Friday, September 19, 2014

Contact Your Author

The New Yorker ran a hilarious column in its September 8th issue. Written by Heather Havrilesky it was entitled "How to Contact the Author." In it the cartoonish author declares "I love to hear from my readers. My readers are everything to me, and hearing from them makes me feel so blessed." She continues with her email address, begs her readers to friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, add her name to the LinkedIn Network, and follow her on Instagram. She begs the reader to tweet her questions no matter how personal or prying saying that she can't wait to reply and having the answers available to hundreds of strangers. She goes on to give her text number and urges the fan to call her at home or drop by the house. "Dinnertime works fine. Middle of the night, also perfect. I am so incredibly humble to have you in my life, whoever the hell you are."

 There much more to this satire. It ends, of course, with an appeal for the reader to buys her books on Amazon. All writers nowadays are acutely aware of the value of BSP. Blatant Self Promotion. How far does one go and does bombarding the public actually sell books? Frankly, I am totally turned off by daily emails from writers regarding their latest activities. They are quickly routed to junk email.

Do authors welcome contact with fans? Actually, I do. When someone cares enough to write me about a book I feel honored and deeply grateful to know they like my series. I also appreciate knowing why they like my books.

Recently a lady wrote to correct a historical detail in Hidden Heritage. I was humiliated because I spend a lot of time on research and really thought I knew in this case. I quickly learned I was wrong and will apply that lesson to future books. We corresponded and became friends. I sent her a free book and she sent me some priceless information about a real madstone that had been handed down through seven generations.

There have been a couple of exceptions to enjoying contacts with fan. When my historical novel, Come Spring came out, I was contacted by a man who wrote a nice letter (in pencil) saying how much he liked my book. I sent my usual personal reply saying how much I appreciated his interest in my writing. He wrote back saying he was in a maximum security prison for criminal sexual assault against little boys. He bet my grandchildren were cute. My blood chilled. That finished polite responses on my part.

It wasn't the end as far as he was concerned. I started receiving collect phone calls from his prison. Naturally I refused. My husband worried that he would show up on my doorstep some day. I contacted my lawyer who was a good friend and was subjected to a general bawling out in the form of "what in the hell were you thinking?" Following that, he instructed me to take the letters to the sheriff so there would be a paper trail.

Don commented that was to make sure when the sheriff found my dismembered body in the vacant field next to our house the detectives would know where to start with suspects. No more came of this.

Now that I've established that I love hearing from fans, those of us on Type M would love to hear from our readers. How much contact do you want with authors? Lots? None? or somewhere in between? For that matter, what would you like to know?


Irene Bennett Brown said...

A friend of mine, a lonely widow and also a writer, corresponded with a prison inmate for a time. His crime was running down a woman on a bicycle with his car, seriously injuring and then raping her. My friend's kids went nuts when they learned about her penpal and the correspondence ended. Just recalling the situation makes me wonder if anyone has written a mystery that might be called "Penpals Can Be Murder".

Charlotte Hinger said...

That's a great idea for a plot. I think you would be a great person to follow up on this. I'm deep into reading about serial killers right now. I amazed at how many of them keep escalating from "beginners" crime to more serious ones.

Eileen Goudge said...

I had a prison "pen pal" when I still had a P.O. box for snail mail from readers. He wrote very polite letters, nothing weird or disturbing. I wrote back a few times, but I felt funny about it, not knowing his crime. Finally I got up the nerve to ask, and was actually relieved when I found out it was drug charges. I didn't want to learn I'd corresponded with a murderer or rapist.