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A TIP OF THE HAT TO JOHN LOCKE (AND A WINK TO RUSSELL BLAKE)

July 14, 2011

A couple of months ago I downloaded a 99¢ novel by John Locke. I’d become aware of him as a dominant presence on the Kindle bestseller list and figured I ought to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t remember which book it was, and I don’t see why it should matter. I didn’t finish it, not because it was horrible, but because it didn’t knock me out. (Hardly anything does, at this stage in life, and I don’t start reading as many books as I used to, and finish but few of the ones I start. But that’s me, see. It’s not the fault of the books.)

I wondered how on earth John Locke managed to have such a following, but he’s not the first bestselling author whose success has baffled me. I decided karma provided the most logical explanation; in a prior incarnation, our Mr. Locke had removed a thorn from the paw of the Grand Poobah at the Great Library of Alexandria, and this was hard-earned payback.

Then John Locke got a ton of press for selling his one millionth Kindle book. And, as soon as he did, he released a book he’d had waiting in the wings all along. He called it How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, and offered it not at his usual price of 99¢ but $4.99 (or $9.99 in paperback).

Yeah, right, said the snarky voice that lives inside my head. Who could resist paying five bucks to learn how to write mediocre fiction?

I told the voice Thanks for sharing and ordered the book. This was on June 21, and I started reading it on my Kindle that night. I read the rest of it the following day, and started re–reading it the day after that. And the next day was June 24, my birthday, and I started the day doing something I’d been absolutely certain I would never do. But what the hell, I figured I was finally old enough. So I joined Twitter.

Because John Locke told me to.

That day or the next, I asked my web guy to set me up with a blog. Five years ago I was on a book tour in aid of The Burglar on the Prowl, and each night I made myself write a newsy paragraph on the day’s events, and emailed it for him to post on my website. It was a pain in the ass, and it didn’t accomplish anything, and that was the end of my blogging. But now I wanted a real blog, one I could manage myself, and that’s what I asked for.

Because John Locke told me to.

Then I tweeted, letting the world know that I had a blog on the way, and that in the meantime I was open to guest–blogging on other people’s sites. And invitations flowed my way in a gratifying stream. And I started writing guest blogs.

See, John Locke had told me, astonishingly enough, not to blog every day, but to write one good blog and leave it up long enough for people to find it and be moved by it. But, like the cowbird and the cuckoo, I could lay my eggs in other bloggers’ nests. So I did, and found various ways to tout A Drop of the Hard Stuff and Getting Off. And, when people commented on my guest blogs, I went on–site and responded to their comments.

All because John Locke told me to.

I Kindle–published some short stories, too. I’d already been doing this in a small way, and “Keller in Dallas” has been selling briskly on Kindle for almost two years now. But it had never occurred to me to put my contact information on the story’s first and last page, or to tag the story so it would show up in searches, or—

You get the idea. More important, I got the idea. The ideas, really. Plenty of them.

That’s all of Mr. Locke’s tips that I’ll reproduce here. (Locke’s keys? No, maybe not.) You’ll get the rest from his book. And what you’ll also get—and you may or may not care for it—is his approach, his world view, his attitude.

John Locke’s background is in sales, and he blogs and tweets with the aim of increasing his own sales. He wants you not only to buy his books, but to help him get others to buy them. As he explains, the actions he takes online are frankly manipulative; he outlines a method of gaining a reader’s allegiance and illustrates it with a blog about Joe Paterno and his mother that leaves one gaping. The damn thing seems so calculating. . .

But here’s the thing. It’s not cold and calculating. It’s warm and calculating.

Because the man takes pains to point out that your manipulation has to be sincere. (And hold the joke about Sincerity is everything, if you can fake that you’ve got it made.) The whole notion of sincere manipulation is, it seems to me, the great secret of successful salesmanship. The first person you have to sell is yourself, because the truly effective salesman is the one who believes in what he’s selling.

When you don’t, Locke points out, people can tell. And you do yourself more harm than good.

A lot of writers have read his book, and it’s hard not to notice all the imitations of Why I Love Joe Paterno and My Mom out there already, and what a patently obvious load of crap they are. Yes, John Locke knew what he was doing with his blog. Yes, he wrote it to sell books. But he meant every word of it.

And if you write the same words, and don’t mean them, you’ll fall on your face.

Funny thing. For all the instructional books for writers I’ve published, I’ve read almost nothing on the subject. I’ve been wondering why that is, and my best guess is that I’ve never lacked confidence in my fundamental ability as a writer. I’ve had to learn things, plenty of them, but I somehow knew I’d be able to teach myself.

On the other hand, there’s plenty I had to be taught about the business of writing, and the whole inner game of writing, and some of my most useful teachers have been people in other fields. Metaphysical types in the Human Potential Movement taught me principles that had an immediate and lasting effect on my own writing, and went on to make up the core of Write For Your Life. Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale spawned a couple of Writers Digest columns and let me see things differently.

My own wife, fashion model–turned–bookkeeper, let drop a fascinating tenet of accountancy: If you’re collecting 100% of your receivables, all that serves to show is that your too-tight credit policy is costing you money. Is there any aspect of my profession to which that principle applies? No, not really—but I see the world a little differently, a little more clearly, for knowing it.

I see the world a lot more clearly for having read John Locke’s how–to book, and much of it applies directly to my own place in it. (And much, I should add, does not. Mr. Locke writes incisively and persuasively on finding one’s ideal target audience and giving them what they want. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I already know what I write, and I’ve long since worked out for myself that it is not my job to give my readers what they want. It is rather for me to please myself first and write the books I want to write. That’s how I came by those readers in the first place, and it’s the only way I know to serve them well.)

Never mind all that. The point is that I have a great deal of respect for John Locke, and more than a little gratitude. That won’t make me read his novels. But that’s all right, he’s doing just fine without me. And if he writes more about salesmanship or promotion or the business of being a writer, he’ll get an immediate one–click order from me.

Even so, all my respect and admiration for Mr. Locke can’t keep me from having a similar regard for Russell Blake.

Russell Blake? You don’t know who that is?

Well, he’s the savagely funny author of How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (Even if Drunk, High or Incarcerated). This volume, just now published and not yet wiped off the Amazon site by forces for the betterment of mankind, is a joyously vicious satire and parody that makes sport of John Locke, and indeed of the whole brave new world of self–publishing and self–promotion. If you don’t find Mr. Blake outrageous, and indeed offensive, you would seem to be missing the point. And the same thing goes if you only find him outrageous and offensive.

I don’t know what John Locke will make of Russell Blake’s book, but my guess is he’ll hate it. The targets of even the most affectionate parody are almost never amused. All the same, I’d say the book is at its heart the last word in flattery, and that the two books balance each other in a salutary way.

