Tweets and virtual soapboxes

LWC talks to Ben Johncock, journalist, Bookseller blogger and author about Twitter and the importance of virtual  soapboxes

1/When and why did you start twittering?
In the spring.  I’m interested in technology and wanted to check it out.  It was only later that I realised it could be useful to writers.
2/What are the rules of twittering?
No rules – say whatever you like in 140 characters or less – but some etiquette – see below.

3/How does a person start tweeting?
Sign up at and start following a few people that you know in real life, people you admire in the world, or people with similar interests to your own.

 4/What should people – in particular, people who are writing – twitter about?

It’s very personal and can be anything from how many words they’ve written that day to asking research questions; or comparing notes on procrastination or what they’re about to have for lunch.  But I will say this: don’t Twitter just to sell your book (either published or unpublished). It’s kind of…vulgar.
5/What difference has Twitter made to your writing?
Writing is a lonely process.  To be a part of a community of writers has been invaluable.  

6/How do you think it helps writers?
It can provide support, advice, encouragement and an insight into how others write.  It also allows you to tap into the wider book trade, as many agents and publishers are on Twitter.


7/What else can writers do while writing to promote themselves?
Have a good website.  Write a blog.  Build up a readership now for hardback sales in the future. Freelance for newspapers, magazines and websites.  Get to as many literary events as you can.  Meet industry professionals.  Read The Bookseller.  Get to know the book trade.  Go to the London Book Fair.  In all things, be professional and humble.  

8/How do you see the industry changing over the next 5 years?  Growing up digitally.  More efficient submissions processes.  Less celebrity-focused. More investment in literature (I hope).
9/Ebooks or printed books, what’s the future?
The immediate future is both, in the same way that audiobooks and printed books are sold side by side.  Any dedicated ereader will only ever have a limited market.  However, if Apple release a Tablet next year, this will change.  Books will sit alongside the other media that you carry around. The App Store is the perfect distribution model. Are publishers developing for the iPhone OS now?  They should be.  This is what the Tablet will run.  They should know it inside out, in preparation.

10/Finally, what are you working on now?
A novel, called ‘The Long, Delirious, Burning Blue’, about separation, loss, displacement and love.  It’s set primarily in 1950s America, and is about a test pilot called Chuck Harrison.  

Follow Ben on Twitter and on the Bookseller Blog.

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