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Twitter is Like a Book Tour That Doesn’t Stop

21 April 2011

Author and New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean started using Twitter in 2008 without exactly knowing why.

I didn’t understand what purpose it would serve or could serve. It took awhile before I could even figure out how you found people, who you’d want to follow, and why you’d want to follow them.

She’s learned how to use it to stay connected with readers during the long periods between articles. Unlike many well-known authors, she actually talks with her followers (over 100,000).

“I’ve always liked writing short pieces, and I’ve also always liked meeting readers,” she said. “I’ve always done a lot of public stuff — readings, doing Q&As — so once I figured out Twitter, the transition was pretty natural for me. It was almost like doing an ongoing book tour basically, or an ongoing Q&A session with readers. It suddenly made this new relationship that before had only existed kind of in real life, so to speak.”

But does this instant feedback distract her from her writing or inspire her to write more? Many writers complain that when writing a long work like a book it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, miring one in the malaise of what some would call writer’s block.

“I used [Twitter] as a cheerleading squad as I was struggling to finish my book and people would be interested in watching me slog through by my postings of how many words I’ve written,” Orlean said. “And it became really interesting seeing people saying, ‘C’mon hang in there, you can do it.’ I found that fascinating. I never would have expected that.”

. . . .

“It certainly gives you a pre-selected group of people who have for one reason or another decided they’re interested in what you have to say,” she said. “It’s like having a mailing list, and that’s enormously valuable, especially as we’re moving toward a world in which who knows whether we’ll eventually shift the model to people self-publishing, and then you’re really going to need that mailing list.”

Link to the rest of the article at Media Shift