Launched to viral acclaim during last May's lunar eclipse, Twitter parody account @NotTildaSwinton has been reincarnated into a book. Self-published by comedian Eli Yudin and co-writer Carey O'Donnell, the complete collection of 187 bizarre imagined musings of actress and noted eccentric Tilda Swinton is available online at no profit. Some of the account's best Tweets? "A mission for you. Go outside, hold an animal to your breast. That is real warmth, not the glow of your screen. I typed this on a rabbit." Or: "Of course I have received splinters. I do not remove them. Small branches emerge from me and bear fruit in the shape of my face."
In an industry veering toward bite-sized content, Twitter's 140 character limit could be the logical endpoint of increasingly serialized work. So, after spending six hours laying out the book on InDesign, Yudin set up shop on Lulu Marketplace. At $11.06, the book was priced to break even. "We didn't want to seem like we were selling out," Yudin said. Not to mention the avoidance of potentially thorny issues with Swinton herself.
“Not Tilda Swinton” is one of thousands of self-published books for sale on Lulu Marketplace, which allows any author to sell their work online. Brian Matthews, an Executive VP at Lulu’s, argues that self-publishing has democratized publishing by removing barriers between readers and authors. “If an author wants to publish a book, we’ll help them publish it as long as we don’t have concerns related to the material,” Matthews said. Readers can rely on Lulu Marketplace algorithms and reviews to help them pick their next read. Even so, it can be hard to determine quality. “The real issue is that in traditional publishing, you have an agent, editor and sales rep acting as a filter,” said Cathy Langer, long-time buyer at Denver’s independent bookstore, Tattered Cover. “Self-publishing eliminates these filters, and it can be hard to tell what’s going to be good.”
When shopping for self-published work, readers make their own demands. In recent years, this has led to a trend toward shorter spurts of content in self-publishing. “The nature of consuming content is in an increasingly digital format … instead of monolithic books, we’re seeing authors release content more frequently in smaller, consumable amounts,” Matthews said. Serialized content is simultaneously classic and new. Canonical authors like Charles Dickens published novels periodically by chapter in the 19th century. Still, nothing is smaller and more consumable than an artfully composed latter-day tweet — and Yudin is one of the masters.