This is just too good to keep to myself.
An independent bookseller I know landed a major bestselling author for a rare in-store signing. He got the word out, took advance phone and internet orders for signed copies, and called his sales rep at the publisher to make sure the books would reach him in plenty of time.
“You’ve ordered 450 copies,” the rep told him. “I’m afraid we can only ship you 200.”
Why, for God’s sake? Hadn’t they printed enough?
“No, it’s policy,” he was told. “Two hundred books is our maximum order. We can’t take the chance of huge returns, or credit problems.”
“But the copies are sold,” the store owner said. “I’ve got prepaid orders for them, and I’ll pay in advance myself, and take them from you on a non-returnable basis. There’s no risk, and there won’t be any returns, and that’s 450 copies of a $30 book at the usual 40% off, which makes it an $8100 cash order. So what’s the problem?”
He got nowhere.
“But the author’s gonna go crazy when she hears this! You think you guys’ll ever get another book from her?”
Nowhere! Rules blah blah blah. Policy blah blah blah. “And be grateful we’re sending you the 200 books.”
Well, an independent bookseller had damn well better be resourceful, and this one certainly was. He got in his car and drove four blocks to Target, where the manager had no problem selling him 300 copies of the book, and gave them to him at a 45% discount, and still made a profit on the sale.
No, I won’t tell you the name of the store, or the author, and all I’ll say about the publisher is that they’re a major house, though one wonders how long they will so remain. I can assure you they’re not my publisher, and for that I give thanks.
Just a sweet little story on a charming aspect of contemporary publishing. Hard to imagine that some writers actually toy with the notion of doing it all themselves. How can they possibly make a go of it without the benefit of top professionals in their corner?
Right. I, OTOH, have some really bright and helpful folks at Mulholland Books, working on my behalf and on behalf of my just-published book, Hit Me. If you’re in the New York area, you can pick up a copy tonight at the Mysterious Bookshop. I’ll be happy to sign it for you, and you won’t have to go to Target for it…
From an email I just received:
“…It is obvious to me why I love Bernie, Evan, and the Scudder ensemble, but not so much so why I love Keller. He is so calming yet fascinating, like Jane Austen.
“And one cannot explain: ‘LB has this series about a contract hit man that evokes in me the same reactions I have to Austen.’ (Typical responses: ‘Ah, yes, Elizabeth Bennett sleeps with the fishes.’) Thank you for giving us more and for including more of Julia and Jenny.
“As with all your characters, I will confuse myself because I think I know these people, even the marginal ones. Your fiction is one of the few where the suspension of disbelief is permanent…”
Keller has the most remarkable fans. And, if you’ve not yet joined their ranks, well, here’s your chance.
What do I do, just talk? And you’ll write down what I say? All right, just give me a minute to gather my thoughts.
Well, hello. I’d like to begin by wishing a happy birthday to Abraham Lincoln, and a successful publication day to my son, Lawrence Block.
That’s okay? You don’t mind playing second fiddle to our 16th president?
I’d say it’s a pretty good birthday for Mr. Lincoln, with the movie doing so well, so I’ll keep the focus on my son’s book. The title, as you probably know, is Hit Me, and it’s his fifth book about Keller, who is one of my favorite characters.
So you’ll forgive me if I kvell a little.
You’ll also forgive me if I don’t endow this blog post with the inflection of a stereotypical Jewish Mother. While I may be both those things, that’s not all I am. I was Phi Beta Kappa at Cornell, I was a capable pianist and a skilled amateur painter. After Larry’s father died I took a course and became a librarian, and my weekly Story Hour was a hit. So excuse me if I don’t sound like some old bat out of a Sholem Aleichim story. That was never my style.
As I was saying, I’m very fond of Keller. When my son sent me the manuscript of the second book, Hit List, I called to tell him my reaction. “I kept worrying that something bad was going to happen to Keller,” I said. “That he was going to get killed. And I thought, Why should I care? He’s a murderer himself, that’s what he does for a living. But I like him.”
