Don’t Diss Rihanna When You Blog

The Internet is a breeding ground for hatred: look at what’s been happening to Leslie Jones.

But bloggers don’t usually deal with anything that severe.  What they do face is the lackwits. These people can be, but mostly they’re just critical and convinced of their wisdom when what they write to you proves the opposite. They hit the keys whenever a blogger dares to criticize anything or anyone they admire–and they have standard, boring lines of attack.

Say, for instance, that you’re not crazy about Rihanna or you do like her music but don’t think she was ready for a Video Vanguard Award.  You  don’t think her vids are classics and you don’t think she’s in a class with Madonna, Kanye, Brittany, and Beyoncé.  Expect to get accused of being jealous of RiRi’s success.

rihannaNow, unless you’re a pop singer, a charge like that doesn’t really make any sense.  But even if you were a singer, why would any kind of critique necessarily mean you’re jealous?  Can’t you have valid reasons for not admiring her body of work or thinking that maybe it’s too soon for her–at 28–to get the award?  Does that automatically make you a hater?

Lackwits have emailed me when I’ve blogged something remotely negative about a book, movie, or TV show, targeting me because I’m an author.

Back at the beginning of the latest season of Game of Thrones, I blogged that I thought Jon Snow’s resurrection was dull compared to other, more dramatic moments in other episodes. The inevitable response showed up: I was jealous of George R.R. Martin.  Oh, and guess what?  They had never heard of me.

A truly devastating comment.

frank side eyeAnd I just blogged about Michael Connelly’s New York Times review of Caleb Carr’s Surrender, New York, saying that the novel sounded unappealing as Connelly described it.  Of course someone felt she had to charge me with “sour grapes.”  Seriously?  I don’t write like either one of them, never have, never will, never wanted to, and never expected their kind of career.  .

Here’s the thing: Most authors aren’t on best seller lists and aren’t widely known. That’s the case even for writers like me who make a good living from their royalties, get sent on book tours at home and abroad, are paid very well for speaking engagements, win awards, and have successful careers.

Why’s that?  Because the average reader in America only reads or listens to one book a month and there are 80,000 published every year.  When people say that they’ve never heard of an author or charge an author with sour grapes because that person doesn’t like a book, all they do is waste an email and make themselves sound like a doofus.  Of course, they supply bloggers with material, and novelists, too….

hugh laurie

Lev Raphael is the author of the novel The German Money–which a Washington Post rave review compared to Kafka, John le Carré and Philip Roth–as well as 24 other books in many genres.

The Secret to Get People Reading Your Blog

So you’ve started your blog and there’s minimal traffic?

A sure-fire way to generate an audience is to write smack about somebody famous, especially if that celebrity just died.

Just see what would happen if you blogged that Prince’s music was over-rated, that he hadn’t really written any hits lately, that he was derivative, that he always looked like he got dressed in the dark–or whatever nastiness came to mind.  The comments would explode.

prince orangeIf you dissed Prince so soon after his death and all the memorials praising his genius, you’d be endlessly re-tweeted on Twitter. Now, people do respond to the 5 Ways to De-Clutter Your Sock Drawer blogs, but when a blogger targets somebody popular, it’s like swatting a bee hive with a bat.

You can do better than that, though: don’t just attack a person, attack a whole genre.  Look at Curtis Sittenfeld.  Never heard of her?  That’s true for lots of readers.  But she recently generated a ton of publicity by saying that most romance novels are badly written.

Bingo!  She got tons of press and widespread attacks by romance writers and readers.

Of course, she was after bigger game than blog readers because she was publishing an updated version of Pride and Prejudice which she thinks is a romance.  But the strategy could work just as well for you: diss a popular genre with a provocative blog title, and watch the comments mount.  Try writing a blog “Crime Fiction is Crap.”

The comments won’t be pretty. You’ll get dissed as a hack or moron or worse.  Ignore all that.  Ignore all the negatives, because what’s the point of getting into a conversation with someone who wants to insult you?  Just watch for the people who agree–because those people will show up, too.  And who knows, they might stick around….

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

Shakespeare & A Writer’s Revenge

I’ve been publishing for a long time and I’ve dealt with all kinds of editors.  Some are laid back.  Some are very hands-on.  Some are hard to pin down.  Some are extremely helpful and supportive.  And a few–very few–are difficult or even opaque.  They tell you one thing but mean something completely different that you couldn’t have guessed at.

huhHere’s what happened a few years ago with one of those.

I pitched an idea to a magazine about the farkakteh theory that Shakespeare was a Jewish woman (yes!), which is just another bit of nutty Shakespeare Denialism that’s been a flourishing industry for way too long.  James Shapiro wrote an entertaining book about it: Contested Will.

The editor really liked my approach–at least I thought so.

Then he sent back my blog and basically told me that it had to be completely rewritten.  But that wasn’t all: he thought it should be re-shaped to say what he wanted, which was bizarre, since in our previous emails, he’d never told me any of his opinions.  If he had, I would have gone elsewhere.

Was I annoyed?  Of course.  I’d been publishing dozens of articles, essays, short stories, and books for years and dealing with editors who were much more professional than that.  Except for one, “and thereby hangs a tale….”