But is it possible for me to enjoy and respect both of these disparate books by very different writers? Well, I don’t see why not. Let’s think about this, shall we?

“Why I Love John Locke and Russell Blake.”

Might be a blog there. Then again, could be I’ve just written it…

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129 Comments
  1. Jim Dunbar permalink

    Damn, what has this world come to. I will go to my grave enjoying the feel of the book in my hands, the smell of the ink and aging paper, the connection between the author and the reader. I have read nearly all of the Lawrence Block books, many of them more than once. They are all aging nicely on my bookshelves, not blinking at me from some electronic device. There be dinosaurs, and I’m happy to be one. Bring on the comet.

  2. Lawrence Bullock permalink

    I like your blog and it’s not because our names are similar.

    cheers!

  3. I rather quickly read John Locke’s book and was impressed by some of what he does that works (for him) and fairly annoyed by the first 50% of which I thought was self-justifying sales pitch. There were a few philosophical things that, well, although I don’t exactly disagree with him on, I just have to shake my head with set lips and think, “Well, if that’s what you have to do, I’m screwed.”

    His statement about if you don’t have negative reviews, you’re not original enough, strikes me as being bullshit. It’s interesting and I’m sure there are plenty of arguments either way, but I still think it’s bullshit.

    I also think that writing your work more or less by focus group is a horrible way to go about your life in terms of fiction (and perhaps everything else), but hey, I guess it works for him.

    It was an interesting book that I thought should have been half as long as it was.

    And no, I haven’t read any of his books either. I’ve got a very long to-be-read list that’s ridiculous as it is. I’ve got more samples on my Kindle than I haven’t even gotten around to reading yet. Crazy. There’s no apparent shortage of fiction in the world today.

    • Mark, I had a similar reaction early on. “I can’t do all this, it’s too much trouble, it’s phony, it’s not me.” I read on, and most of that fell away. About the negative reviews, I think he’s quite right that you get fewer of them as you increasingly draw readers who are looking for what you’re offering. And the Amazon reviews of Random Walk are an excellent case in point. They’re mostly 5s and 1, with a few 4s and 2s, and not a single 3. People either loved the book or flat-out hated it.

      And no, there’s no shortage of fiction. We’ll run out of oil first. Hell, we’ll run out of sand first.

  4. Bridget McKenna permalink

    John Locke’s advice on writing reads like it was written by a salesman, which is fair enough, and he probably wouldn’t take exception to that.

    He does emphasize, over and over, to give “your readers”–who are not likely to be nearly so monolithic in real life–what they want if you want to be successful, and he makes writing sound like an act calculated to sell books to everyone who has bought your titles before. If he were first and foremost a writer, that would probably annoy me, but I’m pretty sure he believes that’s how it’s done, and how successful writers do it. It’s writing as an act of sales, and it’s certainly worked for him, though like LB, I’m not his audience for fiction.

    Like Mr Block, I’m most fascinated by his use of social media and his complex web of blogs, tweets, and emails. I think he’s on to something there, though I’m unlikely to adhere to his formula, for a number of reasons.

    At any rate, a useful way to spend $5. Everyone interested in author-centric publishing stands to learn something.

    And if we have John Locke to thank for now having Lawrence Block on Twitter, I’m all too happy to say Thanks, John!

    • Thanks, Bridget. JL is doing something that works, and not only on a salesmanship level. Good friend of mine has read all eleven of his titles, and well buy the next one when it comes out.

      And yes, a good $5 investment. It would be hard to read his book and not get one’s money’s worth out of it.

  5. OK Larry, you talked me into it. I will Kindle John Locke’s book tonight.

    • Joe, just scroll up, find his title all in pretty blue letters, and click. The one more click and you can start reading.

  6. I like sales people who are the mechanism by which I acquire things I love!

    • Me too, Susan. And yet it’s not uncommon to cherish the item and resent the person who got you to buy it….

  7. Joe Bruno permalink

    I read Random Walk when it first came out, and to the best of my recollection, it was a solid 3. So there.

  8. You should have gotten Kristen Lamb’s book, We Are Not Alone. It is a social media book for writers.

  9. I’m actually more of an artist than a writer but I bought it too. Just because really… I wanted to see what he had to say on the subject and like you, I was fairly impressed. I’ve been active on social sites for a while now but I’ve never used it anything like he’s suggested.

    I also agree that it’s worth the money.

    • A lot of things work as well in one area as another. I’ve been posting daily affirmations for writers on Facebook and Twitter for a while now, and periodically someone points out that it works as well if you’re in another field. And a painted friend of mine adapted the Write For Your Live seminar for visual artists and reported good results. Locke’s ideas certainly address writing and book promotion first and foremost, but the underlying principles would seem to apply to almost anything.

  10. Joe Bruno permalink

    I just read the first 15% of Locke’s book on Kindle. He has a very good point. You don’t have to be a great writer, but you certainly have to be competent, to sell ebooks.

    Locke admits he’s an average writer. But are the best-selling writers 10 times better than he is? His sales record says no.

    Hope for us mediocrities.

  11. Thanks for the positive response to my screed. Appreciate it. As to whether or not Locke would like or hate my book, I’d like to think he’d have a sense of humor about it. It’s sort of like making fun of a film star like, well, Ben Stiller. He’s made tons of money, and is wildly successful, so I’d like to think a guy like that can take a jab or two. Locke’s done what few self-published authors have done, so hats off to him.

    To clarify for your readers, my intent wasn’t to mock Locke or his marketing insights, but rather to mock the entire process. It’s ridiculous. And everyone’s incredibly earnest and serious about it all. That sucks the joy out of writing, at least for me, and I’m hopeful that there’s room for some humor in our mutual journeys of building castles on the page. I write not because I want to make a ton of money at it, although I won’t turn the loot down, but rather out of the joy of turning a phrase, or watching an idea come alive and grow legs. I’ve been successful in business, and know what it takes to sell, but I also know you have to have fun at it, because long after the money’s gone, what’s left is you. So I hope those reading your blog understand that my book is a parody of all things writing and publishing related, not just Locke.

    Because we have to be able to laugh while we’re doing this, or might as well sell shoes or make ashtrays. Some of us will do well, and others won’t, and that’s like any of the arts. I hope anyone curious about my work goes to my blog, at http://RussellBlake.com and reads some of the sample tips I have, for a better feeling for the humor. I wrote it to crack myself up. Hopefully it will make others smile as well.

    Great blog, as always.

    • Great comment, which doesn’t surprise me. And thanks for clarifying, Russell. Was clear to me, but others have’t read your book and might otherwise not know.

    • marta chausée permalink

      Hey– i’m off to Amazon right now to purchase your book and John Locke’s. Thank LB for that!
      Humor is key to me even being alive today, much less writing about it. A good parody, process mock or satire is always needed and savored. Keep up the good work.