I gather a lot of people react that way. They care for Keller even though they think they shouldn’t. A Guilty Pleasure, you might say, but isn’t that the best kind?
Hit List was the last Keller book Larry sent me. The last book of his I read was a Scudder novel, Hope to Die. I read it in manuscript, and a little while after that I took my last breath, sixteen days after the World Trade Center towers came down, and a week after my 89th birthday. Then a month or two later Hope to Die landed briefly on the New York Times bestseller list, the first time that happened for one of his books.
So I didn’t get to read Hit Parade or Hit & Run, not in the sense of sitting in a chair and turning the pages. And in that sense I haven’t read Hit Me, either, so rather than tell you what I thought of it, I’ll do my kvelling by quoting a couple of reviews:
You probably already know what Marilyn Stasio wrote two days ago in the New York Times Book Review, but here’s a taste of it: “Aside from their ingenious methodology, what makes these amuse-bouches so delectable are the moral dilemmas Block throws up to deflect his philosophical antihero from a given task. Any assassin might hesitate to murder a child, but only Keller would ponder the ethics of killing someone whose premature death would rob a prostitute of payment for her professional services.”
According to James Reasoner, “Nobody writes a better sentence than Lawrence Block. There’s also a lot of stuff about stamp collecting, and even though I have zero interest in that subject, Block makes it fascinating anyway. The addition of Keller’s wife Julia, who knows what he really does for a living, has made him a deeper and more sympathetic character, which if anything makes the contrast between his home life and his professional life even more interesting. You can’t help but like Keller, even when you know maybe you shouldn’t. This is a fine book and I really enjoyed it….Highly recommended.”
The Seattle Times says, “Don’t fret that Keller’s former trade means this book is overly violent — he’s a reflective soul and a dedicated family man whose second-greatest passion is his stamp collection. Plus, Keller’s knack for erasing people never interferes with his weakness for wordplay and quirky tangents. (Block, like his creation, has never met a pun he doesn’t like.)”
This is from a starred review in Library Journal: “Verdict: In the fifth entry in the Keller series, the appealing antihero with his own moral code continues to dig into the motives of his distant employers and make his own decisions about who deserves to die. But stamp collecting is more than just a secondary theme here, and Block’s discourses about the history behind stamps are vivid enough to pique the interest even of those not at all inclined toward the hobby. Master mystery writer Block is at the top of his form here.”
Larry collected stamps when he was a boy. My brother Jerry showed him his own boyhood collection and that got him interested. And my aunt Nettie, secretary to the president of Trico Corporation, saved him the stamps from all the company’s international mail. So that’s where the stamps come from. I don’t know about the killing…
Another starred review, this from Booklist: “It’s easy to imagine Block grinning as he reinvents his always fascinating character…Hit Me is a delightful change of pace.”
And Publishers Weekly hung a star on their review, too, and wrapped it up like this: “At times casually ruthless in snuffing out targets, Keller is also honest and ethical in his business dealings. A final assignment involving a child suggests that Keller may even play an unfamiliar white knight role, hopefully in the near future.”
My Son the Writer. Nu, what are you waiting for? So buy his book!
There, a little touch of the Jewish Mother at the end, because they expect it. That’s okay, isn’t it?
Well, it’s been a long time coming.
I finished writing Hit Me in November, 2011. I was booked for two events a week or so apart in Southern California, and I had about a week’s worth of work to do on the book, so I took my laptop along, holed up in a hotel on Beverly Boulevard, just down the street from CBS, and Got It Done.
What I truly want, when I finish a book, is to take a shower, drink a cup of coffee, then walk around the corner to find the book nicely displayed in a proper bookstore. An hour or so strikes me as an appropriate interval; fifteen months, OTOH, is a lot like eternity.
