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 it doesn’t sink and simultaneously hoping 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. A few years ago, a client was disappointed by their recent royalty report, which showed a weak season of sales for their book. I reminded them of the reason why they wrote it in the first place and that those who have read it had been impacted forever. Three days later the author received this “fan letter” via the contact page of their website:
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 needed to hear: that their labor had not been in vain.
In customer service, it is assumed that one complaint is equal to 100 customers. One person, if handled wrongly, could tell dozens of others about their experience. But if the situation were handled perfectly, the customer would tell dozens about their great experience. 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 [Luke 17:11-19] that adds some weight to my point although the author you contact 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 of minutes of your time but will last a lifetime in the heart of the writer.