      Marta Chausée, author
      Resort to Murder mystery series

  12. I’ve got to say I agree with you completely about “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.” I also am on Twitter because of the book and now have a website for the exact same reason. I liked your reply in the comment section as well, about the words mattering, not what you’re reading them on. I’m actually interviewing writers on my website (I haven’t started posting interviews yet, this will begin early next month) about their opinions on the eBook versus the traditional methods of publishing. I’d be delighted to send you a list of questions to answer, if you’re interested. If not, then no problem. I’m glad I joined Twitter. It gave me the opportunity to read this blog and meet an interesting individual. John’s right about Twitter. You’re going to get a sell on one of your novels tomorrow. I do have a question for you. Have you seen a significant increase in sells since joining Twitter and the blogging community?

    • Thanks, Jimmy. Be glad to see your questions, with the understanding that I might not have time or inclination to get to them. And it’s a hard area in which to have useful opinions because it’s all changing so utterly and at such a fast pace. Re your question about sales, too soon to tell. I try not to thin about that part. One point Locke made that I loved was hos as an insurance salesman the goals he set weren’t about how many sales to close but how many presentations to make. Because that was the part he could control, and he knew if he made enough presentations he’d make enough sales. Makes brilliant sense. I swear I learn more abojut this business from salesman than from writers. (But when it comes to life, those lessons can only be learned from novelists. And sometimes poets.)

      • I like that, “I learn more about this business from salesmen than writers.” Well, I don’t think their are too many writers out there that could teach you much about writing. Geesh, you’re an icon! I think it’s safe to say you have mastered the writing side, so it seems only natural that all you would have left to learn is the changes in how the book business is changing, and different ways to react to that.

  13. Sandy Schiffman permalink

    I think that your blogging, Twitter and FB activity are working out well no matter what the source of the inspiration. I like having a connection with a very favorite author. I truly enjoy reading your thoughts and appreciate the fact that you reply back to questions or comments. A friend of mine asked me today who was this character Lawrence Block that she kept on seeing on my FB page. She had googled you, read your blog and thought you were interesting. I, of course, replied that you are a superb author with a great sense of humor and someone very worthwhile reading. Maybe a new convert in the future?

    • Thanks, Sandy. Strikes me that a principal motive in writing for publication is the desire to connect with others. So there’s satisfaction in blogging, tweeting, FB, etc, beyond the presumed increase in sales. Bottom line: I’m enjoying all this!

  14. I think it’s a whole new ball game out there in the book world, especially with the success of eBooks, which has opened up practically a new market for authors, both good and bad. People like Locke, who not only has had great success with his books but also with his marketing, and maybe the success off his books is because of his marketing, will write the “how to’s” on how to play the new game and win. Is it the only way? Probably not, but if you are languishing out there and you have good stuff, then it might be worth a try. It’s good to see someone of Lawrence Block’s stature be able to get something out of it and maybe even make a few extra trips to the bank. Besides that, it’s good to get your blog in my mail box.

    • Thanks, Robert. A new ballgame every day, and sometimes it feels as though everybody’s throwing knuckleballs. Does keep it interesting, though…

  15. My favorite sponsors are usually truck drivers. Just saying,Voice from the past.

    • Ah, yes, the past. My favorite line this week is L.P. Hartley’s: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

  16. From Locke’s book – “The first person you have to sell is yourself, because the truly effective salesman is the one who believes in what he’s selling.”

    And yet you had an essay in “Telling Lies…” wherein you recounted a friend selling cooking ware that imparted the exact same lesson, which I’ve been using as inspiration for years.

    So it seems to me that you’ve long held these beliefs and just needed Locke to show you how they applied to the 21st century.

    • Jaq, I was thinking of the cookware piece as I was writing the blog. Couldn’t remember offhand which of my writing books contained it. I’d wanted to cite it as an example of a lesson I’d learned not from a writer but from a salesman. So the last line of your comment would seem to be on the mark. Thanks!

  17. I’m a huge Matthew Scudder fan for various reasons. I’m also a [successful] self-published ebook author. . .and I have John Locke to thank for that. My book was floundering and then I read his book right when it came out and I saw immediate results by following his suggestions. So, to read this blog by one of my favorite authors is indeed a treat. Thanks, Larry.

    • You’re welcome, Charles. I’ve edited your comment for content, to keep it from looking like a plug for your book. Great to hear you’re doing well with it!

      • Sorry about the plug…but John Locke (and Russell Blake, for that matter) would have wanted it that way.

  18. Well, durn. I did like it. I lilked this post A LOT. Thanks for directing me here. Hmmm. blog but not often…wow. Can’t say as I’ve heard that one. Flies in the face of all I’ve learned about social media. Thanks even for that one little tidbit. I just might pick it up after all and feed ole JL’s coffers.

    • Thanks, Thea. Some of what JL has to say seems obvious while other bits are counter-intuitive. And I suspect circumstances alter cases. But it would be hard to come away from his book without picking up something useful.

  19. Always been a fan of yours – didn’t know you had a blog. A fellow writer shared this – glad he did! Will be stalking… I mean following you from now on.
    Cheers, Alex

  20. I can tell you that you certainly sold books because of Twitter. Until I saw some of your tweets, I didn’t realize you had self-pubbed ebooks out. I immedately bought THE LIAR’S BIBLE. (I liked it very much!) Without Twitter it wouldn’t have been on my radar. I’m sure it’s that way for other people too.

    • I’m sure you’re right, Margaret. Peter Russell forecast all of this in The Global Brain in 1983, the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. Exciting times.

      This past December, when I discovered I had the making of two new writing books on hand, I thought about looking for a print publisher—and waiting a year or more for the first book to get in the stores, and another year at least for the second. And what chance the books would have of generating much excitement. I talked to Open Road, and three months later The Liar’s Bible was on sale, and in May The Liar’s Companion joined it, and both are doing nicely.

      The amount of change already, and the continuing pace thereof, are quite remarkable. Not just in publishing, certainly, but it’s strikingly visible here. And kinda exciting…

  21. Corey W. Williams permalink

    This was a really good blog.

    I just got John Locke’s book, since self-publishing some short stories as ebooks is something I’m currently trying to get off the ground. It’s pretty fascinating. I can’t say I agree with all of it, but there are some good tips. Worth five bucks at least.

    But I did find some of his points strange and, in some cases, slightly intellectually dishonest. The idea of writing something specifically for a target audience to make it marketable is pretty foreign to me since I consider myself an artist, not a businessman. I guess that’s what makes me think the book is so strange. John Locke is clearly speaking from a business perspective. He’s a business man and a pretty good one. It’s just, you know, strange to hear someone come out and basically say “I did these things specifically so you’d buy my stuff.” I’m not so much surprised that that was the thinking behind it (I mean, that’s how sales people work), but I am a little surprised he came out and said it.