Well, fifteen months (if not eternity) is up this coming Tuesday, February 12. I’ve been blogging and blathering about it sufficiently to leave you feeling as though you’ve already read it. But you probably haven’t, and in a couple of days you’ll get your chance.
If you can hold out an extra two days, and if you’re in the New York area, you can pick up your copy at a ***BOOK LAUNCH PARTY*** —to which you are hereby invited.
Where: Otto Penzler’s MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP, 58 Warren Street, New York NY 10007. Warren Street is one block below Chambers; the bookshop is two doors east of West Broadway.
When: Thursday, February 14, from 6 to 8 pm. (Yes, that’s Valentine’s Day. And what’s a better way to say I love you than with a novel about a stamp-collecting hit man?)
Why: As far as why you might want to attend, well, I wouldn’t presume to say. Instead I’ll explain why, for the first time in what feels like a lifetime of book parties, I’ve chosen to publicize this one on Facebook and Twitter and my blog and newsletter. In all the time I’ve been on Facebook, I’ve never before set up an event page and sprinkled the cybersphere with invitations. So why should this night be different from all other nights?
It just seemed appropriate, given book’s dedication. See, all of y’all are the dedicatees:
This one’s for all my Tweasured Tweeps & FeeBee Jeebees
all you Wild.Web.Workers & Cyberzerkers
and especially for Jaye & Julia
There was a time when I found myself wondering why we called it the Social Media; ever since I got started with Facebook and Twitter, I never seemed get away from my desk. But what I’ve since discovered is that eRelationships are no less valid than the more traditional sort, and that I’ve somehow acquired a few thousand friends with whom I share as much as or more than I ever will with the folks I nod at every day in the elevator. I’ve never met the great majority of you, and might be hard put to pick you out of a crowd, but so what? I’d be delighted if you could come to my party.
Still, despite what you may have heard, I’m not entirely deranged. I realize that most of you won’t be able to come—and, while Otto’s store is a fine and commodious space, he’d be hard put to fit 20,000 of you in there all at once. If you’re in the area, and if you don’t have a conflict with your niece’s ballet recital, come by and say hello. It’s from 6 to 8, so even if it runs a few minutes late you’ll still get home in plenty of time to watch Elementary. (And isn’t it a great show? I may be delayed, what with all those books to deface with my signature, but rest assured we’ll be taping it.)
But let’s suppose you can’t join the crowd. How can you be a part of it? Is some sort of Virtual Attendance a possibility?
If you’ve acquired a copy of Hit Me, either the hardcover or the eBook, you could make a point of dipping into it sometime between 6 and 8pm Thursday night. Read a few pages, silently or right out loud. That’d work.
Or you could pick up the phone and buy a copy. Otto’s taking orders, and if you call the bookshop at (800) 352-2840, I’ll sign a copy for you that night. (And if you want a personal inscription, just tell the good soul who takes your order.)
What else? Well, I leave it to your imagination. Y’all have proven to be a resourceful lot, and I’m sure you’ll think of something, whether it’s posting or tweeting in support of the book and event, or reviewing it enthusiastically, or passing on the invitation to NYC-based friends, or—but wait, why am I offering suggestions? You’ll do fine on your own.
Just a warm thought from you, wafting upon the ether Thursday evening, is more than enough.
Here’s an email that came in yesterday:
I surprised my best friend with a limited philatelic edition of Hit Me. My sister surprised me with a copy and she bought a copy for herself. (I’m thinking it’s rather unusual that 3 of the 500 copies of Hit Me wound up in our hot little hands.)
My friend is a real stamp collector while my sister and I are, more simply put, LB fans, scooping up your new titles and reading through the older titles too.
I’m pleased to report that Hit Me pleased us all though probably in different ways…
It’s abundantly clear to me that the world needs more people like these three ladies. Should you wish to emulate them, I’m happy to supply a link along with the admonition that supplies are running low. We have only 66 copies left of the 500 printed—and there won’t be any more. Still, that’s enough to supply 66 of you—or 22 troikas like that of my cherished correspondent.
