Write a Fan Letter Today

by Steve Laube

Everyone likes being appreciated. It can be as simple as receiving a “thank you.” For the writer, a fan letter is like a cold drink of water in the middle of a desert wasteland. The writing life is a bit like placing your words into a bottle and tossing it into an endless ocean, hoping that it doesn’t sink, and simultaneously hoping that someone somewhere will find those words and be touched by them.

Today, instead of waiting for someone else to tell you what a great writer you are, write your favorite author(s) a note of appreciation.  Because no one understands the anguish and crushing weight of the writing life better than you.

In Austin Kleon’s new book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative he has a section titled “Write Fan Letters.” He writes, “The most important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation.” 

I agree wholeheartedly. Last week a client was disappointed in their recent royalty report which showed a very weak season of sales for their novel. I reminded them of the reason why they wrote the book and that those who have read it had been forever impacted. Three days later the author received this “fan letter” via the contact page of their web site:

Wow!  Your book just blessed me so much!  I’d read an excerpt in one of my Dear Reader emails.  I purchased a copy as soon as I was able and have been carrying it to my husband’s cancer treatment appointments. I was sad to finish the book it was so wonderful.

Anyway, I just wanted to email & let you know what a blessing your book was in a difficult time.  Thank you for writing it.

The letter was exactly what the author need to hear last week.

In my retail management days we were told that one complaint was equal to 100 customers. One person, if handled wrong could tell dozens of others about their experience. But if we handled the situation perfectly they would tell dozens about how great our store was. The same holds for that fan letter. Not enough readers take the time to say “thank you” or “I appreciate your work.” (There is a Biblical story about Ten Lepers that adds some weight to my point – see Luke 17:11-19. Although the author you appreciate isn’t Jesus and you aren’t a leper!)

So, take the chance to do the same for a writer whose books you have enjoyed lately. Show your appreciation for their willingness to work so hard to write something that touched you on a personal level. It will only take a couple minutes of your time, but will last a lifetime in the heart of the writer.

Your Turn

Feel free to also post your fan letter below as a way to tell the world how much that author’s words meant to you.


20 Responses to Write a Fan Letter Today

  1. Rick Estep May 7, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    I want to thank Alton Gansky for providing such great quality writing that spreads over so manyndifferent genres. His books with Jeff Strueker have opened the eyes to Christian Fiction to several men in my church. I run the library so it’s great to have some “man” stories to recommend to the men in my church. Thank you for writing what you hear from Him.

  2. JennyM May 7, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    Jeanette and Dee (Windle and Henderson, respectively), you turned my “I wish I could write a book…” into reality. Your books are fantastic. Jeanette, your descriptions of the jungle are enough to make me sweat and reach for the water. Dee, your crime novels make me check the locks on the doors. When I get published, your names will be in the aknowledgements.

  3. Laurie Alice Eakes May 7, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    I read and, if I have a way to contact the person, respond to every fan letter I get. They are precious indeed and have lifted me out of those times of, “Why do I bother to write?”

    Recently I sent a new author my praise of her first book. She said it made her day. It took me about 75 seconds to make someone’s day.

    And this reminds me of someone else to whom I need to send a letter.

  4. Patti Jo Moore May 7, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    Great post, Steve. When I first “discovered” Christian fiction (as a reader) several years ago, I sent e-mails to a few of my very favorite authors–expecting nothing in return (I only wanted to let them know how much I enjoy their writing). I was thrilled when they all responded kindly to my notes, and am more thrilled to say that I’ve now become personal friends with them. :) And I must add: As an aspiring author I’ve also learned a LOT from these ladies! ~ It’s so true that even a few words of kindness can brighten someone’s day (or week!). :)

  5. Glenda Fowlow May 7, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Well, Janette Oke, you had me at Love Comes Softly. You set the bar pretty high by taking two individuals in desperate times and moving them slowly towards God and each other. You got my emotions involved, used a little bit of humor, and I was hooked for life on Christian fiction. Thank you.

    Oh, but I also owe a debt of gratitude to Jerry Jenkins for his Margo Mystery series. I wish I’d kept those books so I could re-read them. Margo was a pretty broken down individual and yet there was a progression to each book that showed her becoming stronger in her faith and capable of helping others inspite of, or maybe because of, her weaknesses. Those short books made me realize people had dignity and worth and displayed how God loves to heal us. It had just even suspense and romance to keep me coming back for each installment and you didn’t disappoint.

    • Sally Bradley May 7, 2012 at 7:29 am #

      Glenda, I loved those too! I still have most of the series but I’m missing a couple books. I’ve always wished Jerry Jenkins would write more of those.

  6. Glenda Fowlow May 7, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    “It had just enough suspense and romance…”
    Now you know why I’m not an author – yet!

  7. Michelle Lim May 7, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Dear Dee Henderson and Karen Ball,

    The two of you have journeyed with me through my life inspiring me to read and finally write the fiction I love. Dee, Your O’Malley Series made me love Romantic Suspense and I waited at the bookstore for your next release. I’ve read every single one of your books and am excited to see that you have another one coming out in August. Karen, your book “Wilderness” touched a place in my heart and I LOVE THAT BOOK! I also love the depth of your writing. “Shattered Justice” had a deep impact on me in my faith walk. Thank you for sharing that depth with me.

  8. Sally Bradley May 7, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    There are so many I should thank! But I’ll thank Karen Ball for her book The Breaking Point.

