Written by: Rebecca Foster
This morning I received three emails.
One was from a lady 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 “thank you for making Hannah so intelligent.”
The third was from the very first fan I ever had. We’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 of all this is that what authors do is extremely personal. It begins with our characters. If we don’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 it also creates a friend.
Here are my top five rules of engagement:
1) Know thou characters: Know the personal history and habits of every character in your book and write as if you live and die with them. If you do this, real people will reach out to you.
2) Appreciation: When a fan writes, write back with more than a thank you. Acknowledge that you appreciate the time they took to write you. I am always excited when someone takes the time to read my work; that they go the extra step and contact me is like having a cheerleader in my corner. I want them to know how great they made me feel.
3) Slow and steady: 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.
4) Be vulunerable: If a reader contacts you about something in your book that touched them, share the journey. 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) Have fun: Truly enjoy your interaction with readers, other authors and reviewers.
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 success. Make sure you know that real life dialogue is part of the joy of writing.
About the Author:
Rebecca Forster wrote her first book on a crazy dare and found her passion. Now, with over thirty novels to her name, she is both a USA Today and Amazon best selling author.
Rebecca earned an MBA and enjoyed a career in marketing before becoming a full time writer. She has taught at UCLA’s acclaimed Writers Program and is active in the Young Writers Conference for middle school students. She has been a featured speaker at writing conferences, a guest on both radio and television, and the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles.
Residing in Southern California, Rebecca is married to a superior court judge and is the mother of two sons. When she is not writing or traveling, Rebecca can be found on the tennis court or in front of a sewing machine.