I’ll be brief. In fact I’d skip this altogether, but there are three items I feel the need to call to your attention.
This is the first of the month, and each new month is a new opportunity for those of you who are Amazon Prime members to borrow a Kindle Select eBook free of charge. Here, for your convenience, is a list of all my eligible titles:
Ehrengraf for the Defense (This is the collection of all 11 Ehrengraf stories; the individual stories are also Kindle-available, but why pick up one at a time when you can borrow the lot for free?)
All the John Warren Wells books— 3 is Not a Crowd – Beyond Group Sex – Come Fly With Us – Different Strokes – Doing It! – Eros & Capricorn – Love at a Tender Age – The Male Hustler – The Mrs. Robinson Syndrome – The New Sexual Underground – Sex and the Stewardess – The Sex Therapists – Sex Without Strings – The Taboo Breakers – Tricks of the Trade – Versatile Ladies – Wide Open – The Wife-Swap Report
These Matthew Scudder stories from The Night and the Music: Out the Window – A Candle for the Bag Lady – Looking for David – The Merciful Angel of Death – A Moment of Wrong Thinking – One Last Night at Grogan’s
These stories: Keller on the Spot – Keller’s Adjustment – Catch & Release – A Chance to Get Even – Scenarios – How Far? – Welcome to the Real World – Who Knows Where It Goes – Sweet Little Hands – Headaches and Bad Dreams – You Don’t Even Feel It – In For a Penny – Dolly’s Trash & Treasures – Three in the Side Pocket – Like a Bone in the Throat
I had a delightful surprise yesterday when the Huffington Post ran a piece about real-world promotional tie-ins for books…and featured the Philatelic Edition of HIT ME. They gave it a very generous write-up, illustrated the free souvenir sheet, and included links to the eBay listing and to Keller’s Page. What a treat!
THE OTHER THING:
The other thing is HIT ME, the new Keller book, and it goes on sale February 12. I just saw a full-page ad for the book in the new edition of The American Philatelist, and there are other ads scheduled in Linn’s and American Stamp Dealer & Collector, and advance orders were strong enough to trigger a second printing. So I’m cautiously optimistic.
If you want to guarantee a first printing, and to pick up a signed copy in the process, here’s a list of estimable booksellers who will have signed firsts for sale: Alabama Booksmith | Book Carnival | Book People | The Booksmith | Carmichael’s Bookstore | Garden District Bookshop | Iowa Book |Lemuria | Murder By the Book | Murder on the Beach | Mysterious Bookshop | Mystery One | Once Upon A Crime | Poisoned Pen | Seattle Mystery Bookshop | Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore
And if you want the Limited Philatelic Edition, well, we only printed 500 of the little darlings, and they’re going surprisingly fast. Last I looked, we were down to 77. Here’s that link again…
And there you have it—this, that, and the other thing.
Another Orange Wednesday! And it would be simple enough to print this entire newsletter with an orange background (now that I’ve figured out how), but that would make it harder to read. And why on earth would I want to do that?
So let’s get to it, shall we? If it’s really Orange Wednesday, I’d better give something away. Free to all Kindlefolk for the next several days is this classic work by John Warren Wells. (Not John Wellington Wells, Gilbert & Sullivan’s “dealer in magick and spells.” Our JWW is an eager student of and enthusiastic reporter on human sexual behavior, author of 17 books published in the 60s and 70s, and all of them now eVailable for Kindle.)
Back then, Versatile Ladies bore the publisher’s title, “Women Who Swing Both Ways.” It got its point across, to be sure, but I always thought it was a wee bit tacky, and I’m happy to see its original title restored here. The book consists of interviews and case histories of bisexual women, and whether it’s popular psychology or erotica is in the eye (or whatever) of the beholder. JWW would probably quote the late Faubion Bowers: “Sex is the one interesting activity of otherwise boring people.”
