Friday, 7 December 2012

The Twitter Fiction Festival - Lucy Coats

Twitter Fiction Festival?  To some of you, this may seem like a contradiction in terms. How is it possible to tell a story in 140 characters? Yes, that's CHARACTERS not words.... Seems like a tall order, doesn't it?

Many writers I've spoken to wonder about the value of Twitter. I'm not going to go into all the ins and outs or hows and whys here - Nicola Morgan has already covered all the bases in her excellent TweetRight guide - but I had a Twitter experience recently which encapsulates why I think this is a good place for authors to hang out.

It all started with a tweet at the beginning of October. Just one. It ended last week with me filling a slot on Radio 4's World at One and global coverage of my part in the festival in newspapers from The Guardian to the LA Times. So, how did it happen?

That one tweet alerted me that the newly-created Twitter Fiction Festival were looking for entries.

"I'll have a go," I thought. After all, what had I got to lose? So I sent off my little pitch - 100 Greek myths in 100 tweets - and promptly forgot about it until I got an email saying that the Twitter people were interested in hearing more.  At that point I had to think somewhat more carefully.  I wrote a longer pitch, panicking slightly now that I seemed to be in the running. Then, on 19th November, I heard that I had been picked from thousands of entries worldwide to be part of the official Twitter Fiction Festival showcase.

What did that mean exactly?  Well, first and foremost it meant I had to deliver the writing part! I'd decided to present those 100 myths as tabloid headlines - the nature of the Greek gods with their adulterous/incestuous natures and propensity for shenanigans are a Sun headline writer's dream - so I put my head down and started condensing the essence of the stories into 140 characters.  It was an intellectual challenge to tackle this totally new way of writing.  I wanted to present the ancient myths I've studied and written about for years in a totally fresh and original way, which would reach out to a new audience - and from some of the very nice coverage in blogs and reviews since, I hope I've succeeded. I also had fun doing it.

Secondly, it meant that the behemoth which is Twitter was giving me a huge global platform to stand on, and actively promoting me, as an author, along with my 28 fellow twitfic writers. The power of that as a publicity tool cannot be underestimated, and I've been fascinated to see how many publishing industry 'movers and shakers' are now following and chatting to me on Twitter as a direct result.

"But what about book sales?" I hear you mutter. I did look on Amazon over the weekend, and there was a  big spike in my rankings (top 5000) for Atticus the Storyteller's 100 Greek Myths - the book I based the tweet idea on - which has now tailed off.  It's possible that's people buying for Christmas, but I don't think it was coincidental.

So, what have I got out of it? Quite simply, free worldwide coverage I could never have got otherwise in a million years.  Whether that has any continuing knock-on effect on book sales remains to be seen, but many thousands more people have read my writing than before and I'm continuing to add hundreds of new followers who are interested in books to my Twitter account, so from that point of view it was a success. And all from me noticing and engaging with one random bookish tweet link.  That, lovely readers, is why it's worth authors being on Twitter.

You can read all of Lucy's #twitterfiction festival myths (plus brief explanations) HERE


catdownunder said...

I pointed a Greek friend in the direction of these Lucy and he has asked me to tell you he thought they were hilarious.

Lucy Coats said...

Thanks, Cat. Snortling and laughter seems to have been a general reaction. I'm very happy about that, as I set out to entertain!

Lynne Garner said...

WOW - WELL DONE. I've book marked this and when I get a chance will go and read some of your tweets.

Katherine Langrish said...

Lucy's Greek tweets are brilliant and I am in awe! Loved them.