Author releases novel -- 140 characters at a time on Twitter

Without a publisher, San Francisco man takes to Twitter to get his book out

A first-time novelist is taking a new tack by releasing his book 140 characters at a time.

That's right. Author Matt Stewart is in the process of publishing his novel, The French Revolution, on Twitter. It appears to be the first full-length novel to be released one tweet at a time.

In an online missive, Stewart calls the project a "social experiment" aimed at seeing how people respond to a novel revealed in snippets. However, he also admits that his novel failed to attract the interest of traditional publishers.

"I wanted to get my novel out fast and in a way that'll resonate with the hyperconnected 2009 way of life," wrote Stewart, who lives in San Francisco and is a professional marketer. "My agent submitted The French Revolution to all the major publishing houses. Many of them loved it, but none were willing to buy what they viewed as a "risky" novel -- vivid language, elements of fantasy and farce, raunchy humor. What better place to take risks than Twitter?"

The novel tells the story of a family living in San Francisco. When troubles from the family's past bubble up, their rise to success in everything from politics to music and gastronomy is in jeopardy.

Stewart, who started posting the novel in Twitter on Tuesday, projects that it will take about 3,700 tweets to transmit the novel's 480,000 characters. He also acknowledged that he doesn't expect anyone will read the entire novel on Twitter, but said he's hoping that the effort will give readers a taste of his work.

While a lot of people have derided the social network as nothing more than a place for people to send out relentless updates about grabbing their favorite parking spots or who was just spotted at a party, use of Twitter has been booming with people looking for new ways to use the microblogging service. Executives are using Twitter to get word out about their businesses and even the White House has been Twittering up a storm.

NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino was the first person to Twitter from space. Massimino sent out tweets during his voyage in May on the space shuttle Atlantis.

And last month, thousands of Iranians turned to Twitter to let the world know what was happening in their country during a harsh government crackdown following the disputed elections there. The Twitter social network quickly become something of a lifeline for the people of Iran, with people sending photos and information in short 140-character bursts.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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