Has Literature Gone to the Birds?

(Jeff Herrity:) I was reading cnn.com this afternoon and ran across a blog post on their SciTechBlog “Author posts novel, one tweet at a time.”  Once my eyes stopped rolling in my head, I clicked the link to read the article.  What was this guy doing and is he REALLY posting his book one tweet at a time?The End is Near

Who would read that?!?!

The article states that the author, Matt Stewart, who compares himself to Junot Diaz and Jonathan Franzen (uh-oh), is literally posting his book in its entirety, 140 characters at a time. (Approximately the length of that last sentence.) My initial response was that this book must be similar to something Mark Z. Danielewski produced. I was a big fan of his House of Leaves, and have tried many (and i mean MANY) times to read his even more experimental Only Revolutions. Both books that I consider more visual art than great fiction. Granted, House of Leaves totally freaked me out and Only Revolutions frustrated me, but I will be in line when a new book of his comes out. I believe he is truly a visual artist and I want to support him. But gimmicks make me weary if they muddy the water of an art-form, which makes me think about our goals for this blog and our own marketing and promotional efforts. What’s a successful marketing hook and what damages the end product?

Is Stewart utilizing a media to create a work of fiction, or just spoon-feeding us in hope that we want MORE MORE MORE?

Stewart claims that people just don’t have the time to ‘sit through an entire book.‘ But, between quad-shot skinny lattes, these little literary litanies will be just the right amount to get you hooked enough to read his book (free) from his Web site, or for $2.00 on your kindle. And then, perhaps an agent or book deal? What is his end goal with this approach?

It seems to me, that while this is a great marketing idea, it’s at the expense of his longer piece of work. If you look at the twitter site for the book, or subscribe to his tweets, it’s just not a very good way to view, read, comprehend, or follow a long story. Here’s his latest tweet:

…and she swung her arms like battleaxes. “I don’t know, but you better think of something!” Karen turned off the…” (from thefrenchrev)

AHHH, it’s like a horribly fragmented cliffhanger. And, not in a good way.

Like I said, I don’t think his approach considers his final product [Book] but is more about the path to get to it. I applaud him for trying something new and unique to promote himself and his 140-character-at-a-time book. (and come on, he’s featured on cnn.com’s SciTechBlog – THAT doesn’t suck for him.) What I think is most problematic with his technique is that he is off target for his potential readers. The CNN SciTechBlog readers are probably not readers of Diaz or Franzen and are probably more interested in Maxim and BSG. You really must consider the marketing approach most appropriate for who you think will read your book and future books.

And, for those of you without much of an attention span and yearning for some real literature, perhaps a quick read of our friend Tara’s A Minor Setback at Smokelong Quarterly. Fiction made to be read in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette or down that latte.

UPDATE: Here is a link to Matt Stewart’s French Revolution on Amazon for your Kindle.

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4 Comments

Filed under Finding an Agent, Getting Published, Marketing You and Your Work, Random Thoughts

4 responses to “Has Literature Gone to the Birds?

  1. Hey – Matt Stewart here – author of @thefrenchrev.

    Couple of corrections to your post. I never said people won’t sit through an entire book – the author did. It was a well-intentioned paraphrasing which got off point.

    I don’t think Twitter is a good way to read a book, as I say throughout the CNN piece and on my website http://www.thefrenchrev.com. It’s disjointed and halting – I sure wouldn’t read a book that way. However, I do think Twitter is an exceedingly good way to capture our increasingly short attention spans with quick shots of literary joy, and possibly entice people to read the whole thing.

    Thanks for taking a look at the project. I think we’re both after the same thing – user-friendly reading, innovation and great books. I look forward to continuing the conversation on Twitter.

    • Hi Matt – thanks for the corrections – perhaps the dangers of the interview is the paraphrasing. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud your efforts in this place were authors are forced to do things in this guerilla manner. It’s something John and I have agonized over for quite a while – writers aren’t always the most technologically saavy. (and I’m a former marketing person turned artist – a double doozy!)

      I personally never bought into the whole Twitter thing – yes I have a twitter account, but I just feel like I am aged out of that, especially from a marketing communications perspective. John and I are both trying to figure out the marketing side of finding an agent and getting published, thus this blog…

      We are curious though – why did you go the Twitter route? Can you offer any insight into how you chose that approach? Did you try anything else? Are you able to track how many people download the book as a result of the Tweets?

      We’d love to continue a dialog with you and keep us posted on how it does for you! Good luck with it! And, i’ll promptly buy a version for my Kindle. (how do you feel about Kindles and the e-book impact on publishing?)

      UPDATE: I have purchased the Kindle version….

      Jeff

  2. Hey, a customer! Awesome. I hope you enjoy the book – and definitely let me know what you think either way.

    Why Twitter…well, it’s honestly how I get most of my news these days. I can scan Twitter and, in 20 seconds, see if there’s anything interesting going on. I almost always get the news 30-60 minutes before mainstream media – which these days is an eternity. It’s a really efficient way to scan content, mostly because the tweets are so short – I can actually read them fast, and click on a link for more.

    Accepting Twitter took me a while – in fact, there’s a pretty accurate “5 stages of Twitter acceptance” chart here you should check out – http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/62340. There is a learning curve, but once you’re in (as I am), most other communications tools feel slow and irrelevant.

    I can’t track how many people download via my tweets, but my sales ARE very trackable. The biggest issue for me is that most just aren’t reading on ereaders yet-it’s the future, but it’s not the present. I need to get out some paper books! (I think the Kindle’s a great idea, but Amazon shouldn’t be making hardware. Apple could kill Kindle if it wanted to – and I hope they do.)

    Thanks for buying the book, and tell all your friends! (Unless you hate it…!)

    Best,
    MATT

  3. Jeffery Herrity

    Hi Matt –

    started reading it last night, enjoying it so far – and will definitely let you know what I think, and WILL tell friends.

    Thanks for the primer on Twitter, I will drink that kool-aid for my own purposes as well as determine how it is something that can possibly benefit us in our marketing efforts. We are willing to try anything that is unique and can create a following – isn’t that what all writers want? We are still so early into this experiment – so much to learn and so many mistakes we may make!

    As for the Kindle – I was a very early adopter and have loved it ever since. Got the ‘new’ one – Kindle 2 – and must say that I prefer the feel of the Kindle 1. I doubt ereaders will ever shut down a library, but may open up literature to a younger generation that doesn’t see the joy of book collecting, but is happy to read. It’s more about how the industry will cope with such divergent approaches.

    Cheers
    Jeff

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