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Monday, April 26, 2004

More on the Lawrence Block booksigning article 

Interestingly--but perhaps not surprisingly--a bit of a backlash seems to be setting in about Block's attitude towards those who are after the signed copy, using all means possible. Steve Miller, one of Mystery News' able columnists, struck a harsh note in the comments to the original post:

Several booksellers have told me that when you arrange for a Lawrence Block signing, you never know if you'll get Good Larry (charming, witty, eager to please and more than willing to converse with anyone who engages him) or Bad Larry (monosyllabic, obviously wants to be somewhere else, mood ranging from annoyed to downright surly). It appears Bad Larry turned in this piece for the Village Voice.

What an ingrate. A pro like Block should never lose sight of the fact that these creepy fans and collectors all have one thing in common -- Block gets a royalty on every book he signs whether it's an overpriced hardcover or a paperback.


I must admit I didn't get much sense of churlishness on Block's part at all, and said as much. But Lee Goldberg, in linking to the Voice article, had a rather thoughtful take which bears notice:

Larry is being a bit disingenuous... as much as he questions the value of signed books and the desire readers have to get their books signed, he's certainly taking advantage of the market more deftly and agressively than any author I know. Not only does he tour extensively to support his books (as he should), he also runs a small business through his website and his newsletter -- and literally out of the trunk of his car -- selling signed copies of his backlist and other editions. It's rare to find an UNSIGNED Block book. So while he may question the whole signed-book-mania, he's certainly profiting from it and, no doubt, hoping the craze doesn't wane. Who can blame him? I admire his writing and his salesmanship. But given the way he's embraced the signed book market, I found the tone of his entertaining piece a bit puzzling...

Is it a chicken-and-egg scenario? A subject that probably bears more thought and analysis but at least in some superficial form, makes for an entertaining article? On the one hand, the vast majority of writers would love to be in Block's position, to have collectors hankering after first editions of a prodigious backlist. But with such demand comes the pitfalls, and ultimately, it's likely all about balance. Or it's just about getting folks talking, like we're all doing now.

In which case, I think Larry's succeeded rather well.

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