Forget watching The View. On Wednesday morning, plugged-in booksellers, writers and fans instead viewed a live, one-hour Twitter exchange between Nancy Mercado, executive editor of Roaring Brook Press, and Nan Marino, author of Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me. Set in the moonwalk year of 1969, the critically acclaimed middle-grade book tells the tale of Tamara Ann Simpson and a fibbing 10-year-old dubbed Muscle Man.
Are author-editor tweet-fests the marketing wave of the future? Perhaps. After all, the price is right. The q&a was completely free to publicize, produce and to read. Mercado and Marino simply spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and message boards. (Mercado boasts 500 Twitter followers and 423 Facebook friends. Marino, a New Jersey librarian and first-time published author, has 22 followers and 174 Facebook friends.)
It’s tough to gauge success since Mercado and Marino don’t know how many people “listened in” on the live forum or how many plan to read the transcript on the author’s blog.
Still, the experiment caused at least one Twitterer to buy a book. As a result of the live chat, Pamela Ross, author of The Pueblo Indians and The Chinook People, vows to purchase Neil Armstrong. She hadn’t heard of Neil Armstrong but logged on after she’d read a few notices about the chat. Now she plans to buy it. “Sold!” she says. “Sold to the lady in the Twitter box.”
Ross (whose handle is “WriterRoss”) even piped in a couple times. For example, she shared with the two Nans and their audience that “you have to love the book you’re going to be moving in with for the rest of our life.” Mercado (aka “editorgurl”) then responded. “She didn’t yell at me for interrupting!” says Ross, who hesitated at first to ask a question. “It was a great village-square setup that was easily accessible,” she adds. “I was very impressed.”
Editor Nancy Mercado,
tweeting during the exchange.
The lag time between q’s and a’s didn’t bother Ross, who engaged in some “multitasking” while she was waiting. While waiting for new posts, she checked e-mail, visited Marino’s blog and even answered the phone. She appreciated the chance to mull over the “Nan-Nan” exchanges. “It gave me time to digest what they were saying,” she says. Though she’s a Twitter newbie, she loves it—and its informality. “You can follow somebody [a book author or editor] without them having to accept you, like on Facebook,” she says.
It was Mercado who came up with the idea. Her inspiration: a recent Twitter q&a between George Stephanopoulos and John McCain. She thought of 10 questions for Marino, and the author thought of 15 questions for her. To keep the exchange from seeming too canned, they didn’t tell each other their answers in advance. They also didn’t hold a “test tweet,” Mercado says. Twitter followers learned about how Marino, whose Neil Armstrong is her first published book, has actually written many other stories. (Editorgurl: “Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle is your first published book, but was it your first completed manuscript?” Nanmarino: “Heck no.”)
Author Nan Marino.
Sharon Putnam, a yet-to-be-published Vermont author who is one of Marino’s writing buddies, gave the tweet-and-greet session a thumbs-up. Her only reservation was the lag time between questions and answers. Still, she says, “it wasn’t that laggy.” And after all, she notes, “this was an experiment.”
The exchange ended after an hour, when Marino had to head off to a school visit. After all, there’s still no substitute for live, in-person appearances. And yet, the two Nans themselves have still only met “virtually”—a phenomenon that Mercado calls fairly common, saying, “There are very few authors who live right around here.”
Meanwhile, anyone who wants more "lit twit" can check out LitChat, where every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4 p.m., LitChatterers talk online for an hour. And of course, during any lag times, you can read a book!