An Interview with Lawrence Block

One of my favorite authors is Lawrence Block. He’s famous for his mystery novel series about Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr among others. He’s been an acclaimed writer for decades now, and I’ve been particularly excited to see some of his characters given new life in 99 cent Kindle Ebooks. His blog is also particularly interesting to me. Going there is a pleasure as he always seems to be focused on his readers, giving them what they want.

Amazon's Lawrence Block Page

Anyway, as someone interested in book promotion in the 21st century, I’m excited to ask the master how his experience promoting online has been. Here is our conversation:

Mr. Block, thank you very much for taking time to answer my questions. I have been a fan for years, and this is an honor for me. My blog focuses on new ways for writers to market their work, and a simple google search reveals how much you have done. I’d like to talk first about the changes you’ve seen in the promotion of your books.

Me: To what degree do you think it’s important to establish and sustain personal relationships with readers through email and social media?

Block: Hard to say. Thomas Pyncheon seems to get along fine without it, doesn't he? I think it's useful, but only if the writer in question is so inclined. The folks at publishing houses, of course, think it's essential—because they always want the writer to do things that won't require any work on the publishers' part, or cost them anything.

Me: I have been reading a number of your 99 cent Kindle Ebooks lately, and I love them. It’s great to get another short story from Bernie Rhodenbarr and especially Keller since I was afraid that series was over. From a promotional point of view, however, I’m wondering what you think the largest benefits of these stories are. Have you noticed a renewed interest in the older titles? Or do you simply want to get more of your stories out there?

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Block: I don't know that I've thought it through that far. I've got the stories, and figure I might as well make them available. 99¢ stories are a slow way to get rich, but I’ve never found a fast way, so I'm happy to ePublish them.

Me: Readers can get a good sense of who you are as a person from your blog, and I wonder if that’s what you see as its great advantage. Is that personal connection with your readers the primary reason you’ve established the blog?

Block: Yes, that's probably it.

Me: What do you see as the main disadvantages of marketing online?

Block: The time and energy it requires.

Me: Has reaching your audience online affected you and the way that you work?

Block: Possibly, but not in any way I've noticed.

Me: How do you choose new books to read?

Block: I read less these days, and mostly read books by authors I already enjoy. In fact, I'm more apt to reread a book than pick up something new.

Me: Do you have any marketing or promotional advice for new writers?

Block: Just as I advise people to write first and foremost to please themselves, I'd recommend that they do such marketing and promotional activity as seems natural and appropriate to them. And don't push too hard, or expect too much.

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So, what is the advice of the master?

The last answer seems to be the key to his philosophy, and in general that’s the key to writing well. Of course, the writer must push, and there is a level of dedication necessary, but in the end, it has to be pleasurable for the author. Otherwise, what was once joy will become tedium, and the readers will sense that frustration.

So, I generally finish these posts with a question. I will be doing more interviews with authors and fans like Mr. Matetsky of the last post. Cathy Day will be next. My question is, who would you like me to interview? Whose insights on book promotion do you think would be interesting and relevant?

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