    Like I said, there were certainly some good ideas in his book. I found it worth reading, but a lot I just didn’t agree with and frankly feel kinda conflicted putting into practice. And, like you said, it’s even more conflicting when you see a bunch of people clearly doing what was written in the book.

    Then again, maybe I’m putting too much moral thought into it.

    Also, thanks for pointing me to Russell Blake’s book. Just downloaded it, seems like it’ll be pretty hilarious.

    • Thanks, Corey. I think one thing people find unsettling about JL’s book is that he’s so remarkably candid about what he does and why he does it. As you say, it’s strange to hear him come out and say it.

      You know, the man tells himself—and is open enough to tell us—that he’s writing for his target audience. But I wonder if, when all is said and done, his notion of that target audience isn’t largely a projection of self. Which is to say that he’s writing with his own self in mind as ultimate reader.

      I’m only guessing. But if that’s what he’s doing, how different is it from what I do when I sit down and try to write the book I’d most like to read?

      Far as feeling conflicted about using his techniques, I had a similar reaction. Part, I’m sure, was concern over how I’d appear to others. Would I want to be out there, letting God and everybody know that material success was important to me? Once I’d gotten past that, I saw my comfort with his methods continged upon my adapting them, so they could flow as naturally out of who I am as JL’s do out of who he is. Which means telling you exactly what I think and feel when I respond, here and now, to your comment.

      A comment for which I thank you, incidentally. As you (and everybody else) can see, it got me thinking!

  22. Larry, I was a huge Matthew Scudder fan, as well. But then I did something about it. Now I am a thinner and older — much older– fan who also devoured John Locke’s tutorial, following it with his Lethal Experiement, which I found was passably good. From Scudder I learned that a protagonist can drag the heavy chains of his angst through any number of books and grow more authentic, if less heroic, as the books progressed. I don’t know that I’ll read another Donovan Creed novel. Lacking the moral depth of Matthew Scudder, I think I’ve seen him at his best and worst.

    • Jay, thanks for the kind and generous assessment of Matthew Scudder. But I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t know that I’m ready to count out John Locke just yet. He hasn’t been writing that long, and the success he’s having needn’t preclude his ability to grow as he goes. I’ve been republishing tons of my own early work lately, and while I’m willing to have it out there, and people do seem to be enjoying it, I’d hate to think I haven’t grown since the days of Candy, Carla, and Campus Tramp. I’m sure I must have written fifty novels before Matthew Scudder saw the light of day (or maybe it was the gloom of night) in The Sins of the Fathers. And I had to write those lesser books first.

      So John Locke may go on to surprise those of us who think we’ve got him pegged. (And, if he does, there’ll be some readers out there who’ll shake their heads and tell you he lost his edge when he moved on from Donovan Creed. Count on it!)

  23. Hey Corey. I hope you enjoy the book. It was written as an entertainment, but has a lot of truth baked into it. I think the humor works because there is so much to mock in our own laziness, mine included, when we sit down to write, as well as the laziness of giving in to mediocrity that is the constant threat of the commercial writer. And now we have this overt snake oil aspect of the marketing side that is both desperate and cheapening, and yet also necessary. You have to laugh at it and mock it, or I think it eats your soul. Really.

    The idea for the book actually came to me as I asked myself a question (yes, there were cocktails involved): would you rather be a good writer, but marginally or completely unsuccessful, or would you rather be acclaimed and largely disposable as a talent? You can’t have both in my hypothetical scenario. So out of that seemingly simple question, came the humor of our current predicament as creators. We’re called upon to be used car salesmen (no offense to them), and also maintain our integrity as writers – architects of imaginary landscapes, and word sculptors who presumably struggle over our linguistic creations. Or, we can try to do writing as a focus group endeavor, wherein we imagine the porcine, slack-jawed countenance of our targeted audience, and write to that lowest common denominator – because this is a business, by God, and if the literary equivalent of crap burgers served by indifferent sneering adolescents is what the public wants, we shan’t aspire to anything better.

    That is a perfect scenario for mockery, much of it self-mockery, which is funny. At least I think so.

    Everyone has to make their choice, and I suppose my bully pulpit is the mocking diatribe which you so kindly downloaded. I’m thinking you should get one for beloved family members at Christmas, or even better, Thanksgiving. I use just the right combination of long and short words, with sufficient blank spaces to be readable, and yet with reassuring “real book” density, so readers of drivel will feel at home, while those who prefer something more on the dross side will also be rewarded. It’s perfect for young, and young at heart, literate or ill.

    Senor Block, I think it’s fair to say this is the most thought-provoking book review I’ve ever seen. And the bit about Locke is good, too. Could have had more about me, but still, that’s personal preference. Maybe next time, all me, and lose what’s his name. Just a suggestion. Trying to be helpful and all.

    • Wonderful comment, Russell. And remind me, one of these days I’ll have to write CHUTZPAH: ELEVATING IT TO THE LEVEL OF AN ART FORM.

  24. Susan Jelliff permalink

    Lawrence: I took your advice from your blog and re-tried to download Keller in Dallas to my Nook. It worked – I read it – sooo – how soon can you finish the novel? Just saying – that was a bit of a tease, yes?

    • Susan, I’m happy to hear it left you wanting more. I hope to finish the book before too terribly long, and am conflicted as to whether I ought to make other installments eVailable or wait until it’s complete. All I know is two years ago I thought I was ready to retire, and I find myself busier than I’ve ever been in my life. And thats not a complaint, as I can’t remember ever having had this much fun.

      • I am so stealing the word “eVailable.”

        Loved the post, too. I’ve always been fascinated by the art versus commerce aspect of writing and the lucky who get the two to intersect.

      • Thanks, Keri!

  25. Great Blog! Much good luck!

  26. I don’t generally welcome pingbacks, but Allan Douglas’s rundown on the Twitterverse is too invaluable not to share with y’all. There were not only all the things I had to learn over the past weeks, but more than a few I hadn’t learned until I read AD’s post. Lots of good stuff here…

  27. You convinced me to buy JL’s book. And JL’s persuasive argument convinced me to stay up past my bedtime reading. I doubt I’ll be picking up any of his novels, but I’ll certainly be revisiting this book.

    I thought the “life-changing posts” he offered read like the pandering fluff you used to find in the lifestyle section of the paper on a Saturday. But they were clearly sincere, and Locke’s advice for getting them to the widest possible audience was on the mark. “Warm and calculating” is right. I have to confess that most author blogs leave me cold. Too many posts about craft, and plenty that veer into the negative on issues like sales figures. I don’t need negativity from authors. I bring buckets of that to the table myself.

