Two weeks ago I did a post about an author who admits to answering very little email. Today I'm going to write about those authors who do write back.
Sometime between the years 1994 and 2002, which is the length of time between when I started writing seriously and first got offered a publishing contract, I got it into my head that one way to get agents/editors to pay more attention to my work would be if I were to amass super-early blurbs from bestselling authors.
I got busy writing letters.
Not surprisingly, these bestselling authors did not jump at the chance to spend five to ten hours of their time reading the unpublished work of some stranger to whom they had absolutely no connection.
But what was surprising was how many wrote back, and this was before the days of the ease of email reply - these were real handwritten letters!
Mary Higgins Clark wrote in Sept 1997 and told me she was glad I was pursuing the dream and that her own first published book had been rejected more than once before being picked up by S&S.
Peter Benchley sent a pre-printed note card with his regrets, informing me of his lack of secretary or staff to handle his voluminous mail.
Sidney Sheldon was too busy writing his own book, but he was sure I'd be a huge success.
Susan Isaacs was also busy with her own writing - honestly, what was it with all these writers busily writing their own books? - and while she said nothing about being sure I'd be a huge success, as Mr. Sheldon had done, she did wish me enormous luck.
Michael Crichton did not write back himself. Instead, I received a letter filled with legalese from an assistant.
Ira Levin was glad I was one of the loyal fans of This Perfect Day but couldn't help me because he had no interest in the genre in which I was writing.
Catherine Coulter felt she was over-quoted and declined.
Jane Smiley referred me to her agent who read and declined.
Ken Follett regretted that reading the manuscripts of family and friends prevented him from reading mine.
And in the most delightfully dotty letter I've ever received, Dame Barbara Cartland wrote from Hertfordshire, with veddy British advice about how to "get one's wares published." I pictured her in a pink feather robe, matching mules on her feet, a white dog in her lap as she concluded, "I am a great believer in the power of prayer. Before I start a new book I always pray and somehow I manage to think of a new plot, and by the end of the story the characters have found true love and lasting happiness. I like to think that God has helped me. I do hope I have been of help to you."
No, none of them had been a help to me, not in the exact way I'd envisioned, but they'd been polite and encouraging and sometimes funny.
Of course I didn't know then what I know now, now that I've spent several years on the receiving end of such requests: What an insanely huge and hugely insane thing I was asking of them! I was asking for time and lots of it. Can you imagine if you decided you wanted to be an accountant and you then went into some strange accountant's office and asked her to give you five to ten hours of her time, for no other reason than the kindness of giving? No one does or expects stuff like that in most professions, and yet we writers ask writers who are strangers for enormous favors all the time without even thinking about it.
Now here's where I need to add that back when I was writing those letters to bestselling authors two did agree to read my manuscript. Both were men, both are still alive and names you would recognize, both called me up on the phone to offer praise and encouragement, and both provided me with blurbs. That manuscript never did sell and I'm afraid I can't give the names of those writers out. While their incredible generosity in terms of time and attention to an unpublished writer is worthy of acknowledgment, I'm sure the best thing I can do for them is to keep my mouth shut...so they don't get deluged with requests from presumptuous people like me!
Thank you, writers who blurbed.
Thank you, writers who didn't blurb but did encourage.
Thank you, writers who wrote back at all.
Thank you, writers who never or rarely write back to anyone, because you give me something to write about.
How about you? Any memorable stories to recount about corresponding with authors?
Be well. Don't forget to write.