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.
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.