    I read it during a rough time in our marriage, and it was the first time I’d ever heard the concept of marriage not being about our happily ever after but about God growing us. What a light bulb moment.

    That was almost eight years ago. We just celebrated our 16th anniversary and have wonderful kids, some that came after reading that book. :) The Breaking Point is a book I’ll never, ever get rid of. Thanks, Karen, for being willing to share all of that with the world.

  9. Jeanne May 7, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    What a great post. The written word, whether in a story, or in a less formal format (fan letter) always have the capacity to give life. I’ve written very few fan letters, but perhaps that needs to change.

    I’ve read many authors, but I’ll pick Deb Raney to write a note to today.
    Deb, The first book I read of yours, In the Still of Night, spoke to my heart. The heart breaking story and the way you brought the issues of the story to light and dealt with them made for such a beautiful story. I like how marriage triumphed in the end.

    Reading A Vow to Cherish ministered to my heart also. My grandmother died from Alzheimers, and seeing how my grandfather cared for her reminded me of your characters in your story. The tender portrayal of loving even when it doesn’t feel like it’s being returned is an example of true agape love. Your story brought forth tears and satisfaction at the beautiful way you wrote it. Thank you for pouring yourself into your stories in amazing ways. I’ve enjoyed each of the books I’ve read by you.

  10. Amanda Dykes May 7, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Steve~ Thanks for this post, encouraging us to be encouragers. Brings to mind Hebrews 3:13– “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.”

    Dear Fellow Aspiring Authors,

    Keep writing! If God has led you to this path, and you are following in obedience, He is already accomplishing his purposes. He has a perfect plan for your writing, and guess what? It’s already happening. It doesn’t begin with representation, or publication, or five-star ratings. It begins with your obedience to the call. Thank you for being willing to pour your heart into your writing for Him.

    Recently some beloved relatives asked to read my manuscript. I sent it their way, nervous to relinquish my toiled-over words to people who knew me so well… who I’d have to face again even if they despised my work. I prayed over those words, knowing that God had woven his gospel into the story, and that these relatives were now taking in that truth that I so long for them to have int their lives.

    They called me a few days later, raving over those words. It hit me anew: His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. What if He called me to write that story… just for those relatives, who I have been praying over for years? What if he called me to write that story to shape MY heart? What if it never gets published, but it accomplishes the purposes He desired for it to begin with?

    Keep writing. He moves mountains every day, and your words are one way He does that.


    • JennyM May 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      Dear Amanda,

      I. Am. Going. To. LOSE. IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I prayed all day for a word from God about my writing. An encouragement, a nudge to keep going, an affirmation that I am IN His will and that my gifts are from His hand. And that I am doing what He has called me to do.

      You have no idea who I am. And yet YOU were used to speak to me today. I cannot express enough how important your words have been to me today. Thank you so much.

      It’s been a great birthday so far! Your words have been a huge gift.


    • JennyM May 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      PS-I’m going to print your comments and stick them on my computer.

      • Amanda Dykes May 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

        Jenny, I’m so glad God used the lesson I had to learn as encouragement for you, too! He’s so good. Happy birthday!

  11. Teresa Lasher May 7, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    I’m in the process of reading on my Kindle, “Help Wanted: Moms Raising Daughter,” by Darlen Brock. I heard her on the radio and just had to have the book. She using the analogy of being a coach to her daughters – encouraging, advising and sometimes having to bench them.

    Can’t wait to get further in to the book, but her wisdom from God has helped me tremendously already!


  12. Cynthia Ruchti May 7, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    So many novels have had an impact on my faith, my relationships, and my character. I see my husband in every hero, myself in every female character in her struggles and triumphs. I’ve learned how to love better, how to show more grace, how to weather storms, how to hang on during what seems impossible…and all that through fictional stories of people walking through an adventure that taught me how to walk through mine. I do try to send fan letters for books that impact my life, so here I’ll say, “THANK YOU, Authors!”

  13. Dianne Price May 7, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    I’ve been thanking authors for years and have even established an e-friendship with many of them. It still amazes me when best selling authors take the time to thank me for thanking them! One UK writer even asked my opinion on a new series he was beginning. Another, on hearing I was visiting the Peaks District, which is featured in his series, wrote to advise me what clothes to wear and roads to take. My latest, an American author, said my words of appreciation helped him over a rough spot. So take time to thank those who bring you so much pleasure. You never know the impact on their lives!

  14. Peter DeHaan May 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    At my first writer’s conference, as a wide-eyed newbie, I met a most knowledgeable agent who patiently answered my novice questions and was even brave enough to have lunch with me. He set my writing career in the right direction and I will forever be most grateful. That agent’s name is Steve Laube.

  15. Jennifer Dyer May 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Thanks for the great idea! Here is the letter I wrote to Jeff Gerke.
    I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying your writing books. I was finally able to read through almost the entire Art and Craft book while my daughter Rachel (the one with autism) swam the other day. (I’d been reading excerpts from all three of your writing books I bought when you taught in Ft. Worth, but hadn’t had a chunk of time to sit down and absorb.) I have learned a lot, and I love the humor interspersed throughout the book. I really think you have something with the whole “Spamish” idea. Hmm.
    Anyway, I am already trying to practice what I learned.
    Thanks again!
    God bless.

  16. Jennifer Dyer May 7, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    One more thank you. :-) I’d like to thank you, Steve, for all the times you have spoken at writing conferences. I have learned a lot from you over the years, and always treasure the advice you give. Thanks for being willing to spend some of your limited time with novice writers.

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