Sunday, 17 October 2010

Twitter: take two

It seems I’m not the only one who’s been wondering why famous authors don’t tweet. There was a article in the Saturday Times a couple of weeks ago on exactly the same subject.

Since it was in the Times, and thus hidden behind a paywall, I can’t link to it, but I can relay a few snippets. Stephen Armstrong was inspired to investigate when a doppelganger stepped in to take the part of American author Jonathan Frantzen in a literary dispute, and he discovered, as I did, that the big names of literature – whether it’s the likes of Amis and McEwan in the UK, or Auster and Roth in the US – don’t use Twitter.

One plausible reason came from Tom Tivnan of The Bookseller. “Really big authors have the publisher take care of their marketing for them,” he said. “It’s the midlist authors, the ones who don’t make the bestseller list, who are the most active – if they don’t promote themselves, nobody else will.” Indeed – and imagine what it’s like for self-published authors.

An alternative view came from author Andrew Shaffer, who said: “Authors who are ambitious enough to write the kind of novels Franzen and Roth write need some distance from their own culture – observers and not participants.”

Meanwhile, another writer, Jonathan Myerson, believes that “literary fiction writers tend to lead boring lives. What would they tweet? ‘I’m going to my desk.’ ‘I’m sitting at my desk.’ ‘I’m leaving my desk.’ The more successful they become, the more boring their lives.”

To which all I can say is – I wish my life was that boring…