    Most interesting to me was JL’s view on bad reviews. I remember earlier this year when Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” went viral and was quickly dubbed the worst song ever. I read a piece at the AV Club — wish I could find it now — that said, in essence, success in the current marketplace meant being disliked if not outright hated by 50% of the public because it’s so easy to register opinions instantly, and people often do so in a knee-jerk fashion. I’m not sure if JL’s take is right, but that he incorporated this into his overall approach is fascinating to say the least.

    Thanks for the tip and your post.

  28. Great blog. How perceptive you are, Mr. Block! I like how you zeroes in on that sincerity thing. As an aside, we met at a writer’s conference many years back. I know you have no recollection of me. But I’ve enjoyed many of your books. I too write first for myself, and hope others may like what I’ve written.

    I read John Locke’s book and actually tried to follow his method with the goal of selling more books. The blog I thought of was “Shirley Temple and Me” – something about there only being one Shirley Temple and putting your hair in ringlets and singing ‘On The Good Ship Lollipop’ doesn’t make you her. Sounds pretty limp even writing it here. Never mind insincere. The short of it is John Locke’s method wouldn’t work for me. It works for him. But I did give it serious thought, and was excited about making really big bucks for a day or two. But it just seemed like too much work. -:)
    I look forward to your next novel.

    • Thanks, Joan. Appreciate the kind words.

      Many years ago my mother read a book of Robert Ludlum’s. She didn’t think much of the book, but knew Bob and I were friends, and wondered why her son couldn’t write “something like that” and have a taste of the big-time success which had thus far eluded him. I explained that Bob was writing the books he was born to write, that they flowed out of his real self and his personal vision of the world, and that this was a big part of why they hit the bestseller list. If I tried to write a Ludlumesque book (have fun with that one, SpellCheck!) I’d be holding a mirror to my Inner Vampire; there’d be nothing there. I wouldn’t like it, and neither would the reading public. She got it, she was a sensitive and perceptive woman, and she was happy enough with the books I wrote. (She was especially fond of Keller. “I really like him,” she confided, “and I don’t think I should.” Well, that’s Keller for you. “Why I Love Keller. . .and My Mom” No, maybe not…)

  29. I bought and read John Locke’s book in one night last week. I told writer friends about it, and started saying that “readers who are fans of the Gilmore Girls TV show and who like sci fi/paranormal romances with twists will enjoy Galaxy Girls.” (GG is my brand new shiny book just released, so I’ve been talking about it a lot.)

    I know that a lot of people never watched Gilmore Girls and this might even turn them off, but the people who were fans immediately perk up and tell me that they have to read it. And the others might not buy it anyway, and if they did, they might not care for it.

    I started reading Locke’s book again last night, and some things in the first half of the book that I glossed over became more relevant to me. It’s been awhile since I felt excited about a How-to book, but this one did it for me.

    • Thanks, Edie. I know what you mean. And I think one of the best things a writer can do is turn off in advance the people who wouldn’t like the book anyway. I have a new one coming out in September called Getting Off, and the quotient of sex and violence in it is going to be a lot more than some of my readers, who prefer my kinder and gentler books, are going to want to swallow. (Not the best verb there, but let it go.) That happened to me before, with a post-9/11 New York novel, Small Town. Most people liked it, but I got a lot of negative emails from longtime fans who felt betrayed by the sexual element. So with Getting Off I knew I didn’t want to take anybody by surprise. Thus the title, for openers. Thus the subtitle (“a novel of sex and violence”) and the byline (“by Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson”). And thus Hard Case Crime’s cover (http://tinyurl.com/6c26h3r) which removes all doubt. Best thing I can do is present the book honestly so that the ones who pick it up are the ones who won’t be able to put it down.

  30. I came over from Dean Wesley Smith’s site.

    I haven’t read through all of John Locke’s book, but now you’ve convinced me that I should go back to it. Because I figure if someone like you, with so many novels under his belt, can gain something from it, why can’t a relative newbie like me? 🙂 (Have one self pubbed book up so far.)

    And I also liked how you’re having much more fun now – and for me, that’s one of the main reasons to write: To have fun, to be immersed (for a little while) in whatever universe you’re creating. My physical aches and pains vanish when I’m into that.

    Thanks for a great post! 🙂

    • Thanks, Nancy. I figure it better be fun to write if I expect anyone to read it. Anyway, I’m spoiled; what I don’t enjoy writing it, I’m unable to finish.

      And same goes for the Lockean promotional efforts. If they work me, it’s because I enjoy doing them. If I don’t, they won’t.

  31. Love this discussion. I have to confess I didn’t even know you had a blog, but I came upon it this morning via Dean Wesley Smith’s blog post about his fan moment at the Edgars with you. Dean’s a good friend and I read his and Kris’s posts as often as possible. I have to admit I had my own fan moment with you several years ago – also at the Edgars – when I was there as a chapter president. I was so awestruck to see you there that I lost all ability to speak. LOL This was during the cocktail party before the banquet. You were in conversation with Nelson DeMille, if I recall correctly. I circled you both several times, trying to work up the nerve to say hello. But I never managed to do so.

    Anyway… John Locke.
    Out of curiosity, I downloaded one of his books. Haven’t read it yet, but I think I’ll have to take a look at his “How I sold” book, based on your recommendation. I’ve tiptoed into the world of epublishing and although my backlist (a whopping 3 books) is selling, my short stories and original offerings aren’t doing as well. While I can’t imagine myself ever adopting “fake sincerity,” I will be interested to see how I can better utilize social networks to get the word out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Julie. I’ve only had the blog for two weeks, so no surprise you hadn’t known it was here. As my South Carolina kin would say, “Now that you know where we are, don’t be a stranger.”

      You know, between your comment and Dean’s post, it strikes me that success means reaching the point where everybody’s scared to talk to you. Which seemed weird to me until I remembered acting just that way to senior writers who unwittingly inspired awe in my younger self. Next time say hello. I like Nelson a lot, but you can interrupt us anytime you want.

  32. Happy to see you blogging, sir. Loved the post, and I’m sure Locke did, too.

    • Thanks, Stephen. Haven’t heard from JL (whom I don’t know except through his book) but a mutual acquaintance tells me he’s happy.

