Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thank-you Notes? No Thanks

It seems we have a curious topic at Wicked Writers this week.

It deals with thank-you notes and have we ever sent t hem out.

Going by C.J.’s blog yesterday, it seems that she is referring to sending out thank-you notes to authors after reading their books.

Hey, that might float some people’s boats, but not mine. Honestly, my version of a thank-you note in that case is:

“Hey, I just paid $$$ for your book! THANK YOU!”

By the way, that’s what every book sales receipt implicitly implies.

Think about it if you’re on the other end of this note. You write a book. It gets published and someone buys it at Barnes & Nobles (or Borders if they happen to live close to the one remaining store). You get royalties from the book sales.

That’s all you should expect.

You’re probably not going to get a thank-you note. If you do, you have the makings of a fan club.


You have the makings of a stalker.

It depends. If the note begins “…just wanted to thank you for a superb story,” you’re probably safe.

If it begins, instead with “I’m your biggest fan,” then, you’re probably in a lot of trouble.

Maybe I’m being cynical, though anyone who knows me knows that would hardly ever be the case. Getting a nice thank-you note from a sincere reader might just be icing on the cake for an author, especially a first-time author.

Seriously, though, it has never occurred to me to write any author a thank-you note for a book I’ve read. As I mentioned earlier, if I paid for it, that’s enough. If I read it in the library, it’s public domain material and the public is notoriously fickle, “fickle” meaning “not all there.”

As Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) once said “Is it just me, Ed or is the whole world crazy?” to which Ed (George Kennedy) replied, “No, it’s just a small percentage of the population.”

Another thing to consider is that most authors don’t get the fan mail directly. With all the kooks and nuts and groupies out there, it’s dangerous to ever list your home or mailing address. Instead, the fan mail usually goes to the publisher, who then has a lackey go through it, looking for threats (and perfume and panties and bras and room keys and Google maps to homes…).

Besides, a lot of authors use pen names anyway, so you’d never be sure of finding the real address anyway.  Depending on your genre, that might not be a bad idea, since we can’t all live in small-town Maine where a stranger who runs down a famous author and never apologizes dies under mysterious circumstances a year to the day, hour and minute.

Which bodes ill for me since I use my full name (what with all the Gregory M. Smiths in the Atlanta area alone).

Memo: When I become famous, get unlisted phone number and listing in phone book. 
P.S.: Provided they even make phone books anymore.

On a lighter note, I do think it is polite and necessary to send thank-you notes for critiques. If someone takes the time to make a critique, however negative (or however positive if you’re reading something from any Wicked Writer with a full first name), you should thank them for taking their valuable time to read your work.

No matter how shocked they might have been by the intensely erotic XXX sex scenes or how bewildered they might have been by the fact that the denizens of the supernatural are now sex symbols, thank them anyway.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


  1. LMAO!! Ahh... no respect, I tells ya, no respect.

    Hey, I think the topic said "note" not necessarily a "thank you note". But, it could just be my lack of a full name and only using initials that makes me more aware of the printed word.

    Oh - and off topic, I'm sending you an email in a bit. Should brighten your day ;-)

  2. I'll tell you in 10 years if it was a good idea to use my real name.
    Don't think it hurts to send a note when something resonates with me. But as a writer or even a judge in a contest, kind of nice to get them. But I don't expect them. And you're right. Don't think we should.

  3. Maybe I just should have said that I'm too lazy to send notes. Thanks for reading, you two.

  4. WOW - I am so surprised by the negative reactions to this weeks topic!

    For the past three years, I have wrote a note to EVERY author I have had the "pleasure" of reading their books. Out of the 200+ authors I have written, I have received a personal reply from almost 90% of them.

    The more famous they are, however, the less of a chance of receiving any reply what so ever. And it seems e-published and Indie authors are MUCH MORE in tune with their readers than regular print published authors - even mid-list.

    The authors who have replied back thank me, answer questions I had about their story (or writing in general) and some will even ask if I want some swag sent my way. Of course, I always say yes.

    I contact the authors either with e-mail via their website or a msg at face book. Those who were 'too good' to slum on face book (and their websites don't accept mail over 500 characters), got a note sent via their publishers.

    And while I'm at it, if the book has really impressed me, I send a note TO the publisher letting them know I enjoyed the book and want to see more books like this... Doing the math, I see that nearly every indie and e-publisher I sent a note to, telling them I really liked such and such a book and would like to see more like it or more from that author - answered me.

    None of the big publishing houses answered. Hmmm. And you would think they would have a department for that. Maybe that is why the print industry is going to hell in a handbasket. They are out of touch with their readers.

    IMHO, I think it's only common decency to let an author (or an artist or an actor) know how much their hard work has touched your life; made you think, made you smile, etc.

    I mean, come on! Who DOESNT want to know their hard work has made some sort of impact - even if it was a few hours of escape...? And who doesn't get a kick out of a small note that states - "Loved the book - have recommended it to all my friends and picked up a few for Christmas presents..."

    And it takes no time at all, to bless an author (or anyone, for that matter) with a random act of kindness.

    Go a head and call me an unpublished amateur - but I would love to hear (but don't have great expectations) from my readers.

    In fact, when I wrote fan-fic, I kept the over 2,000 responses to my stories from 2007-2009. The majority of them were positive, encouraging me to go deeper, higher, better.

    Yeah, some of the comments to me were nit-picky -- but you know that was okay -- everyone's entitled to an opinion. The negative reviews never bothered me (much). It's just the way it is in life and you go on.

    Oh, and for the record, out of the 2,000 responses, I had no cyber stalkers. (*grin)

    Now on that same token - I don't write to authors whom I think suck. Nor do I write to authors whom I couldn't finish their books because the story was dead. I am a firm believer in what my momma taught me: If I can't say anything positive, don't say anything at all.

    It just surprises me, in this day and age, with everything so easy-peasy, to hear people say they don't write encouragement or let their voices be heard.

    Then again, not everyone is as opinionated and anal retentive as I am.

  5. Love you, George! Yes, you made a GREAT case for why we should write to fellow authors with kind words. I took the negative slant with my post b/c I just don't "get" the people who feel they have to piss on someone's day.

  6. Aww, Greg. You're seriously telling me a note from a reader saying how much they loved reading your book doesn't brighten your day?

    Well, it sure as hell makes ME happy. In fact, that's how I met one of my best friends (okay, so she's also a writer). Call it a stalker if you want, but I call them fans and I'll always love my fans.

    When I was younger, I used to write fan mail to celebs I admired, including authors. Funny thing, the authors never wrote me back, but my favorite musicians did. At the time I was disappointed. Now that I know what's like to be an author, I realize they were probably just to busy to get back to me. LOL. I would write back to my fans as much as possible. I write fiction for myself, for my own enjoyment, but I publish for them, the readers.

  7. Wow... just love the (good natured) controversy such subjects raise! George’s argument is compelling. Greg, I’m with you – never thought about thank-you notes (and you got C.J. laughing! always good value). I am inclined to agree with Sharon and J.D.: the idea of receiving one would sure make my day! So perhaps I’d better consider it… Since I don’t read too many books each year, I should be able to cope with a few letters :)