How to Get Your Blog Noticed

The best way? Write something that will really stir people up.

One approach is to be super negative.

For instance, Adele’s new album has been breaking sales records and she has zillions of adoring fans. Imagine writing a blog that says 25 is crap, she’s over-rated, and not remotely as good as Lana del Ray or any other singer of your choice.

You’d be sure to get lots of hits and people would RT like crazy in their rage. But then among the crowd would also be lots of people who actually agreed with you–so you’d get those readers, too.

Another approach: Defend a common target of ridicule.

Example? Blog that the Kardashians have been misunderstood. Say they represent the best in family values. Say they stand for everything that makes America great. Given their high profile, one way of another, anything about them is likely to generate hits, and that’s what you’re after: click bait.  A sexy title and photo or two helps.  And some funny gifs.

Now, what do you do in either case about the badly spelled emails from people who think you’re a total moron and should be put down like a rapid dog? And the tweets that vilify you in worse terms? And the comments pointing out the smallest typo and trash everything from your writing skills to your sanity?

Ignore them.

You’re not blogging to start a conversation or prove you’re God’s Gift to Blogging. Your aim is publicity, and the best way to generate that is by posting a controversial blog.  But beware, this can happen even by accident.

So.  Are you tough enough to handle it?

Lev Raphael is the author of The Edith Wharton Murders and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir.


What’s Real and What’s Not?

A former student recently asked me if I’d ever killed a student in one of my Nick Hoffman mysteries.  I told him not yet. He, of course, had his own candidates from one of the courses he was in: students who complained about too much reading.

I thought of his question the other day when a friend at the gym told me he’d just read my mystery Hot Rocks, set at an upscale health club like the one we were standing in, and he said with his face aglow, “Where’s the line between truth and fiction?”  He had loved the book and was eager to know.

I told him about the starting place.  My fictional town is Michiganapolis, a blend of the state capitol Lansing and the home of Michigan State University, East Lansing.  My town is Michigan’s State capitol and the seat of the “State University of Michigan,” and while there might be some geographical similarities, I don’t have to stick to any actual street maps.  Nobody will ever be able to confront me and say my sleuth Nick Hoffman couldn’t have made a right turn on a certain street or gotten from one part of town to another in whatever amount of time I chose.

“If it were really Lansing or East Lansing, I’d be stuck to the facts and that would bore me.  This way, the world is all mine.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not doing world building.  It’s not Westeros in Game of Thrones.  There aren’t any White Walkers.”  And then I thought of some of my vicious administrators and faculty members and said, “Well…”

“But what about the people?”  He was sure he recognized some of the characters in the book, a lot of which takes place in the club.

Here again fiction overruled fact.  I took an already lush health club and made it even more  sybaritic, giving it a different name, layout and colors.  And all the people who appear in it are truly fictional.  Writers are magpies, I explained.  So bits and pieces of people I know and have observed show up in my fiction, but nobody in any book is a one-to-one transfer from reality to fiction.  That wouldn’t be interesting to me.  The fun’s in the transformation.

Nick Hoffman loves to cook, and my friend said that when he was reading the book, he thought, “I want to have dinner at Lev’s house!”

I smiled. “Sorry to disappoint you.  I tend to keep things simple.  And sometimes I just order pizza, because, you know, I’m real, and my sleuth is fictional.”

Lev Raphael’s 8th Nick Hoffman book Assault With a Deadly Lie is now available on Amazon.



Book Group Bullying

The publishing industry is always pushing something new as the Holy Grail of promotion.  Right now it’s social media; a few years ago it was being social: speaking to book groups via Skype or in person.

A colleague’s recent bad experience with a book group reminded me of my own a few years ago. I had toured extensively in the U.S. and abroad for many of my books, but hadn’t done book groups based on what people in them told me they disliked: the gossip; naïve and sometimes inane discussions; more focus on food than literature. When I was invited to speak about my novel The German Money  five minutes away from where I live, though, it seemed churlish to say no to spending an hour or two on a Sunday evening talking about a book I loved.

The group of ten women and one man seemed interested to hear about the book’s genesis, but within minutes, the male leader was on the attack, telling me every single thing he thought was wrong with the book.  It was relentless.

The book is partly a love song to northern Michigan, but he didn’t like the descriptions of Michigan because they weren’t specific enough or “artistic” enough for his taste. I pointed out that the first person narrator was not an Annie Dillard type and the descriptions reflected his specific vision and his voice.

The thuggish leader was sourly unconvinced and then bashed the main character as needing to “grow up.” Well, the story’s about a dysfunctional family of children of a Holocaust survivor, and they’re all struggling with their dark inheritance. That cut no ice with him: he didn’t believe having that kind of horror in the heart of one’s family would be at all problematic. I was astonished at his lack of empathy.

Then this shmendrik added he didn’t like the fact that the New York sections of the book were set in several apartments—that felt claustrophobic to him. I reminded him that most Manhattanites live in apartment buildings, not ranch houses, Colonials or split-levels.  But he didn’t care.

There were other snarky comments from the group, but his were the most insulting.  Now, I was a guest, so I never told him how rude his behavior was, or that some of his remarks verged on the sophomoric.  But I did have to wonder why he’d bothered getting his group to read the novel at all since he had such a low opinion of it. Was the whole point to show off to these women how macho he was?

It got worse: The day after I was mugged, this boor emailed me negative comments he claimed the group made about the book after I left. Apparently the people who really disliked the book were too intimidated by my presence to say so—at least that’s what he reported.

I was tempted to tell him that the book was being taught in universities across the country with novels by Toni Morrison and Philip Roth.  Or that The Washington Post and other papers had raved about it. I wanted to smack him down.  But I didn’t bother replying.  At the back of my mind was the warning of a good friend trying to talk her author husband out of writing an angry email to a critic: “Listen, do you want to do good work or do you want to be known as a crazy person?”

This blog is drawn from Book Lust! (Essays for Book Lovers)