Friday, June 21, 2013

Fan Mail by Dianne K. Salerni

Every year, I have my students research a favorite author. Often, while exploring an author’s website, a student will decide to contact the author, and over the years my students have been thrilled when they get a response. Three years ago, Katie Alender answered a lengthy list of questions for one of my students in a 3 page email. And that same year, another student got a brief response from Rick Riordan thanking him for his fan letter and mentioning that he was working on a new series.

This year, not a single student in my class received a response from an author, and Rick Riordan’s website states that, due to his busy writing schedule, Rick is unable to respond to any fan mail. He will not respond to emails, Tweets, Facebook messages, or paper and pencil letters.

I get it. When you think how many thousands of kids must try to contact Rick Riordan per month, it’s easy to see how it would be impossible to respond to them all. The fact that he was still responding to fan mail three years ago demonstrates that he’s not unwilling to reach out to his readers. The statement on his website is probably literally true. He can’t find the time.

There is something very sad about the idea of becoming a blockbuster MG author and then being unable to respond to fan mail.

I’m certainly no Riordan, but with a full time job, a family, and a modest writing schedule of my own, there are times when I can’t keep up with the social media component of being an author. I cut back the number of times I blog per week, and while I try to respond to comments individually, there have been a few times recently when I looked at my in-box and just deleted all the comment notifications. Can’t handle it this week, I told myself. Maybe next week. Of course, my fellow bloggers understand this, I think. And blog comments are not the same as fan mail for your books. I always respond to those messages, but of course, I don't get thousands of them. 

(Nor hundreds. Can't even say scores.)

I imagine that successful children’s authors had their hands full with the old-fashioned type of fan mail – the kind that came in the mailbox. But social media has made authors more accessible than they ever were before, and young readers don’t need to break out paper, pencil, and a stamp to contact their favorite writer.  If you’re reading this blog, then you probably have the same dream I have: to become a wildly successful MG author. 

What happens when you achieve that dream and your in-box explodes with messages from your readers?

Let’s all take a moment to imagine it. You’ve hit the big time.

How would YOU handle the fan mail?


  1. I think you should do what you can, and don't feel bad about not being able to do more.

    1. True, I think I would avoid saying NO RESPONSE, EVER, though. Maybe - random response? Ten per month?

  2. Great question! My fan mail is modest, at best. I'd love to be able to say I'd keep responding if things changed, but I can't imagine the number of people who contact famous authors nowadays, with all the easy, different ways to seek them out.

    1. Yes, it is SO easy, that I'll bet it's overwhelming.

      One good idea -- another student told me the author's website (I forget who it was) said that answers to commonly asked questions in fan mail would be answered on the author's blog. Not individually, but generally.

  3. As someone who'd be thankful for ONE such a letter when my book comes out, I don't know what I'd do, other than this, NEVER take it for granted.

    Even when authors can't answer all their letters, they should never take them for granted, readers will stay loyal FAR longer than most publishers today when we dip in sales enough.

    Most of my favorite authors are in Riordan's league sales wise, but I'd hate to seem them go short of dying. So my best advice is just never take any fan response for granted, even if you can't reply.

    1. EDIT: Most of my favorite authors are NOT in Riordan's league sales wise, but I'd hate to seem them go short of dying. So my best advice is just never take any fan response for granted, even if you can't reply.

    2. Taurean, I agree. It would've softened the blow if the message on the website mentioned that the fan mail was greatly appreciated.

      By the way ... looking forward to your 10 pages when you have them ready. Hoping you got my email. I sent it via the address on your blog.


  4. I'm an unpublished author. While the most I could hope for right now is a loyal cult following someday, I think I'd try to respond to my fans in some form of writing if I can. Maybe they'd get a thank you post card with a little note. But I sooo haven't gotten there yet!

    I was raised to always say thank you when someone says something nice about what I do, and I'd imagine that if I ever got overwhelmed with fan mail, it might bug me if I can't say thank you to everyone personally.

  5. yeah, I don't respond to blogger comments nearly as much as I used to either so I imagine responding to fan mail wouldn't be a priority. I like to think I'd try, though.:)

  6. Just found your blog looking at "how to deal with writer fan mail". :) I used to say stuff like "why WOULDN'T you respond to fans!" But you don't really know what it's like until you get twenty plus messages per week. And they're not just saying "love your stuff" usually they're asking advice, or questions, and it takes awhile to write back.

    It does seem like a shame that Rick Riordan can't interact with his fans, but I'm honestly not sure how he would "fix" that without stopping his writing altogether and JUST replying to fan mail. His fans wouldn't like that either!

    I think I'll do the old fashioned thing eventually and say "want a reply? Send me a snail mail letter" that weeds out the people who aren't totally determined to write to the author...


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!