Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thank You Notes Are An Author's Greatest Tool

You know how, when you were a kid, your parents always made you write thank you notes? If a family member sent you birthday money, or a friend gave you a gift, or someone said something nice to you, then you had to spend fifteen minutes or so at the kitchen table writing a little note to that person expressing your gratitude. I used to wonder why I had to do this. After all, no one has ever received money they weren't expecting in the mail and thought, "ugh, what am I going to do with this?" And surely the in-person thanks, likely coupled with a hug and a beaming smile, were proof enough of my gratitude... why do I have to reinforce it?

The answer is that I needed to build a habit. A habit which, as an adult, is an important thing for an author to possess.

You get more reader loyalty with heartfelt thanks than you do with a .45.

The Dance of Gratitude, and How it Helps You

So, why does an author need this tool in his or her troubleshooting locker? It won't help you resolve that dangling plot thread, create a more compelling narrative, or allow you to mystically predict the exact word count of every project, so what good is it?

Well, as any experienced author can tell you, writing is only part of your job. It's a big part of your job, but it's not the whole of your job. You still need to publish your stories, work with editors, go to conventions, interact with fans, get reviews, and attempt to generate an audience around your books. No one can do all of that on their own, which is why it's important to be able to use a well-placed thank you the way a champion fencer slips in around an opponent's guard.

I greatly appreciated that 5-star review.
I'll give you some examples of how a simple "thank you" can make your life easier, and help your career go further. Say you submitted a piece of work to a publisher. The editor who reviewed it sent you a rejection letter, but in that rejection letter said that he really enjoyed your manuscript, it just wasn't right for them. So, in response, you thank the editor for his time, and for his praise. Then, once you've shown that you can gracefully accept a "no," ask if that editor has any suggestions for places that would be more appropriate. Not only is the editor more likely to send you back a response, but if he has a colleague at one of those other locations, he might shoot an email over and ask for them to take a special look at your submission.

This kind of deft social maneuver can open all sorts of doors. If a fan gives you a positive review, shoot that fan an email thanking them for their kind words. They already liked your book, but now you've also shown that your readers matter by reaching out and being humble. You can even send out a mass thank you on social media, and while it might have less impact, it will generally mean your followers are better disposed to you. A thank you email is always appropriate when a blog or magazine reviews your book, even if they didn't enjoy it, or had some criticism for you. By showing that you appreciate their time and effort, you're more likely to be positively regarded by the reviewer, and it will keep doors open for future requests.

There's No Guarantee

There's no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to being an author. Your book might fly off the shelves, or it might get ignored. It could suddenly catch fire five years from now, and become a hot ticket. You could be a perfect professional, but there will always be reviewers, editors, or publishers who treat you like garbage. All you can do is keep your head up, and do your best.

Haters gonna hate.
If you remember nothing else, remember this; you lose nothing by saying thank you. Not saying it, though, could cost you serious social currency in the wrong situation. Also, if you're looking to make friends, here is The One Phrase Every Author Needs To Know For Networking Success. Seriously, it works.

Thanks for stopping in to check out this week's business-related post. If you have questions, concerns, or requests, feel free to drop me a line, or leave a comment below. If you'd like to help support The Literary Mercenary, then stop by my Patreon page! As little as $1 a month can make a big difference, and keep the content flowing. Also, if you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter as well.


  1. Cool advice. Helpful. Stark. True. So thank you.

  2. Thank you for that post. I too sat at the kitchen table writing thank you notes. Now it's almost second nature. I always send a thank you tweet to all new followers on Twitter, for example.

  3. Good advice. Too bad you had to throw in a graphic of a gun and money to help make your point.

    1. That particular image is something of my official display image. Brings across the sort of attitude I like to associate with my career, for good or for ill.