This is not the first JWW title I’ve given away of an Orange Wednesday, but it seems particularly appropriate because, starting in a matter of days, my ePublishers at Open Road will be giving star treatment to Jill Emerson—and it was Jill to whom JWW dedicated Versatile Ladies. (If you’re doomed to have multiple personalities, it’s easier on everybody if they all get along.)
There have been eight Jill Emerson novels, and they run a hell of a gamut. Warm & Willing and Enough of Sorrow are sensitive novels of the lesbian experience; Thirty, Threesome, and A Madwoman’s Diary are sophisticated erotica; The Trouble With Eden ranges somewhere between Peyton Pace and John O’Hara; and A Week as Andrea Benstock is female-viewpoint mainstream fiction. (Those are the Open Road titles, all originally published many years ago. Getting Off is an ovaries-to-the-wall novel of sex and violence, published a little over a year ago by Hard Case Crime.)
The Open Road Jill Emerson titles are all priced low, at either $2.99 or $2.51. ($2.51?? Yeah, I know. Makes no sense to me either.) The prices will definitely increase, probably to $4.99, by the time the promotion ends. The links are to Amazon, but I should stress that these books (unlike JWW’s) are eVailable for all platforms—Nook, Apple, Kobo, Sony Reader, etc. Just search for the individual titles and they’ll show up.
But wait…there’s more!
Matthew Scudder has been the subject of seventeen novels over the years—the most recent is A Drop of the Hard Stuff. And he’s also starred in eleven novelettes and short stories, from Out the Window (1977) to One Last Night at Grogan’s (2011). The stories, gathered together as The Night and the Music, essentially constitute an 18th novel; I self-published it a year and a half ago, and it’s become a bestseller.
More recently I made the individual stories available for Kindle, and on this Orange Wednesday you can pick up the lead novelette, “Out the Window,” absolutely free. It was first published in AHMM in 1977, and takes place in time somewhere between In the Midst of Death and A Stab in the Dark; Paula, a waitress at Armstrong’s, has apparently committed suicide, but her kid sister thinks otherwise, and hires Scudder to have a look.
If you like the story and want more, you can pick up the others one by one at $2.99—but you’d be much better advised to spring for $4.99 and get them all. And if you’ve somehow missed Scudder altogether, this is a good (and risk-free) place to start.
Note too that, while the individual stories are Kindle Exclusives, the collection is eVailable for all eReaders. Here’s a Nook link, and I’m sure y’all are resourceful enough to find it for your eReader of choice.
And one more quick note about John Warren Wells: The first JWW title republished was Different Strokes, and I priced it at $6.99. All of the subsequent books were pegged at $4.99, and just the other day it struck me that there was no persuasive reason to charge two bucks more for Different Strokes. So it’s now $4.99. That may not make you rush out and buy it, but I have to say I feel better about the whole thing.
That’s all I have to say about the free stuff, and I’m turning this over to the ever-helpful David Trevor, for a quick report on LB’s eBay Bookstore.
Ever-helpful? Last time I was “the indispensable David Trevor.” Have I just been demoted?
Last I checked, we had 149 items on offer in the eBay store. I’ll be adding some more as soon as I get a chance. I’ll also be adjusting some prices—in both directions.
And I should let you know that the first order of business will be to boost the price of The Specialists from its steal-this-book price of $4.99 to the still-a-good-deal price of $9.99.
With the fifth Keller book, Hit Me, hitting the stores in two weeks, LB’s Special Limited Philatelic Edition is selling at a brisk pace; we’re down to 87 copies, and they won’t last very long.
We’ve got signed copies of the earier Keller titles. Plenty of Scudder and Burglar books, too. Prices vary considerably. It’s worth browsing the listings.
You know, he hardly ever lets me write anything, and now I’ve got the chance, and I can’t think of anything to say.
The ever-helpful and always eloquent David Trevor. What would I do without him?
