John Locke, Lawrence Block, and the Future of Publishing

I just read Lawrence Block’s blog about John Locke. If you haven’t read it, click here: I was struck by a few things (besides the sarcasm):

Name Dropping

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?

Mediocre Writing

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: 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.

About Renee Pawlish

Author of mystery novels, thriller novels, and horror books. Check out Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, the Noah Winter adventure series for young adults, Take Five, a short story collection, and The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within. Renee also offers writing lessons and writing strategies in the Writers Workshop. Twitter: Facebook: Blog: Goodreads:
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17 Responses to John Locke, Lawrence Block, and the Future of Publishing

  1. I think you’re missing the point, Renee. What I got out of Lawrence Block’s blog was how awesome I am. I mean, sure, there was some stuff about some other Locke guy in the beginning, but I really feel like the piece hit its stride when he was talking about me, my writing, my new book, and how generally bitchin’ it is. That propelled my sales into the stratosphere, and now my phone’s ringing off the hook. And traffic to my blog,, is going parabolic, as are sales of my “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated).”

    So again, to clarify. Block’s a literary icon with stunningly good taste in writers, my new book is the most awesome work ever published (even if self-published – why let those big-6 swine in on my own little private goldmine?) just like NY Times bestselling author John Lescroart said today, and everyone should buy at least 5 copies of it, so they can increase their odds of becoming a gazillion selling author in no time by a factor of 5. Can’t be too careful.

    Seriously though? One of the things that makes being part of the community of writers is that we can aspire to be better than we were yesterday, and to keep it interesting for ourselves, as well as our audience. My sense was that Block gave Locke his due, and flat out said that the book was worth getting due to the abundance of common sense counsel it provided for would be self-publishing authors. I didn’t find it particularly snarky, but then again, look who is talking here – I take two snarks every morning with a shot of Jack, along with my Metamucil. As one would expect from a literary luminary like moi.

    So when I wake up at dawn tomorrow, to do volunteer work at the homeless kitty shelter (which is hard due to only having stubs for fingers from a freak miming accident) before I translate passages of the Bible into pigen Spanish for the blind orphans I have living at my home until their village is rebuilt (partially from my book sales), I’ll pay homage to one of the true legends in the biz. Myself, of course. And then Block, and that other guy. Whatever. I actually thought his piece was a bit long about the first dude. On and on. Blah blah A Million in 5 Months blah. I mean, we get it. The blog could have done with a lot more of me, IMO. In fact, Block could have just left Locke out entirely, and I would have given it a solid 100% at that point. But everyone’s a critic, n’est pas?

    I think Block’s piece was more about old dogs learning new tricks, as well as what a sensation I am, than it was a condemnation of anything. Just me.

  2. I’d hoped to slide in the self-promotion unnoticed. Oh well. I hope readers, when they are done buying my smash action/thriller “Fatal Exchange,” and have read my sincere words of advice in my blockbuster “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks (even if drunk, high or incarcerated),” will look past any blatant self-promotion and see the sincerity of my message, which equates to, “John Locke, whatever blah blah blah, Lawrence Block, good, and Russell Blake, frigging awesome.”

    I am actually considering changing the title of my book to include the words “Or all three” after incarcerated, as I don’t want to exclude inebriated junkie convicts. But that’s neither here nor there.

    I’m now going to go tweet about this blog, so step aside and allow the power of social media launch you! Presuming anyone is not busy buying on of my books, in which case, carry on, and think Xmas gift, or going back to school present. Just saying, it would be thoughtful.

  3. Renee Pawlish says:

    Thoughtful reply, thanks for sharing it all!

  4. Just read the article about John Locke..I bought his book on how he sold a million plus books and thought some of his ideas were great. Being new to this “indie” author business, I am all ears to learn all that I can. But I like your take on it. I will be reading your other links tonight. Thanks again!

