Jeff Pulver’s 140 Characters Conference! (#140conf), started yesterday and continues through this evening at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. The 140 conference brings together Twitter enthusiasts from all backgrounds, to share their experiences in very short, fast-paced presentations. Pulver’s intention for the conference is “to provide a platform for as many people as possible to share their thoughts and engage in conversation with the attending delegates.” The LA 140conf has a lot of emphasis on the glitzier side of content sharing – the entertainment world, but bookish tweeps are there and representing for those of us who like to read.
Maya Bisineer, founder of MemeTales–a collaborative space for creating children’s books–put together a panel on how Twitter has added a whole new layer of innovation and collaboration to the publishing process, and Maya has assembled a very diverse and talented group of bookish types from the left coast including:
Dan Mirvish (@MartyEisenstadt), co-creator of the character Martin Eisenstadt, co-author of the book I Am Martin Eisenstadt: One Man’s (wildly inappropriate) Adventures with the Last Republicans, and co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival.
Maya’s goal with the panel is “to discuss the publishing space – the biggest truth, secret, lie, innovation, experiment … whatever that might be, and to talk about collaboration and its meaning to the end product.”
In her own experience, launching and discussing her new company MemeTales via Twitter, has led her to believe Twitter has a lot to offer to everyone in the book community — as well as to those who may not be directly involved in publishing (yet):
To me, the most amazing thing (coming from the tech side) is just HOW many cases of “accidental publishing” we have seen in the recent past. With my own startup too, I had in no way intended it to be in the publishing space. However, it seems like whether we like it or not, we are all playing in the same playground …. I am most interested in how we will all evolve the “accidental” into “collaborative” (be it people, media or technologies) , and what that will mean to the publishing space as a whole. It is great that we will have true examples of success and experience on the panel.
For Mark Jeffrey, a tech entrepreneur (he is CTO of the tech company Mahalo.com), Twitter has been instrumental in the success of his series of young adult books, Max Quick. Jeffrey started out with a podcast audiobook (via podiobooks.com) version of the first books and promoted them via Twitter, gaining him 2.4 million downloads. This led to him being signed by Harper Collins two months ago.
Jeffrey also produces Bibliotechshow.com, a vidcast where he interviews authors such as Margaret Atwood, Scott Sigler and Anne Rice about how they use digital media. Says Jeffrey, “I met Margaret Atwood via Twitter. This led to my inviting her to be on Bibliotech, which was then promoted on Facebook and Twitter, increasing her reach into an audience she would not normally have encountered.”
Jeffrey is not alone in his “authorpreneurial” success. His friend Scott Sigler struggled in obscurity for ten years before using Twitter to promote his podcast novels. “Now he is New York Times Bestselling author,” says Jeffrey. “and he still uses Twitter, responding to his fans in realtime.”
For Kassia Krozser, a veteran of publishing industry blogging, Twitter is opening up industry conversation, enriching the content, breaking down social boundaries within the industry, and creating a space where everyone can participate in the discussion. Relates Krozser:
I have found that Twitter has made for better information discovery to the point where I barely glance at various industry email newsletters these days. The sharing of good links via trusted industry sources and the subsequent discussion about the topics make for far better conversation than the one-way aspect of the newsletters. An important aspect of this discovery comes from the various industry voices — from publishers to readers — who participate in the conversation. The various perspectives are invaluable.
For example, a few months ago, there was a discussion on Twitter about how some readers weren’t supporting local bookstores. A romance blogger noted that her local bookstore doesn’t support her reading choices, so why would she shop there? From that exchange, arose a conversation about how the two groups could better support each other. Both sides have been griping for years, but via Twitter, they are actually reaching out to each other.
We’re also seeing this type of cross-pollination among readers, bloggers, and other industry professionals in a way that encourages respect rather than disdain. I think it’s actually helping the industry.
Biglione concurs, adding, “Twitter has flattened the hierarchy of the conversation in the publishing world. Given the fact that the industry is at a critical phase in the transition to the digital era, the conversations that are being initiated on Twitter will be instrumental in shaping the future direction of publishing.”
It’s not all about publishing trade professionals talking amongst themselves, either. Says Biglione, “Publishers have traditionally been somewhat out of touch with the needs of consumers. Twitter provides publishers with a direct channel to listen to, and communicate with, consumers.”
Dan Mirvish and his co-author Eitan Gorlin, found Twitter instrumental in launching and promoting the memoir of their fictional creation, Martin Einsenstadt:
We’ve been using Twitter since we started writing the book to help keep the Martin Eisenstadt character alive during the last year. The unintended consequence was that Time magazine said “Marty” was among America’s elite Twitterati (along with Ashton Kutcher, Newt Gingrich and Meghan McCain) for our coverage of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner (which we did not intend).
In the slightly more real world, when our publisher told us not to bother to go to BEA, our character was there virtually on Twitter. As a fictional character creating his own mini-narrative at the country’s largest book convention, this made sense to us, though most people didn’t realize he was fictional. But as real first-time authors, we used it as a tool to learn more about the publishing world and to make genuine contacts (like Kat!). Now that the book is coming out soon, we use it as a more obvious marketing tool – alerting followers to news articles and new YouTube videos and the like.
Truly, this is one panel where the information will be flying! But, how to get so much content and so many wonderful ideas across in a 20 minute panel session? That’s the challenge. Says Maya, “The good and bad thing about Jeff’s conferences is that panels are short. It is a very short time for us to get our points across, however short panels make great conversation starters and thinking sparks and prevents people from spinning wheels.”
We know from history that it can be done – last summer’s 140conf in New York boasted some wonderful east coast bookish tweeps including : @R_nash (Richard Nash), @chapmanchapman (Ryan Chapman), @ami_with_an_i (Ami Greko), and @russmarshalek (Russ Marshalek) – and went off without a hitch.
And, given there will be at least two panel opportunities for bookish tweeps to spread the publishing word in LA (a publishing heavy panel earlier today entitled “I Tweet, Therefore I Am” includes: Debbie Stier (@debbiestier) – SVP, Associate Publisher, Harper Studio; Mariel Hemingway (@Marielhemingway) – Actress, Writer; Mark Tauber (@MarkTauber) – SVP, Publisher of the imprint, HarperOne; and Patrick Brown (@vromans)), I’m confident the bookish community will get its due at the 140Conf.
I can’t wait to hear more from the LA group, and from other bookish tweeps who are out in Los Angeles for the event. Hopefully SOME of them (ahem, Kassia!) will send some pix for us to post!