Sunday, 18 July 2010

Too famous to tweet?

Having had it drummed into me by all and sundry that as an aspiring author, it’s essential to be on Twitter, I signed up a few months ago and now tweet whenever inspiration strikes.

Half the fun of being on Twitter is finding out what people I like or admire are saying, not least in the field of creative writing. So I clicked on ‘Find People’, then on ‘Browse Suggestions’ and selected the ‘Books’ category. A long list came up – but it contained few authors I’d heard of, and only one I had any interest in following. Maybe established, successful authors don’t feel the need to be on Twitter, I thought, and left it there.

But it nagged away at me, and the other day I decided to test the theory. I quickly jotted down the names of my favourite contemporary British novelists and had a look online to see if any of them had a Twitter feed. It’s fair to say the results were not encouraging.

Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Nick Hornby and David Mitchell all have websites that are clearly maintained by their publishers (though McEwan does at least have a presence on Facebook). Matt Beaumont (being rather less famous) has a website that looks like he maintains it himself, and Jonathan Coe’s site contains a blog. I was momentarily excited to find an Iain Banks Twitter feed – but it turned out to be a ‘placeholder’, maintained by his publisher in case he ever decides to tweet. He’s more switched on to modern media than most, though – his website trumpets the launch of his new iPhone app.

The exception to the rule is Stephen Fry, one of the most followed people on Twitter (he’s currently got 1,619,347 followers, which makes my 8 look a bit puny) and famous as an enthusiastic adopter of new technologies – he already has an iPad app, for instance. Then again, he hasn’t published a novel since 2000, so he’s hardly an active novelist.

So what can we conclude from this? That full-time authors are too busy writing to tweet? Or that they don’t feel the need to use social media to build an audience, since they’ve got major publishers and their PR departments to do that for them? Or maybe it’s a gender thing: my favourite authors all happen to be male – maybe female writers are more into social media? (Though that’s not borne out by my experience of Twitter in general.)

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame: I’d like to know more about the authors of the books that inspire me to write, and Twitter is a great way to share insights into the life of a writer. I’ll try to remember that if I ever hit the big time.