  33. I realize this thread is about John Locke, but Mr. Block mentioned above that he got negative mail about “Small Town”. I got hooked on Lawrence Block back in the late 70’s while I was a young GI stationed in Europe and somebody gave me Sins of the Fathers. I was immediately addicted to Scudder. Over the years I tried the Tanner Books and liked them, but Scudder was my drug of choice. Then the Bernie books, and that was a change of pace, lots of fun and if I was handing out stars many would have gotten 4 easily but Scudder, I prowled book stores for the next one and practically stalked book sellers for info on the release dates. I can’t remember whether I read the first Keller book or Small Town first but Keller WOWED me because of the style of the writing. To be able to “switch gears” so to speak and yet keep the writing at such a high level gave me a goal as a writer. Such rapid fire prose, and so good and so different than my buddy Matt. But when I read Small Town I couldn’t get it out of my head. Here was this great, introspective stand alone. It made my list as one of the best novels of the decade and certainly one of the top two or three with 9/11 as subject matter. To be displeased with it because of the sex makes me wonder how seriously the detractors could have been in reading Lawrence Block. To disregard that novel because of the sex would be like disregarding Hemingway because he alluded to homosexuality in Farewell To Arms or For Whom The Bell Tolls because the hero supported the communists. Small Town is a masterpiece pure and simple.

    • If you think I’m going to object to this comment because it’s slightly off-topic, you don’t know me at all. Robert, thanks so much for the kind and generous words. Still, I can well understand how a reader might enjoy reading the glib banter of a gentleman burglar and be put off by the avid sexual experimentation of Susan Pomerance. I’d be easier to market if I wrote the same kind of book every time. OTOH, I’d have long since left the business out of boredom…

  34. There’s an old song from the 60’s (can’t remember the band’s name off-hand) that goes, “you can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.” Lawrence, I really like your mantra about writing first for yourself. That’s so true and one I’m following as well. Internal happiness emanates outwards and feeds the authenticity that attracts readers. If you can’t enjoy what you’re writing then what’s the point? 🙂

    • Rick Nelson, “Garden Party.” (Thank you, Google. You too, Wikipedia, for the great story behind it.) Terrific line in the last verse: “But if memories were all I sang / I’d rather drive a truck.”

  35. Lawrence Beat me too it – and I am a musician but google is faster than my brain, yep, Garden Party.

  36. Lawrence–don’t know how the hell I ended up on your blog, but I’m glad I did. We seem to have the same thoughts on Mr. Locke. I’m a writer first and a marketing professional second, so I can understand how writers only would be offended by Locke’s advice and how marketers like myself would think he’s a genius. Me, I can see both sides of the coin. I downloaded his how-to ebook(couldn’t NOT do it), read it through…and then re-read it again. I felt validated and simultaneously sick to my stomach. What we writers have to do to promote ourselves, all the hard effing work, but man, it sure can be fun! Yes–it is a WHOLE NEW BALLGAME. I’m digging your blog, by the way. Keep it up!

  37. Hello. Stopping by via Dean Wesley Smith. Lovely post – has me laughing. Best wishes and may the force be with you.

  38. Thanks for your review of John Locke’s book, I wasn’t sure whether it would be worth the five dollars, but now I look forward to reading it. It’s off topic, but I wanted to say that I loved your book, “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit.” It was one of the first books on writing I read and it was an enormous help. Your advice was welcome and your prose was a joy to read.
    I’m looking forward to reading your posts.

    • Thanks, Karen, and welcome. I’ve been enjoying this, especially so in view of the very provocative exchange of comments. While the three interior pages—About Lawrence Block, About LB’s Fiction, and Afterthoughts—focus chiefly on me and my work, I expect this blog itself to be largely concerned with writing. I doubt I’ll blog very frequently, but I’ll be visiting all the time, and I’ve been surprised already at how often I’ve found myself moved to reply to what one of y’all has to say.

      Keeps it interesting for me!

  39. Lolly permalink

    Just have to say ~ I love the way you write. It’s as though you are here either telling me a story, giving advise or just chatting.

    Long may You reign! You are number 1 in my book ~ and in my personal library.

    Lolly

  40. Lawrence, it’s nice to see an old pro in the established world of publishing be so receptive to new concepts. It’s curious, when an Indie movie is made everyone swoons. Indie music is cool and unique–yet, Indie books are still self-publishing? When NY Times bestselling authors are turning down large advances to go Indie, that tells you there’s something more to the naked eye.
    Plus, think how cool it is for a longtime fan of your work (me) to be able to correspond with you like this. Without the success of John Locke and the digital explosion, we probably wouldn’t be here right now.

    • Thanks, Gary. Everything’s changing so rapidly in the publishing world that it seems to me to be impossible to guess what’s next. No way to know just what online self-pubbing will amount to. It may be a stepping stone; it may be a great deal more than that. But right now the whle world—well, out whole world—is paying close attention to it.

      And yes, but for JL and all the rest of it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation…

  41. Okay, first the suckup: I’ve read little of your work, but I do remember that one time, reading one of your novels and saying to myself, “Oh, so THAT’S how you do it.” (True.) I, too, came here from Dean’s site. A little over five years ago, I was just starting to have some success, when a severe health problem took it away, and I had to retire for a while. (It’s like I was standing on the edge of a cliff with my hang glider, ready to fly, when suddenly an anvil dropped on my head.) Coming back into the business, everything has changed. I feel like I’m in the middle of Times Square yelling, “Somebody please tell me what to do!” (That’s a great exercise, but the reply usually contains the F word, which is quite unhelpful.) Dean’s site is great, but it’s overwhelming at times. Thank you for taking us along on your journey and making the trip a little easier.

    • Thanks, Chris. Coming back after five years must have you feeling like Rip Van Winkle. All changed, changed utterly…As per my reply to Gary, everything’s evolving rapidly, and it’s hard to say where it’s going. It may be a bumpy ride, but I have to say I;m enjoying it.

  42. Now I am looking for a book on “How to Write Great NON-Fiction.” Ever seen one?

    Biography is relatively easy because it is natural to tell a linear story. But what if one is writing about, say, urban design & planning — as I do — which most people find boring.

    I’ve been advised to personalize such as by starting “John and Joan were a young couple looking for a home…”

    I hate that trick when I read it and won’t do it.

    So what are the commonalities (besides knowledge of the subject and a simple sentence) in great NON-fiction?

    Sincerely asked.

    • Thanks, Dave. I haven’t written much non-fiction myself, aside from all the writing about writing, and a memoir of my life as an aging and unskilled racewalker. And I know nothing about books on the subject.

      But that won’t keep me from suggesting that the most important element in both is the writer’s voice; it may be even more important in non-fiction. “Why am I listening to this person? Why should I believe what he’s telling me? Why should I care?”

      Voice. Find your own and they’ll want to listen to you. I’m not sure how one does that, but some of the insights and exercises in Write For Your Life might prove helpful.

  43. I found the Locke book too calculating for my tastes, though I admire his cultivation of his readers by emailing them personally and forming a strong bond with them. The best thing about his book is that it inspired Russell Blake’s brilliant and hilarious parody. Thanks for drawing my attention to it. I will follow your blog avidly.

