I got a very nice delivery from the postman the other day. A letter (and a request) from a fan of The Edinburgh Dead, generous and warm enough to put a smile on my face. Two things occurred to me about it:
first, yes a real letter. Handwritten, in an envelope with stamps on it and everything. The rarity of getting actually interesting stuff through that avenue these days is sufficient to make it a disproportionately enjoyable experience. I mean, when was the last time you wrote an actual, physical letter to someone? With a pen, in your own handwriting? I actually can’t remember the last time I did it, but I’d guess it’s in excess of ten years; quite possibly a lot in excess. It’s a bit of a shame, really, given how nice they are to receive. But, of course, I’m fairly too lazy to actually conclude from this that I should start writing my letters by hand rather than just doing the e-mail thing.
Second, this letter only got written because, as it turns out, the fan in question had already tried to contact me – with the same praise and request – by the nowadays more conventional avenue of digital media, and failed to get a response. So she took it upon herself to go the old-school route, and wrote to me via my agent.
Now, my failure to respond to the original approach was poor behaviour, for which I have reprimanded myself, but it was completely unintentional (honest). I do try to make a point of responding in one way or another to any remotely sensible contact from readers (or anyone else, for that matter). Apart from the fact that it’s only polite to do so, that sort of contact is precious beyond words to us writers, who are in the main a fretful and lonely bunch starved of human interaction. Feedback from happy readers is – unless you’re a bestselling author whose royalty statements have numbers on them too large for the human brain to process – the very best, and sometimes just about the only, encouragement you could ever hope for. I’m always grateful for it.
So, when I fail to respond to incoming queries, thanks, whatever, nine times out of ten it’s going to be due to an oversight on my part, not because I’m a callous soul, indifferent to the efforts of others. It does happen now and again, and I apologise to anyone who’s been on the (non-)receiving end of my poor organisational skills. You’re allowed to try and prod me into responsiveness again, should that have happened to you.
I’m guessing there are some writers around who find it completely impractical to actually respond to every contact they get from their readers, due to the sheer volume of adoration heaped upon them every day. Prodding them with repeated questions is, I suspect, less likely to endear you to them. I’m a softer (and less popular) creature than they, so I don’t mind. I like it when folks tell me they enjoyed stuff I wrote, so thank you to any and all who’ve done so. You undoubtedly helped, each time, to make my day a little brighter, and it’s much appreciated.