How Much Interaction Should Authors Have With Readers?

Recently, my teen daughter read a YA book that she absolutely loved. After reading the book, she went to the author’s website eager to find more books by that author. While she was browsing the site, she ran across a “contact box.”

She turned to me and said, “Mom, I’d really like to write a note to this author and tell her how much I liked her book. Would that be okay?”

And I was like, “Would that be okay?! Are you kidding! That would be fantastic! Go for it! I always love hearing from readers, and I’m sure she’d be thrilled to get a note from you.”

So my daughter typed her little email, pressed send, and then waited. Yes. She waited. Maybe not literally. But a few days later she said, “Mom, I haven’t heard back from that author yet. Do you think she’ll write back to me?”

Again, I was like, “Will she write back?! Of course she will! I always write back to readers who contact me. Why wouldn’t she write back? Just give her a few days. I'm sure she's just as busy as me.”

Well, you can probably guess where this story is going. Several more days passed and my daughter said, “It’s been a week now. I don’t think that author is going to write me back.”

Of course the dejection in her voice ruffled my mother hen feathers. I immediately wanted to write to that author myself and chew her out a bit. But I didn’t. Instead, I pushed away from my laptop where I’d been working and tried to console my daughter.

As I thought through the incident, I couldn’t keep from asking this question: How much interaction should the modern author have with readers? What’s appropriate? What constitutes too much or too little?

It really boils down to this: What does the modern reader want from the authors whose books they read and love?

Obviously, first and foremost, readers want another story they can fall in love with. My daughter sought out this YA author’s website to find out if she had any more books. If she hadn’t liked the first book, she would have put it down, and that would have been the end of that author’s connection in the life of my daughter.

But because she LOVED the book, she pursued the author further. She took that next step of seeking out more books AND a connection to an author she admired.

In a “one-click-away” social media addicted culture, we can connect with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. And once we initiate communication, we want to be acknowledged. In fact, we often expect a response. Sometimes we even think a lack of response is rude.

So, what’s an author to do? Especially when we’re already busy writing our books, marketing them, and building our platforms?

If we don’t take the time to respond to readers, I highly doubt that will stop them from going out and purchasing our next book. As I said, if they love our stories, that’s the most important thing. Even though my daughter felt slighted by the author, a few days later I heard her mention the book to one of her friends as a “favorite.” I have no doubt my daughter will bug me to buy the next book by this author once it’s released.

Even so, I still think we as writers can be sensitive to our readers. Here are several of my thoughts on how we can do that:

1. If an author doesn’t have the time to write back to readers, then DON'T have a Contact Box. Or at the very least, they could put a note next to the contact box explaining that while they love hearing from readers, they won’t be able to write back. At least the reader will see that up front and not be left wondering what happened.

Let's be honest. If we put a Contact Box on our website or blog, then essentially we're inviting people to connect with us. It's not there simply so that we can collect a file full of compliments about our books that make us feel better about ourselves.

2. Authors should prioritize their interactions. In the plethora of daily communications, if we’re short on time, we may have to decide to forgo chatting on Twitter or Facebook so that we can have the time to interact with our most important customers—our readers. If we’re unable to juggle everything, then we have to decide who is more important in the success of our writing career. For me, that’s readers.

Obviously the super-star, best-selling authors are in a different position than most of the rest of us. They'd likely need to hire an assistant if they wanted to respond to all of their fan mail. However, the large majority of us aren't nearly as overwhelmed by reader emails.

3. The more visible and relatable an author remains the better. Think about what happens when we’re closed off, silent, and unavailable on our social media sites. People might begin to think we’re stuck up, that we think we’re too good to talk to anyone but our closest circles of friends. Such an aura (even if it’s not true) could send out negative vibes and alienate our readers. Why take the risk? Why not remain humble, available, and responsive?

Yes, it takes some time. But, if we’re not prioritizing our interactions with readers on social media, then what’s the point of it all? Isn’t that why we’re on social media in the first place?

So how much interaction do you think authors should have with their readers? Have you ever written to an author and not heard back? How did it make you feel? How has it made you feel when an author has taken the time to respond?


