Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 14, 2008: The Power of Fan Mail

In my travels to author conferences, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard variations on this same speech: “You’ve Written Your Book. Now What?”

I can tell them “what.”

“What” is, if you’re lucky, handing over your intellectual property that you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time nurturing to some person at a publishing house whose last creative thought, mercifully, went down on the first flush of the bowl. “What” is watching others co-opt your vision and turn it into something you don’t recognize while you stand helplessly by.

“What” is, once your intellectual property is pushed out into the world, doing everything you can to ensure that you can find an audience who would love reading your story just as much as you enjoyed writing it. This might involve spending the GDP of a small nation on publicity, marketing, conferences, signage, samplers, tours, and anything else that might help you grab the attention of a population that has the attention span of a hummingbird on a Starbucks triple espresso.

For me, the ultimate high is making a connection with people through something that I created. Unfortunately, as many of us authors painfully realize, that desire gets lost in a sea of agents, editors, biannual royalty statements, the disbelief of the numbers on said royalty statements, Publishers Lunch and who’s gotten a better deal than you have, self-promotion, and, as one of my Blogging In Black colleagues said in a recent post, the voices inside of your head that you just cannot shut up, the voices of characters in the book you’d write if you could find a few minutes in the day so that the Muse may appear. In other words, more “what.”

Add this to the fact that most of the authors I know are creative people trying to navigate the soullessness expanse of Corporate America and the denizens inhabiting it. Throw a significant other, kids, and/or a pet into the mix, and soon – hypothetically speaking, of course – you’re sitting up late at night with an icy tumbler of Bacardi Select and Coke, pondering the crossroads at which you find yourself. The Dream versus Reality.

From my past posts, you know that I’ve been standing at this crossroads a lot lately, asking myself the hard questions late at night, when all is quiet. Fortunately for me, it is around that time that I also check my e-mail. At the crossroads late on April 29 of this year, I opened an e-mail entitled “Back to Life.” It went a little something like this:

Good evening Wendy,

OH MY GOODNESS... I just want to thank you for creating such a
wonderful and inspiring novel. You truly have an amazing gift. I have read my share of novels and I must say this one was incredible from the start....and I could not put it down. I literally just finished reading it and I had to Google you so I can send you this message. I hope you continue to write ...and I will happily read.

Thanks again for such an amazing story...You don’t know how your
work really touches the life of others. Thanks for restoring my faith in
happily ever afters.


Fan mail like this makes both the “what” and my tenure at the aforementioned crossroads a bit bearable. Because of M. and people like her with whom I’ve made that connection, I able to think that the road leading to The Dream may just trump the rutted road of a reality that truly bites. Because of M., I am able to ponder taking the road less traveled.

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