  5. I like your sense of humor, Renee! Had to dodge some razor blades of wit while reading your post. I’ve been hearing about John Locke a lot lately (and boy, do I ever mean a LOT), most lately from a well-known author who’s recently left the pro-publishing arena to go indie: Holly Lisle. I haven’t picked up his “magic” book yet, and his fiction doesn’t really scan as something I’d like to read, but I might still check it out.

    I’ve been following indie publishing for a while in anticipation of releasing my novel this way (due to some critical factors, it’ll never get picked up by a big house, and I’ve always wanted to be a trailblazer!) and I’ve always been a huge proponent of what Mike Masnick at calls ‘CwF+RtB’ (Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy) and this seems to be more of the same idea, with some networking thrown in.

    Thanks for the engaging and thought-provoking post!


  6. As a longtime friend of Larry’s as well as a colleague, I’ll tell you this about him, Renee: He is both calculating *and* dead honest.

    (In addition to being an excellent write, and a consummate pro.)

  7. What a great, thought-provoking blog. I wish I had something clever and witty to say to compete what’s already been said. But I, sadly, am not clever or witty. Just redundant.

  8. Hi Renee! Thanks for stirring things up, and for steering some folks my way. But I wish you could have encouraged Russell B. to come out of his shell and say a few words about himself and his work. It a shame when a brilliant author lets modesty and reticence stand in his way. The fellow does hide is light under a bushel, doesn’t he? And I say God help the bushel…

    • Renee Pawlish says:

      You’re welcome. I’m just curious why you unfollowed me on Twitter after that…too snarky on my part, lol? In all seriousness, I’ve enjoyed your works and think you have great advice for writers. I think some missed my point a bit (which was to imitate John Locke’s marketing tip on blogging). And I added my own, which was to create some controversy. I could care less if people agree, just get thinking…And yes, Russell is a tad shy, isn’t he? I wonder if you/we helped his sales…

  9. It’s not about the sales, Renee.

    OK, it actually is all about the sales. But after that, it’s about the work. I’m here, doing the Lord’s work, helping other authors find their voice and become Gazillion selling sensations, for which I am rewarded with less than the price of a three-pack of prophylactics. Let’s face it, that’s almost laughable for the sincere counsel I impart. And yet I just keep giving, on and on and on. It’s like Christmas, your birthday, New Years Eve, and Easter all rolled into one in terms of the reward I’m handing out. And I do it because of the work. The work’s the important thing, and we shouldn’t let our petty differences intrude. Readers who buy my acclaimed How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time writer’s guide will get two, no, actually more like three or four books worth of wisdom, all synthesized into one tome that even a mountbreathing dullard can grasp with little assistance. That’s incredible value. It’s akin to printing money for those that put it to use. And that’s the main message here. Buy my books, preferably in multiples for friends and family as well, and you’ll get everything you’ve ever dreamed of, and more. It’s just as easy as clicking “Buy” – as we’ve discussed, hopefully several times.

    I hope your readers can look past all the fanfare of the mountain of acclaim my work has generated, and the glowing accolades by myriad celebrated authors and reviewers, and just focus on the work. Because that’s where it starts and stops.

    Once you’ve bought it, of course. Otherwise you’re standing out in the rain, nose pressed up against the grimy glass, trying to look into paradise, and like most other such efforts in your past, failing miserably. I don’t want that for you, or for anyone. Go grab your dream. Polish that diamond, and join me in the winner’s circle for the breathtaking miracle that is the How To Sell A Gazillion experience. Three stinking bucks is all that’s standing in your way. Aren’t you worth it? Aren’t the children, and if not them, the cute little mewling furry kittens, and the puppies? Which I’ve committed to helping as part of my literary Fatwah. Dig deep, and do the right thing. That’s all I’m asking. Take that first important step, and prepare for a life of hope, joy, and boundless energy and good health.

    It’s the least I can do.

  10. I’m a fan of John Locke and I really enjoyed this blog.. and I agree with Rebecca: It’s thought-provoking…

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