So how's the writers feud going, Karl? I asked. My friend and fellow writer, Karl the Curmudgeon, and I were sitting at First Edition, the literary-themed bar we had visited several months ago, when Karl decided to start a writers feud.
He chose one Rene Whitehorse as his victim, a French poet who'd had a passing acquaintanceship with "success" when his razor-thin poetry book was published by some fly-by-night publisher.
"Pretty good, actually," Karl said. "We've been attacking each other on Twitter."
How is that good? Your Twitter accounts are pretty pathetic, and a fight between you two is like a fart in a windstorm. I have more people living on my street than you two have in your network combined.
"He's also talking about me to his Poetry for Agoraphobes support group."
Is that really a thing?
"No, it's just what I call his poetry writers group. They're all reading slam poetry about The Angry Bearded Man at their little coffee shop every week." Karl signaled Kurt the bartender for a couple more Thr3e Wise Men beers.
Ooh, that's so awful, I deadpanned, rolling my eyes so hard one of them nearly got stuck. Somebody call The New Yorker.
"Hey, that's not all," said Karl. "We've actually gotten pretty nasty."
Like what? You put a 'kick me' sign on his back at recess?
"No, we nearly got into a fight at a party last month."
Oh yeah? I sat up a little straighter. This was getting interesting.
"We were at a book launch party for some creative writing prof at the University of Indianapolis, and got into a shouting match during the party. Some of the writing faculty had to restrain ol' Rancid Whitehead."
Seriously? You two almost came to blows?
"No, not really. Not unless Rancid was going to whack me with his European carry-all."
I'm sorry I missed that. What brought that on?
"I called his poetry derivative and mechanical."
That's pretty nasty. Why'd you do that?
"He said my books were formulaic."
I was glad I had missed it all. Karl and Whitehorse had made some of the worst insults you could make about a writer. Sort of like telling a fashion model her pants make her look chunky.
You didn't hit him, did you? Before I knew him, Karl had once punched a critic for comparing one of his novels to a Tom Clancy novel.
"No, nothing like that. He made that crack about my books, so I said the thing about his poetry being derivative."
Derivative of what?
"A teenage girl's dream journal."
Ooh, snap. What'd he do?
"He tried to throw a drink in my face, but I ducked, and he ended up showering a literature professor with chardonnay."
And that's when he had to be restrained?
"Yeah, so they threw us both out."
Then what. Did you guys fight in the parking lot?
"Naw. We laughed it off and got a drink."
You got what?
"A drink. We got a drink. Like this one," and he polished off his beer.
Why the hell would you get a drink with a guy you're feuding with?
"Well, we're not actually feuding. This is just a little game we're playing to boost our sales."
I stared at him dumbfounded. You mean you're faking a writer's feud? I demanded rather loudly. Karl shushed me, but it didn't matter. Other than Kurt the bartender and a couple of wanna-be novelists with earbuds crammed in their ears, scribbling in their little black notebooks, we were the only ones there.
You're faking a freaking feud? You f—
"Keep your voice down, Kid," he hissed, glancing at the scribblers, who hadn't even looked up.
Why would you do that?
"Because we wanted to generate some interest in our books. It's actually working. Conflict sells books. People hear about the fight, see it on YouTube and Facebo—"
It was on YouTube? I nearly shouted.
"—Shhhh! Yes, we had one of his poetry pals capture it on her cell phone and upload it. It's working too."
"Because it has over 40,000 views, and sales of his little poetry book tripled since then. Plus, my editor wants to talk to me about reprinting my first three books."
I shook my head slowly. As stupid as it sounded, it made a lot of sense. I drained the last of my beer. If that isn't one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, you great bearded gowk. It's about as believable as 'Hunt for Red October.'
Karl just smiled. "Forget it, Kid. I already have one fake feud. I don't need another."
The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.
My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.
You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.
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