I just read Lawrence Block’s blog about John Locke. If you haven’t read it, click here: http://lawrenceblock.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/a-tip-of-the-hat-to-john-locke-and-a-wink-to-russell-blake/. I was struck by a few things (besides the sarcasm):
In case you haven’t read John Locke’s book on marketing ebooks (How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months), I’ll let you in on one of his ‘secrets’. John Locke says to blog, but not often, and to use what he calls “loyalty transfer”. You write about a big name and tie that name into a blog that will transfer loyalty from the big name to you, the blog author. In John Locke’s case, he wrote a nice piece about his mother and Joe Paterno. So folks who read about Joe Paterno on John Locke’s website will see the books that John Locke has, and then be tempted to buy John Locke’s books. In this way the author of the blog can build a loyal following.
Do you see how many times I used John Locke’s name in the previous paragraph? This was intentional. And if you read Lawrence Block’s blog, I can only speculate that it was intentional on his part to use John Locke’s name in the manner in which he, Block, did (read the blog and you’ll see what I mean). I tip my hat to Mr. Lawrence, writing a snarky (to use his word) blog about “mediocre authors” trying to gain a following, but using the same techniques that he seems to be criticizing.
The Sincerity of the Blog
John Locke says that the name-dropping blog should be sincere, that if the blog is not sincere, you will not succeed in your marketing. People will detect the insincerity in your blog (I’m not sure how), but then your marketing strategy will backfire. What kept running through my mind as I read Lawrence Block’s blog was how adept Block was in using the very techniques that Locke taught in his book. So is Block sincere? Or just trying to garner sales? Further, I would like to see some of the blogs that Block says are “a patently obvious load of crap”. I wrote a blog about my dad and Derek Jeter. I wonder, Mr. Block, would you question my sincerity solely because I patterned it from John Locke’s blog?
Lawrence Block takes a few hits at Locke’s writing (and self-publishing and self-promotion). Now, I’m not going to praise or criticize Locke’s writing – I haven’t read his novels and I could care less how good or bad his writing is. I’ve seen tons of books with bad writing and bad plots published by the big New York publishers. What I find interesting is that Block seems to slyly position himself as above the plethora of self-published writers (any maybe rightly so) who have to scramble to self-promote their works.
And then my mind wandered to another blog I read the other day about self-publishing being akin to the lost age of pulp fiction (read that blog here: http://www.johngannonauthor.com/2011/07/08/are-self-pub-ebooks-from-the-devil-hail-the-new-pulp-fiction/). If we do look at the new age of self-publishing in this way, then Mr. Block is guilty of getting his start the same way as the rest of us self-published authors (in case you didn’t know, Mr. Block got his start writing pulp fiction). Not only that, Mr. Block could be accused of “mediocre writing”, or at least “cliched writing”. Case in point, his Scudder novels: an alcoholic ex-cop, the convict sidekick, the damaged love interest, and so on.
So Why This Blog?
I felt struck with a need to respond to Lawrence Block (not that he’ll ever read this). I actually quite enjoy Mr. Block’s novels, and I consider myself a loyal reader of his. I don’t consider him a mediocre writer. And I have gained huge insights into writing by reading his books on writing (if you authors out there haven’t read Spider, Spin Me A Web, I encourage you to). I find it amusing that someone who is so successful as a writer is using the same means as all of us “mediocre writers” to build his sales. And if you’ve made it to this point, you can see how I’ve used John Locke’s tip in this blog, in my own sarcastic way.