Why Authors Should Answer Their Fan Mail

Snob

If you’re new to self-publishing, it may be hard to imagine that someday you might have actual fans – people who really love your work and are excited to read more. It will be really exciting when some of those fans are passionate enough about your work that they actually reach out to you, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or even in an email.

It may tempting for you to play it cool. You might be jumping up and down with excitement that you’ve actually got some fan mail, but perhaps you decide not to answer, preferring instead to act like you’re too busy and too important to answer back.

I don’t recommend that course of action.

As a newly self-published author, one who has spent over twenty years wallowing in obscurity, I treasure each and every sale that I get. It makes me so happy when someone buys my book, or even downloads it for free. I’m honored that people take the time to read my books, and if a fan ever contacted me, I would be more than happy to write back. I realize that it’s easy for me to say that now. I don’t have people sending me emails every day, so of course I could respond easily to anyone who contacted me.

As authors, we’re always bombarded with so much information on marketing and social media. Ya gotta advertise on Facebook! Tweet five times a day! Use Pinterest and Linked in! It’s easy to forget the SOCIAL in social media. It doesn’t work for me to have you throw marketing in my face and walk away. If I’m a true fan (which is what you want, after all. That’s why you’re marketing), I might want some kind of personal response.

My advice is, if a fan writes to you, write her back. You can wait 24 hours if you don’t want to appear overeager. Of, if you’re fortunate enough to have lots of fan mail, write back but make your responses quick. Even if a fan writes you a ten-page love letter, you can still write back with only a few sentences, and you don’t have an obligation to keep the conversation going after that. Fans should understand that you’re busy, but it’s not too much to ask to get some kind of response when they send you a nice message about your work.

Sean Platt, one of the authors and self-publishing gurus behind Write, Publish, Repeat (a great resource for indies if you haven’t read it) wrote me back and answered my question about publishing middle-grade fiction. It really meant a lot to me and I never forgot it.

And guess what? I never would have plugged his book as I just did if he’d ignored me. I wouldn’t hold a grudge I guess, but I would have been disappointed and wouldn’t go out of my way to promote his work.
I had a similar situation with an indie author whose books I LOVE. I’ve only read two so far, and I couldn’t put them down. They were just the type of book I love to read – sweet, sexy, tender romance with an excellent plot, so it’s not just lovey-dovey stuff. I loved her first book and made it a Wannabe Pride Book Pick of the Week. I just read her second book and did the same thing. I loved that book so much that I deliberately read it slowly so that it wouldn’t end. I said this on Twitter and tagged the author. To be fair, she did answer back on Twitter to say thanks.

She has a Contact Me email address on her website, so I did. I wrote her a nice email and told her how much I loved her books, and how I admired her for her success. I told her she was an inspiration to me. She somehow managed to get a review in The New York Times of her self-published book, and I asked how she managed such a great accomplishment.

As you can probably guess, she never wrote me back. I’m not gonna lie; it kinda broke my heart. I really don’t have the enthusiasm for her work that I once had. I loved her books – she was really my favorite author – but now when I see her books, it kinda bums me out. I’m not trying to be petty, but I just don’t have much interest in reading her stuff anymore. So I haven’t read any more so far.

I’m sure it’s no big deal to her if I don’t buy her books, but this loss of sale(s) could have easily been avoided. If she had taken the time to write me back- even two sentences – that would have been enough for me. As my readers know by reading Wannabe Pride, I have a real passion for helping other authors. I really feel that we need to look out for each other. If you’re ahead of me on the success ladder, I hope you’ll reach down, give me a hand, and help pull me up. It’s what I would do.

I also feel it’s a little unfair to encourage your fans to Contact Me if all you want is for us to tell you how great you are. Even with traditional publishing, gone are the days where the publishers do all the publicity for you. YOU need to be your own best advertising advocate. Taking your fans for granted is just not wise, no matter how successful you are.

Okay – one more rejected-by-an-author story. Through an acquaintance, I’ve met a  traditionally-published Young Adult author. I’ve met her once in person – when I attended a book signing of hers – and we’re friends on Facebook. I’ve responded to several of her posts on Facebook. They were posts about writing, and I commented about my own experience. She never answered back, even though there were usually only one or two other comments on the thread. I definitely get an “I’m better than you” vibe from her, though I could be wrong. After all, I drove to her book signing, listened to her talk, and bought a copy of her book (and not the Kindle version, either). This woman knows who I am and knows I have self-published a book, but she really doesn’t bother to give me the time of day. It’s frustrating, because if the shoe was on the other foot, I would have been excited to see what I could do to help her. Kinda annoys me, too, when I think of all the literary agents who will only considered a new writer if she is referred by a published author. So what happens when published authors treat you like garbage?

She has a three-book series out now. Guess how many I bought after the book signing? Again, I know I’m small potatoes, but a sale’s a sale. And she’s lost mine, and any other publicity I might have given her.

One last story. I promise.

Jodi Picoult is an internationally-renowned, traditionally-published, New York Times bestselling author, who has had several movies made based on her books. If you send her an email, she usually sends you a brief yet very friendly response within 24 hours.

Do you want to be a classy, humble, appreciative author, or play it cool and aloof, even when it means losing followers?

  • Linda Fausnet

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