Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today pondering an email sent to me recently. Every once in a while I receive a communication, supposedly from a reader, that doesn’t quite ring true. Since this was one of those, I did not answer it, but now I wonder if I made the right decision.
Right off the bat, I was disinclined to be receptive. Why? Because although the email came to an email address that included my full name, the salutation read “Dear Kathie.” Call me oversensitive, but you’d think my self-proclaimed “fan” would have known how to spell my name. I respond to Kathy or Kathy Lynn. I wince at Kathy Lee but can understand the error. Kathie Lee Gifford is a lot more famous than Kathy Lynn Emerson. Still, it’s Kathy Lynn on the book covers, on my webpage, on Facebook, and in my email address. This isn’t rocket science!
Okay, leaving the misspelled name aside, the body of the email began by stating that the sender was a “new fan” of mine. Then, instead of, for example, mentioning the title of a book by me that he’d read, or saying anything about why he’s a fan—not to stroke my ego, but just out of common courtesy, and because there should be some reason he likes my writing and is going to the trouble of contacting me—he tells me what state he lives in. The text of the email is all one paragraph. The remainder consists of three questions: “Are your books available in audio? If so what is the link? Also do you have a news letter that I can subscribe to on your website?”
Those are all legitimate queries, but in order to find my email address in the first place, he presumably went to my website. If that’s the case, he should already know there’s no newsletter sign up. What is there is a complete list of my books that includes what few audio editions there are.
My correspondent signed himself “Your new fan, and new listener.”
Did I mention that the entire email was written in purple, using a font size of at least 24?
But here’s my problem. I always wonder afterward if I should answer an email like this one. What if my “new fan” is just a kid? I’ve written children’s books as Kathy. On the other hand, I’ve received plenty of fan mail from young readers in the past and they’ve always made specific references to the book or books they’ve read. On the other hand, he could be one of those “fans” who try to start a correspondence with every writer than can find an address for. As a general rule, those folks never seem to read books at all, let alone books by the people they’re writing to.
So, here’s my question to those of you reading this blog: What do you think an author should do in response to a suspiciously un-fanlike fan letter like this one? Answer it? Ignore it? Or maybe just flip a coin?
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-three books traditionally published and has self published several children’s books and three works of nonfiction. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her next publication (as Kaitlyn) is the fourth book in the contemporary “Deadly Edits” series (Murder, She Edited), in stores in August 2021. As Kathy, her most recent novel is a standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen, now available in e-book format.