  44. What’s the best thing about the internet? That you can actually read Larry Block’s blog and leave a comment to tell him how totally awesome his writing is! Okay, I’ll take a deep breath, and rise above my Fan Moment.

    Your book Write For Your Life is probably responsible for my writing career. When NY started sending me the message that my romantic comedies just didn’t fit their marketing view, I read your book again–even though my new dog had demolished the cover years before. I wrote the affirmations. That kept me going and believing in my writing.

    Eventually, after the world revolved enough times and the Kindle was invented, I had a means to test my belief in my writing. Guess what? I was right. There was a market for my books! I have 4 romantic comedies on ebooks. In less than 4 months, I’ve sold more than 80,000 copies. True, that’s nothing like John Locke’s sales, but it gives me great satisfaction and joy to have readers appreciating my writing.

    I don’t do very much with FB or Twitter, but I do blog every day as well as follow blogs. Yours is one I will now follow as faithfully as I have read your books over these long years.

    So, Mr. Block. Larry. I thank you for getting me started and for keeping me going. You cannot imagine how happy I am just to be able to say thank you.

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

    • Joan, I won’t say it’s messages like this that get me out of bed in the morning; I have a prostate that handles that assignment quite effectively. But your words certainly made me glad I got up. Your success is wonderful, and makes it dramatically clear how the publishing landscape is changing, and how much we can do individually to achieve our visions. If my book was a help, I’m delighted to hear it. But you’re the one who made it happen.

  45. Lawrence, I think like many others here, you’ve sold another copy of John’s book for him. In fairness, I’ve been considering it, but you pushed me over the edge. If you’ve learned from his book, and learned several things, then I think I’m looking at a complete education.

    Cheers.

    • KR, wherever you do or don’t decide to go with it, I’d be surprised if you don’t get five bucks worth out of the book.

  46. As a new author starting later in life, I’ve been promoting like mad even before John Locke told me how to do it. I also enjoy it, which I think is key for your marketing to be sincere. It’s also a wonderful distraction when I kill someone on paper and then can’t figure out what to do with the body!

    I’ve been a fan of yours forever, Mr. Block, and now I get to be one of your Tweeples. Thank you.

    • Cindy, I think you’re right. Whether it’s promoting or writing, you have to enjoy it. Otherwise why bother?

  47. Perhaps the best part of the whole post is that there’s a parody now–but I do appreciate hearing your sage take, Locke’s wisdom as well as his departure from it.

    • Thanks, Jenny. Blake’s parody (and it really is quite brilliant) is a send-up of the whole world of ePublishing. And his take on JL, while hilarious, is respectful at heart.

  48. Like so many of the comments, I was on the fence about buying JL’s book until I read your post. And like you said somewhere, I think I got my $5 out of it. Just seeing a way to make one’s blog, website, and twitter account work was fascinating. Basically, the how-to’s of social media. I keep thinking about them, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading the second half of his book shortly.

    Even the most controversial part of his book — the so-called loyalty transfer theory — doesn’t see so far fetched to me. There’s a reason why in North Texas Reliant Energy has Troy Aikman as their spokesman. I think what was so chilling about JL is how blatant he was about writing a post about Joe Paterno. But if you take away all of that, it simply means this: When you blog, write in a way that will attract readers. And that’s not just true of blog posts, but of EVERYTHING.

    And like so many, I found the first 50% of JL’s book utterly BS. I remember thinking, as I read his spiel about finding one’s audience, is this man so utterly blind that he doesn’t realize he’s writing first for himself. Of course, you put it a little more elegantly when you called it “self-projection.” But still, I was glad to see I’m not the only one who caught on to that.

    By the way, when are we gonna get the next Evvie Stone, Doug Rance, and John Hayden novel???

    • Thanks, Jeff. JL got me going with Twitter and blogging, and for that alone I’m in his debt. I suspect that reading the book again now that I’ve got a sense of the process will be illuminating all over again. One effect of the first reading was it put me in mind of some principles I already knew, but wasn’t putting into practice. Like one they try to teach salesmen: Ask for the sale. A surprising number don’t, they go through the pitch and forget to ask the customer for an order, either for fear he’ll say no or because they don’t want to be pushy. (And then, of course, if they’re like me, they resent the bastards for failing to read their minds.)

      Because writing is artistic and intellectual, we’re inclined to believe it’s demeaning to try to advance our careers. We don’t lack ambition, we’re just wary of appearing ambitious. I’ll say again what I’ve said a lot in recent years: the great thing about getting old is you care less and less how you look to the world.

      Sheesh, a sequel to The Girl With the Long Green Heart? What a wild notion. I’ve a feeling it’s about as likely as a sequel to The Specialists. But it’s not a bad idea…

      • LB —

        Good points about not wanting to feel pushy or appearing ambitious. It’s strange, considering, as Orson Scott Card once said, the kind of “arrogance” one needs to write. I mean, I think I have stories to tell that other people will PAY to read! And yet, I don’t want to ask them to buy it? Go figure.

        I love THE GIRL WITH THE LONG GREEN HEART. I’ve read it several times, and plan to listen to it on audiobook once school starts and car pool duty returns. It’s one of my favorite novels. Period. And LONG GREEN HEART, along with Charles Williams A TOUCH OF DEATH, are my two favorites from Hard Case Crime.

        My love of the novel is due to the fact of how much I identify with John Hayden. His desire to have a place of his own and to make a success of it rings deeply with me for deeply personal reasons. Those first scenes between him and Doug really put me on his side. I *wanted* to see him succeed. I don’t want to say too much more and spoil the novel for those who haven’t read it … but his story arc really grabbed me.

  49. Locke still doesn’t interest me, but Russell Blake, well… I’m there. I just purchased his book, and am really looking forward to reading it. After Deadly Honeymoon, that is.

  50. One of the nicest things about John Locke is his sincerity. After buying his book, I dropped a short comment to him and he wrote back. He treats his readers like friends.

    BTW, the first book I ever read about writing was Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. I think you are wicked funny and I just loved that book!

    • Thanks, Jeanne. And you’re by no means the first person to make that observation re Mr. Locke, who gives every indication of being a genuinely decent fellow. Nor, come to think of it, are you the first to speak kindly of Telling Lies…

  51. Kevin M. Sullivan permalink

    Funny, informative, and I think I’ll check out Mr. Locke’s book.

  52. This thread is just *delightful.* As is the grace and verve with which you’ve re-invented yourself for the world of social media. Wow.

    I read all kinds of things, all kinds of fiction — mostly “literary” fiction for that matter: Bolano, Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, hell I love Georges Perec! Your work is right at the top of the list, up there with the best.

