read a letter taken from the book which highlighted Tressa’s deep love for the daughter she had to give up for adoption.

He read: ‘You are never far from my thoughts. Every day, you are the first person I think of when I wake up and the last person in my mind as I drift off every night. You are the beating pulse of life. In my cupboard I keep the clothes you were wearing when you were just a wee baby. The pink and white babygros I dressed you in, the crocheted yellow cardigans that kept you warm. Everyone says I should get rid of them – but I can’t.’

Tressa made UK history when she became Britain’s youngest mum in 2006 aged just 12 years and 8 months.

Her case provoked shock and outrage – but the truth behind the headlines was far sadder than anyone could ever have imagined.

Born into a life of poverty and neglect, Tressa was forced to grow up fast when she taken into care at just four years old.

She was returned to her mother’s chaotic world but by the age of seven, she was being abused by her own brother and at 11 years old she fell pregnant with his child.

For years she kept his dark secret in an attempt to hold her family together until the truth threatened to destroy her completely.

In the years since the birth, Tressa has gone through more pain and turmoil than most adults experience in a lifetime – yet today she survives a brave, strong and compassionate young woman.

She hopes that by sharing her story she can inspire other children who are suffering to reach out for help and also try to stop other young mums coming in for the same recriminations she faced.

‘People made assumptions about me,’ says Tressa from her home in Bathgate, Scotland. ‘They called me a slag, they thought I had brought it all on myself. I think that when a young girl of 11 years old is pregnant, people ought to be thinking: who has raped her? Because a child of that age is not able to consent to sex, so it must be rape.’

First Features’ Katy Weitz, who helped Tressa pen her memoir, adds: ‘Tressa has been a truly inspiring person to work with and I’m so proud to be associated with this work. She has come through the most awful start in life with quiet dignity, courage and compassion. At heart she is just a truly lovely person and it is a tragedy what happened to her. But she proves that it is possible to survive terrible events in your life with love and positivity in your heart. Most of all , she has shown me that there is no true black and white in life, just a great many grey areas. Her capacity for forgiveness is truly admirable. I’ve learnt so much from working with her and I hope now others too can take away something positive from her experiences.’

You can read Tressa’s moving and inspiring story here

7 Top Reasons To Use a Ghostwriter

Today our sister site has published a fascinating post on the reasons people use ghostwriters.

Many people want to write their autobiographies or memoirs but it is one of those things that is simply easier said than done.

In this fun and insightful article Katy Weitz lists the top 7 reasons people ask for her help to write their memoirs.

Read the full post here.

If you’re interested in using a ghostwriter to help with your autobiography visit