I sent the piece to The Huffington Post.  They took it right away, beginning my long relationship with that site, and you can read it here.  I waited till the blog was posted and wrote back to the first editor that I was sorry he didn’t like my approach, but someone else did.

I included the link.

Sometimes revenge isn’t just sweet, it’s swift.  This time it was so swift that it wasn’t even worth saving the editor for a character to put into my Nick Hoffman mystery series–appropriately disguised, of course.  I just brushed it off.

dirt off my shoulderLev Raphael is the author of 25 books in many genres which you can find on Amazon.  Follow him on Twitter at

Bloggers: Is Donald Trump Reading Your Blog?

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I’ve never crossed paths with Donald Trump, but his type is very familiar to me because I grew up in New York City.  I think of him as a New York Blowhard, and they’re as much a part of the scenery as the skyline.

new_york_city_night_2048x1152I’ve run across the type in cabs, bars, subways and buses, classrooms, at parties and even family gatherings.  These people (of both genders) love attention.  They love to fulminate about anything and everything.  They love the sound of their own voices.  They spout opinions as if they’re facts.  They have a whale of a time holding the floor.

For them, as humorist Fran Liebowitz wrote years ago, the opposite of talking isn’t listening, the opposite of talking is waiting.

impatientAnd Trumpism flourishes sublimely well on the Internet when people can post without personal contact–because nobody can interrupt them at all.  Other bloggers will know what I mean.

If you dare to post a blog that criticizes any show, movie, performance, or book that somebody admires, a Trumpist will strike.  That Trumpeter will inevitably ramble in a condescending manner, miss your points or distort them, but most of all insult you directly.

That’s the key: contempt.

look-of-contemptYou’ll be called a hater or ignorant or some variant from the cool distance of the poster’s implicit superiority.  Engaging with comments like those is a waste of time because you only enter the echo chamber of the poster’s self-regard.  But you’ll be tempted… If you succumb, you’re playing the poster’s game because anything you say will be turned against you as further proof of your inferiority.

Of course, they’re not nearly as dismissive as the people who wonder why you’re blogging about —— at all when “there are so many more important things going on in the world.”

Luckily, all these people aren’t the only ones who post, or blogging wouldn’t be so rewarding.  They’re a distinct minority. Sometimes their comments are even amusing, in a sad kind of way.  And even blogworthy.

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find on Amazon.

Summertime, and the Blogging is Easy….

I recently was reading comments on a blog about hard it is to blog along with everything else in a life and I thought, “Huh.”  I publish books; and I teach and mentor university students; and I’m married; and I travel; and I do radio reviewing; and I’m learning Swedish; and I’m planning a brand-new study abroad program; and I do readings from my books and keynote conferences and offer workshops; and I’m taking voice lessons.  Basically a full life.

Blogging still seems infinitely easier to me than when I worked for a handful of newspapers and one magazine as a freelance reviewer. And it’s a hell of a lot more fun and infinitely less stressful.

happy at pcI generally had no choice in my review assignments, with at least one book per week to review and often more.  I was constantly under deadline–my calendar was color coded for each news outlet.  I had to do revisions quickly and efficiently.  And sometimes I had to “turn” a book in 24 hours.  That is, read and write a well-crafted, literate, punchy review of anywhere up to 1,000 words.  Pressure mounted if an author was on tour or I had to do an interview.

Vintage-Frustrated-WriterCompared to that, blogging is like making a cup of coffee on my Braun one-cup machine.  Or walking the dog.  It’s easy.  The pressure I feel around blogging isn’t to produce and fast, it’s the typical writer’s demands: to get things right, to shape my ideas well, to avoid typos.  And thanks to doing it all myself, if I catch an error or somebody else does, I can correct that ASAP.  Likewise, if an idea occurs to me for restructuring, or if I want to make even minor changes, Boom.

But best of all, I’m my own boss.  I make my own schedule.  I choose my own subjects and timetable.  And I like my working environment.  🙂

I once had a book editor at a newspaper who blithely said, “I’m not much of a book person.”  Don’t ask me how this individual landed the job. That editor didn’t want me to review books that were in any way under the radar, but mainly the books that everybody already knew were out there or about to be published.  In other words, the books you couldn’t avoid seeing or hearing about: the best sellers.  That worked my last nerve.  Did the world really need more coverage of Stephen King?

But even worse, this editor had the perverse habit of cutting out the positive lines from a review and making it sound overly negative, or axing the negative and making it sound overly positive.  Content meant nothing to her, neither did style–and I crafted my reviews carefully to be balanced, so I was irritated. Finally, I had to write “defensively.”  I had to figure out how to write reviews that were what I began to think of as “armored”–incapable of being cut by this nimrod.  It worked, but it was exhausting.

That was the worst part of freelancing–working for people who could be difficult.  When I’m even remotely difficult, you know what? I stop writing and–you guessed it–make a cup of coffee or take the dog for a walk.  Or both.

Westie-terrier-by-Jeffrey-Lev Raphael is the author of Rosedale in Love, a Gilded Age Romance, and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find on Amazon.

