Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dear Future Successful Me: Go the Extra Mile for Your Fans

On Sunday I went to a rock concert. Stick around, I swear this has something to do with writing. 

My favorite band, The Used, is headlining the Take Action Tour to benefit the It Gets Better Project (if it’s stopping in your area, go-- great bands for an AWESOME cause). Naturally, I bought tickets last year as soon as they went on sale. One of the lesser-known bands also playing the tour is Crown the Empire, and though I’d never heard of them before, I decided to give them a listen so I’d know what to expect at the show. Turns out they have a pretty great sound, and I quickly considered myself a fan-- so I followed them on Twitter.

What’s amazing about CtE is that they respond to pretty much every Tweet that fans send their way. Sure, they’re not hugely popular, but they’re far from unknown. They get a lot of Tweets, and each one receives a personal (not automated) reply or RT.

The show was one of the best experiences of my life, certainly my favorite concert so far. Then, afterwards, CtE was hanging out at their merch booth, greeting fans and posing for pictures. Here’s mine:

I look like such a geek. And holy cow, are those guys hot or what?

When I got home, I tweeted the picture, complimented the band on their performance, and thanked them for taking the time to pose with me. Brandon, one of the guitarists, replied to me that very night, thanking me for coming out to the show.

Like, whoa. These guys have a fan for life.

The willingness to get personal with fans, to answer their Tweets, Facebook posts, emails, letters, etc., makes an incredible difference. Forging that connection inspires loyalty and creates a real relationship with the people who love and respect your work. I recognize that someone like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling is not going to be able to respond to each and every fan letter. It’s physically impossible, and we want them to have time for writing their next great novel, right? But let’s face it, most of us aren’t at quite that level of superstardom. 

When I was a child (probably 11 or 12ish) I wrote an email to Tamora Pierce telling her, if I remember correctly, that her books were awesome and that I named all my cats after her characters. (I had a Daine, a Thayet, an Alanna...) Having read on her website that she was always looking for book recommendations, I told her to check out Robin McKinley (duh). It took a very long time for her to respond, but respond she did. The main thing I remember from that letter is her telling me that she had a cat who “shares the printer-attacking hobby with your Daine.” She also agreed with me that Robin McKinley rocks. It was a very nice letter, and she had clearly read mine and given a very unique, personal reply. This delighted me and cemented my devotion to her work.

All you need to do to get fans is write a good book. But going the extra mile and being open to communication with those people strengthens your bond with them, makes them remember you, and causes them to be more disposed toward reading your work in the future. Even if you’re not famous yet, start being a good literary citizen by being grateful and humble when someone praises you or gives you helpful feedback. Those habits will come in handy when you’re at the top of the bestseller list!

A final note: A few months ago I tweeted a pic of myself with my rat, Sylvi, who is named after a Robin McKinley character. McKinley retweeted my photo, so two of my greatest idols now officially believe me to be a crazy pet person. *shrug*

Chilling with my pal Sylvi. Seriously, go buy a rat, they're the best pets.


  1. I'm so glad you had such excellent experiences with people whose work you admire. I was once with a famous and much-beloved writer who was so rude to a fan who came to our dinner table--not even asking for anything, just to say that this person's work had meant the world to her. The writer was horribly rude and the young woman left, mortified and crushed. I was appalled.

    Personally, I feel grateful and amazed when somebody emails or sends any other kind of communication to tell me they like my work. It makes me really happy. I always respond immediately.

    Getting "fan mail" is kind of like getting a postcard from my book, letting me know what it's like out there in the world without me.

    Keep blogging!


    1. Thanks Barb! I love the image of getting a postcard from your book. I can't imagine being rude to an admirer! I feel like hearing from fans would be an incredibly uplifting experience-- something to be grateful for, not brush off.