  1. Jody, that is so sad that the author did not respond to your daughter. I'm crossing my fingers that the author is just really busy writing that next book and has not responded to her e-mails yet.

    Kids that age especially are so sensitive, yet your daughter gave her a tremendous plug by recommending the book by word of mouth to her friends. Writers cannot buy that kind of publicity!

    I agree about writers should not have a contact box or some sort of disclosure if they are unable to respond to their readers.

  2. My perspective is a little skewed right now. As an aspiring-to-be-published writer who is building a platform I can tell you that I'm THRILLED to receive either an email from someone who has read one of my blogs or an actual comment posted on the blog and can't wait to respond. I always try to let them know how much I appreciate their time and the fact that they left a comment. Obviously if you're receiving several hundred emails a day there's no way to respond to them all, but I would love to think of a creative way to acknowledge each contact. It does make you feel connected when an author - or anyone, for that matter - responds, Does that sound like a stalker?? :)

    I think your ideas are good ones. Hope I will need them one day! :)I don't want to be someone who works hard to build a platform to get published, then forgets about those who have supported along the way.

  3. This brought Anne Rice to mind. She connects with her fans - her People of the Page - through Facebook, multiple times per day. While she's all about starting conversations with the masses, if you post something directly to her, on her page, it's more than likely she will respond. And it's thrilling, let me tell you. It's oh-my-God-I've-got-to-take-a-screenshot-of-this thrilling. :-)

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the "contact me" box, Jody. If the author (who may be away on vacation or some such thing) isn't going to take time to respond to notes sent via a contact link, there should be a disclaimer to that effect.

    On a completely different note, the artwork that is your book covers is gorgeous. :-) Have a great day!

  4. Good morning, ladies! Thanks for the sweet words about my book cover, Ellen. I was thrilled with the cover. In fact, just yesterday I got to see the cover for my next release (April of 2013), and LOVED it!

    As far as how many email contacts the average author gets per day, I think that's going to really vary. In the months after a release, I tend to get more. I expect to be busier and adjust my schedule to handle it. But no matter how busy, I usually set aside email response time once a day. In fact, I just responded to several reader emails this morning.

  5. I always wished I could write Carolyn Keene and then grew up to realize that person didn't exist!

    Jody is an author who responds--and promptly--I love that! She even agreed to be a guest on my blog one time and that post is the second most viewed on my blog! Another author who responds--via twitter--is James Scott Bell.

    To my way of thinking it is just plain good manners to respond when someone speaks to you. Not answering an email is akin to not interacting with a person who is looking you dead in the eye and expecting a response--it is rude.

    Maybe your daughter's email went into the spam box. I need to get into the habit of checking mine at least once a day.

  6. Elise Stokes, author of the best-selling Cassidy Jones series, also responds to email. My daughter loves her books and told her so--Mariana was thrilled when she answered back.

    Ms. Stokes also used my daughter's fan art in a video featuring other Cassidy fans' art.

  7. I did a blog post about a book my daughter and I read. She fell in love with this author and spread the word about her at school.

    One morning, I checked my tweets and that author had read the blog and tweeted a reply about it, thanking my daughter by name. Classy. And my daughter went to school shining like a star. It makes a huge difference. It makes readers feel special. Noticed. Cared about.:)

  8. I've experienced both. Some writers are very quick to respond, while others, not so much.

    My daughter sent her first favorite author an email, and this lady wrote her back within a week. The email is up on my future writer daugther's bulletin board. :) Now, she's my favorite author for inspiring my daughter.

  9. Connecting with readers makes them feel special. I'm certainly not a big-time author, and I want my readers to feel special, so I make the time to reply to an email. If a reader takes the time to let me know how she feels about my book, I can reply and let her know how much I appreciate her words. We're in this business to connect with readers. As a reader, I know the disappointment of not hearing back from an author.

  10. A few months back, while still dreaming of writing that first book, I read Laura Frantz' Courting Morrow Little and The Colonel's Lady and I fell in love with her writing, which prompted me to go to her website (I rarely did this at the time) and see what else she had. I noticed her blog and went back to the very beginning and read a little of it. I sat at my computer crying tears of joy, because her words mirrored my own writer's heart and they inspired me to start my own writing journey. Imagine my surprise when I contacted her and then she contacted me back - and not generically, but with a heartfelt offer of welcome and support. We've connected many times since then and she was one of my first blog followers. I can't tell you how much this has encouraged me and given me the desire to spread the word about her books.