Writers: Don’t Get Trapped By Social Media

social_media_strategy111

For the last few years, at every writers’ conference I’ve attended, the hottest topic has been social media.  Writers crowd these sessions like medieval pilgrims seeking miracles at a shrine. They seem convinced that with just the right piece of information, they can use social media to promote themselves into writing stardom.

Any why shouldn’t they be? Session after session, book after book, writing blog after writing blog all seem to promise that if you figure out the way to use Twitter or Goodreads or Tumblr or Instagram or Facebook or Amazon algorithms and SEO you’ll hit the jackpot.  Just read X’s blog or book and see how she did it…… Your books will be in the Top 100, you’ll have tens of thousands of followers and customers–if not more.  Hell, you might even develop your own lifestyle brand.  You won’t just have a platform, you’ll have a ziggurat.

But it’s not possible for every writer to score big, is it?  And just like all the other other promotional fads of recent years–like blog tours and Skyping to book groups–this heavy focus on social media might end up wasting an author’s time.

Americans love quick fixes and snake oil, they always have.  It’s not surprising, then, that so many writers are following what’s going to be a false lead for most of them.  It’s really tempting to imagine yourself just a hashtag away from fortune and fame.

Colorful fireworks lighting the night skyWriting is intensely competitive. It’s hard to have a writing career of any kind and not compare yourself to other writers–that’s endemic in the business.  You’ll always find  someone else selling more books, appearing at more venues, winning more prizes, making more money than you are, getting better reviews (deserved or not). But things have only gotten worse now that publishing is easier, and more and more people just like you, it seems, are getting rich because they have the secret.

According to the New York Times, “A small but growing body of evidence suggests that excessive social media use can lead to an unhealthy fixation on how one is perceived and an obsessive competitiveness.” We writers have enough ways to make ourselves miserable without even getting out of bed–hell, some of us probably can do that in our sleep. Honestly, who needs more help?

Do you feel pressured as a writer to be engaged with social media? How do you deal with the pressure?

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in genres from memoir to mystery to historical fiction–and beyond. His web site is levraphael.com and you can find his books on Amazon.

Blog Censorship

I’m constantly finding blogs and even comments on blogs where people will use asterisks in this way: s**t or even sh*t.

You’ve seen it plenty of times, I’m sure–and it extends to other four-letter words, too. They’re partly printed, but letters are left out and replaced with one or more asterisks.

Is there anyone in the world who looks at those words and wonders what they mean? No. They read them for what the original speaker or writer actually meant.

So why cover up the reality? Who are we hiding from?

Hand_covering_face-300x199

When you leave some letters out and fill them in with asterisks you’re not hiding anything. You’re just making your readers fill in the blanks and pronounce those words in their heads. Isn’t there something prudishly weird and hypocritical about that? Aren’t you in fact emphasizing those words, calling more attention to them, rather than the reverse?

Instead of using a few asterisks, why not eliminate the word entirely? Substitute asterisks or a blank line and make the reader guess what you wanted to write.

Which would create a carnival of profanity.

So that wouldn’t work either, would it?

Oh **** !

Head-smack

Lev Raphael is the author of the comic Nick Hoffman mystery series which you can find at Amazon along with his other books in genres from memoir to vampire fiction.

Blogging: Down and Dirty

If you haven’t ever blogged before, you might not be sure what the response might be.  Usually, you just wait and wonder….

am i 4But when there is a response, and even if you haven’t written about anything controversial, be prepared for carping, quibbling, and inanity.  Because the Internet has made snark as popular as The Walking Dead, and you might sometimes feel like you’re being pursued by brain eaters.

When you blog, there are certain things that will happen for sure:

Someone will pounce on any typo or spelling error and TYPE THE CORRECTION LIKE THIS SO YOU CANT MISS IT.

Someone will ignore what you wrote and talk about their own boring or weird obsession.

Someone will channel a seventh grade teacher and hector you about a grammar myth like split infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions.

Someone will tell you that you meant “nauseated” not “nauseous”–and be dead wrong.

Someone will not remotely address anything you’ve said, but just attack you personally.

Someone will accuse you of not having read the book or watched the show/movie you’re writing about if you happen to spell any character’s name incorrectly.

Someone will completely miss the point if you write satire and excoriate you.

man-with-irritated-face-huhSomeone will accuse you of relying on spell-checking alone and not having bothered to really edit.

Someone will call you a hater if you dare to criticize a favorite book, movie, TV show, celebrity–or anything at all.

Someone will twist one of your points and respond with a rant that’s two or three times longer than your entire blog.

Someone will accuse you of lacking a sense of humor, or conversely attack you for not taking things seriously enough.

Someone will sneeringly call you a hack, even if you’ve never written anything before and they don’t know what the word means.

arrogant_faceThe problem is, those people are often the only ones who take the time to comment. What is everybody else doing?

Blogging, of course.

So what about you?  What kinds of comments did you get on your blogs?  Do the types listed above ring true?  Can you add others?

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 other books in genres from memoir to mystery. You can find on Amazon here.