One was from a lady who in Scotland who read one of my books and joined my fan page. She wanted me to know how much she appreciated waking up and finding that I had responded to her messages.
The second was from a man in Australia who sent me a list of things he liked about Silent Witness. He highlighted sentences that he particularly liked, but at the end of his note he said â€œthank you for making Hannah so intelligent.â€
The third was from the woman who wrote me my first fan letter. Weâ€™ve been pen pals for 28 years. Now we communicate on the computer, but every once in a while we still send one another a card, remember birthdays, the holidays and share information on grandchildren (hers since I only have a grand dog).
The point is that what authors do is extremely personal. It begins with our characters. If we donâ€™t feel them in our souls and translate that feeling into words on the page, our books will be enjoyed but not treasured. When we do make that magic happen and a reader reaches out, opening a personal dialogue with them will make a reader into a fan. In some wonderful instances our efforts also create a friend.
Here are my top five rules of engagement:
1)Know the personal history and habits of every character in your book and write as if you live and die with them.
2) When a fan writes, write back with more than a thank you. Acknowledge that you appreciate the time they took to write to you. I am always excited when someone takes the time to read my work; that they go the extra step is like having a cheerleader in my corner. I want them to know that.
3) Start a personal dialogue slowly. There are those fans that would like more of your time than others and those who wish to have a more personal relationship than you might be willing to enter into. It is up to you to set the parameters. For the most part, though, these relationships will be casual, fun and fulfilling for both sides.
4) If a reader contacts you about something in your book that touched them, expound on what got you to that place. For instance, Hostile Witness was inspired by a case my husband handled. As a criminal judge, he sentenced a sixteen-year-old boy to life in adult prison. The character, Hannah, and the plot of that book were based on this experience. It is a bit of personal information that is not too intimate but is interesting to readers.
5) Truly enjoy your interaction with readers, other authors and reviewers. Never look at it as a chore.
We are, perhaps, the luckiest people in the world. Despite the fact that our profession is solitary, the result of our labor is a book that reaches hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. When they reach back, that is the hallmark of success. Embrace real life dialogue; it is part of the joy of writing.