That’s it for this particular Orange Wednesday. Grab the freebies, hunt for bargains, and let’s hope for overcast skies on Saturday, when the prognosticative rodent emerges from his winter quarters.
Here’s a newsletter that went out to subscribers yesterday. I post some but not all newsletters here on my blog; if you’d like to receive the newsletter, a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “LB Newsletter” in the subject line, will get you on the list; adding LawrenceBlock.email@example.com to your email address book will help ensure delivery.
ALL KELLER, ALL THE TIME…
I began writing about Keller in 1989, with a story called “Answers to Soldier.” Playboy published it, MWA shortlisted it for an Edgar, and I forgot about it for a couple of years. Then I thought about the wistful assassin and realized he was just the sort of Urban Lonely Guy to wind up on a shrink’s couch. That led to Keller’s Therapy (Playboy again, and an Edgar victory this time), and one thing led to another. The first book—Hit Man—was published in 1998.
#5, HIT ME, will be published February 12 by Mulholland Books. The early reviews, online and in print, have been very gratifying, and only false modesty keeps me from sharing them with you. And the word seems to be spreading—a second printing is already on order.
Ah, I see some hands. Yes?
Where can I get a copy of Hit Me?
Suppose I want a signed copy?
A little over a week ago I went to the publisher’s warehouse in Lebanon, Indiana, and spent hours on end just writing my name. Here’s a list of retailers who’ll have some of these signed copies for sale:
A Capella Books | Alabama Booksmith | Book Carnival | Book People | The Booksmith | Carmichael’s Bookstore | Garden District Bookshop | Iowa Book |Lemuria | Murder By the Book | Murder on the Beach | Mysterious Bookshop | Mystery One | Once Upon A Crime | Poisoned Pen | Seattle Mystery Bookshop | Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore | VJ Books
With a second printing off-press before publication, ordering a signed book from one of these stores is one easy way to guarantee a first printing.
February 12? I don’t want to wait that long!
Well, you can order the Limited Philatelic Edition and get a copy by return mail—we’ve got just under 100 of them left. That’ll cost you $75; for a mere $2.99, you can read the opening episode of Hit Me, “Keller in Dallas,” on your Kindle or Nook or eReader of choice.
This is Keller #5, right? How do I get #1-4?
And, in addition to “Keller in Dallas,” there are two more Keller stories newly eVailable. “Keller’s Adjustment” is a novella which forms a part of Hit Parade, and it’s been selling very strongly on its own; “Keller on the Spot” appeared originally in Playboy, won an MWA Edgar Award (Edgar’s been a major Keller fan over the years) and was included in Hit Man. Both of these stories are Kindle exclusives @$2.99.
Could you tell me more about the Hit Me Philatelic Edition? Like, how come it’s so expensive?
Just the other day I got out a specialized newsletter to the Philatelic list, and I don’t want to repeat all that here. You can read the newsletter on Keller’s Page; there’s more information in the description of the eBay listing.
I’ll be happy with the Trade Edition of Hit Me @ 26.99, but I’d love to get it signed in person. Will you be touring?
Not really. I’ll fly out to L.A. sometime in February for The Late Late Show with my good buddy Craig Ferguson, and will very likely show up at one or two bookstores in the area. You’ll get details in a newsletter and blog post in plenty of time. And February 14 I’ll be signing at good buddy Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Aside from that, I expect I’ll be spending February the way it’s meant to be spent—at home, with my feet up, reading.
And may I wish you the same? And may the book that you’re reading be one of mine? Excellent!
“After he’d mounted Obock J1, he called Julia in and showed it to her, and she admired it extravagantly.
“It’s like when somebody shows you their new baby,” Keller said. “You have to say it’s beautiful, because what else are you going to say?”
“All babies are beautiful.”
“And all stamps, I suppose. That’s the original on the right and the reprint next to it. They look the same, don’t they?”
“I bet their mother could tell the difference,” she said.
From a newsletter that just went out to the Philatelic list. You can read it on Keller’s Page