    I once heard you describe the Scudder series as “American realist novels with a murder,” and that struck me just right. And I like Bernie and Keller just as well. Small Town? Dang you’re good!

    You need to be on Google+, Larry — email me for an invitation.

    • Tom, thanks. I’m not sure what Google+ will do for me; it can’t eat into my spare time, because I no longer have any…

  53. I don’t know anything yet about John Locke’s work but because of your post I intend to find out. I really liked what Russell Blake had to say about writing not only for profit but for fun. Fun is what I have when I do the research for my books. One interesting specimen I discovered while tanning on the beach at Pismo on California’s Central Coast was David Levy’s “Love and Sex with Robots”. He gave a speech (very creative) on this very subject in San Luis Obispo, well attended I might add, to give his thoughts on what relationships might look like in another twenty years. So I’d like to say in this post, if one cannot have a fun and interesting career writing, then one must read fun and interesting books.

  54. I read John’s book and interviewed him at one of my blog sites early this month. In case anyone’s interested, it’s up at: http://theviewfrommymountaintop.blogspot.com/2011/07/visit-with-john-locke.html#comments

  55. Valya Lahser permalink

    Query – are you Russell Blake? I remember reading, I think in Telling Lies…, about your relatively expansive use of pen names and how they were frequently cross-referential.

    • Uh, no. That’s one of the four or five strangest questions I’ve ever been asked. Still, I can see how you might have cause to wonder. But let me deny it unequivocally, and while I’m at it I might add that I haven’t written under a pen name in thirty-five years. I do have a new book coming next month from Hard Case Crime, entitled GETTING OFF, and the byline reads By Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson, but that’s an open pen name, which is rather a different matter.

      Russell Blake is Russell Blake, and does a much better job of it than I ever could. He’s clearly mad, clearly brilliant, and wholly unique. I live in equal parts of hope and dread that we’ll hear more from him.

  56. Valya Lahser permalink

    As I calculate it you are 73 (aged 19 in 57) and that was among the 5 or so strangest questions you’ve been asked. Haven’t you ever been audited?

    IRS case technician: Sir, it says here that you are a writer?
    LB: Yes, that’s correct.
    Tech: And on your 2009 tax return you claimed a deduction of $2,647 for 500 Berol #2 pencils and 1000 steno pads.
    LB: Yes, rounding up, per the form’s instructions.
    Tech: But what, sir, did you do with all those pencils and paper?

    (Well, if not strange, at least surreal in its stupidity. BTW, thank you for giving me a lifelong phobia of contracting rabies.)

  57. Actually, I was asked an even odder question by a chap who reviewed How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time – whether or not I was John Locke. Now, don’t get me wrong – if I thought it would sell one more book, of course my answer would have been, “One never knows, does one?” And, he went on to post a glowing recommendation of the book, my blog, the shirts I wear, my loving use of adverbs, and basically all things Russell Blake, for which I pretended token, if momentary, gratitude.

    So this has been a growing and learning experience for us all.

    Especially for those discerning enough to go to my blog, http://RussellBlake.com – the ultimate interactive literary experience, if not the most exciting thing to ever happen in most readers’ lives.

    I’ve been a bit quiet, as I’ve been editing my new masterpiece, The Geronimo Breach, which will be published on Kindle by Saturday, given any luck at all. It’s been 24 hour workdays struggling to find just the right combination of letters, spaces and punctuation to ensure readers are richly rewarded for their efforts to keep me in premium spirits and pleasant, if paid, company. So my media onslaught has taken a pause, but only briefly.

    Now I must get back to those infernal peacocks. Just a tip – never try to herd them when they’re amorous, which is nearly always, as they can inflict real damage with their scimitar-like beaks…

  58. Russell Blake likes adverbs. A man after my own heart. 🙂

  59. I have long been a big fan of your work Mr. Block and I have read every one of the Scudder books at least ten times. I had the whole collection in my bookcase but I just recently bought a kindle because the wife keeps yelling at me for having way too many books. So I downloaded your latest and it is a great read. After I was finished I also downloaded several of the other books in the series including my personal favorite “When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes.” So Kindle brought you some more dough because I couldn’t not have them available to me while I was traveling or on vacation.

    For me the best part about your Scudder books is the discussion of drinking and where it takes you. Also your snapshots of NYC (esp Brooklyn) are right on the money. I really identify with your take and in a small way write about my “drinking life” in a series on my blog called “Remembrances of Things Pabst.” In a small way I would like to share what I learned from the bottom of a glass.

    Sorry if I sound like a crazy fan but I really, really admire your talent and wait in eager anticipation for your next novel.

    Get started already!!!!!

  60. Oh, yes. Adverbs are immensely useful and save many other words if applied judiciously. The American genre writers’ hatred (not an exaggeration) for adverbs is silly and falls into the category of “rule-making”. Any part of the sentence can be misused by untalented writers. There is no need to ban a category outright because it tends to give them trouble.

  61. See how useful? 🙂

  62. marta chausée permalink

    I just learned more in under two minutes than I have in two years of trying to market my work. Thank you. Three cheers for you, Lawrence Block, and those two literary marketing geniuses you mentioned.

    Marta Chausée, author
    Resort to Murder series

    • Thanks, Marta. It’s been a revelation for me as well. On the other hand, it seems to me I used to have a certain amount of spare time…

  63. I spent most of my workday attempting to find this blog post of yours. The hard part was figuring out if I had originally read it in your newsletter, on your Facebook wall, on your Facebook page, on your WordPress blog, or on Twitter. Will Facebook let you link to all of these sites on your regular page? Anyway, long story short (too late?), I found the post, bought the book on Kindle, and was pleased to see that the price had dropped to $2.99. Now it’s my turn to sell a million books. I guess writing one is the first step, though. Maybe I’ll sell something else.

    • Glad you found your way here, Patsy. If you click on Unclassified at the top of the site, you can find all the past blog posts, some of which may be of interest. And if you click on Follow at the top left, you’ll get an email whenever there’s a new post.

  64. Maybe John Locke was John Locke in a prior incarnation, and he wanted to come back to see how his works would sell as ebooks.

  65. I haven’t even started John Locke’s book, but judging by your responding to every single comment that was made about your post, I’m willing to bet the house that he advises writers to respond to every post. Luckily, the bank owns most of the house.

    • He may have done so. I don’t honestly remember. My mother raised me to be reasonably polite, and early training dies hard.

  66. I’m late to the party on this one, but I loved this post. I read JL’s book, and wondered how I could pull off a tear-jerking post of my own with sincerity and would result in sales. But he lost me at “just start with 20,000 Twitter followers, not hard to do.” Sure. Anyway, great blog and I’ll be watching it!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. For Twitter Newbies: Nuts & Bolts | The Write Stuff
  2. Linky Friday « creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

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