    After finding her blog, I found yours and so many other's and I connected with quite a few authors on Facebook and Twitter and I've been telling people for months that I'm amazed at how accessible authors are! And I get the sense that Christian authors aren't in direct competition with one another, but truly see writing as a ministry that all of us seek to use for God's glory. It's been one of the highlights of my life, connecting with other authors online. I will always remember how important it is.

  11. It sounds like quite a balancing act, or maybe another ball to juggle would be the best way to put it. Life is all about choices and priorities and such. Connecting to readers seems huge, and something I would hope to do. But friends on Facebook are the people I care about, too, and "chatting" with them is similar to having that person in your home. Old connections renewed are especially important. It seems like there are no easy answers; we will probably always miss someone who has contacted us, in the media world of today. I'm sorry your daughter had this experience and imagine it will, eventually, change her choice of books. One particular author who has been exceedingly kind to me has my undying devotion, and I know her fans are growing because of her generous spirit.

  12. As I navigate this journey, I'm amazed at the sweet cards and thoughtful items I've started to receive through the mail. I look at all these "connections" as future readers AND friends. I enjoy getting to know people, and I feel honored when they take the time out of their busy day to send well-wishes or simply ask a question.

    Jody, I think your authenticism shines through in all that you do.

    And bless your daughter's little heart. Hopefully, the author will respond in the near future.

  13. I agree with you 100%. When an author has a way to contact him/her, my expectation is that he/she will write back. Maybe that's too expectant of me, but there you go.

    If I'm ever a published author, I think connecting with readers would be one of the most fun things about my job. I love connecting with other writers right now, and I'm fairly quick to respond. I hope I'd be able to find time to give decently quick responses to readers.

  14. Hi Jody,

    I'm so sorry your daughter didn't hear back. I'll never forget several years ago when I emailed a NYT Bestselling Author and she not only responded but offered to do a contest on my blog. It really made my week and I still smile thinking about it.

    I ask myself this question a lot. While I answer all direct mail and @ mentions on Twitter, I always find myself wondering if I should answer when it's not directly addressed to me like if I see something mentioned on a blog. I want to be available because I really do appreciate readers, but I never know where to draw the line. I don't want to offend readers by jumping into conversations either. Great post.

  15. Yes, I agree.

    Sometimes VERY busy authors (big names in publishing) do not have time to answer all their mail. I have encountered this, but all of them have designated a secretary to respond who is sensitive and appreciative to readers. Feedback is worded in such a way that the reader does not feel slighted. "Larry wants you to know that he appreciates your letter very much. He is currently on a book tour. You can see his itinerary here: link. Larry believes that all of us struggle with ..." And so forth. I have appreciated that the author arranged for these contacts to take place.

    Most authors, however, are not too busy to answer their mail. C.S. Lewis was a marvelous example to me. He personally composed a handwritten reply to every single letter, even every single one from a child. I have read some of these letters and they are each thoughtful, wonderful little works of art.

  16. Great point, Kinley. I think there's a gray area where it's a little harder to know whether to jump into reader conversations that aren't directly aimed at us. For example, when someone reviews my book on their blog, I'm still not sure whether I should respond. I definitely don't respond to reviews on public sites like Amazon or Goodreads. But on a reader's personal blog, I waver. Of course, their reviews are intended for other readers and so I don't want my presence to take away from readers feeling like they can be honest. But at the same time, I do think it's a nice touch to personally thank them for the review.

  17. Cassandra Leigh, I didn't know that about C.S. Lewis! That is VERY cool and a great example to us all!

  18. Another fine post, Jody. How you manage to balance all the interacting you do with your writing and family life is amazing.

    And Charmaine, thank you for the shout out.

  19. When communication aspect is considered, it would be perfect if a writer could reply to all messages.
    But from the technical aspect, there may be not replied messages for different reasons.

    Therefore, I now understand the actual meaning of leaving a note saying "I may not reply" better now.

    I wish better communication for all.

    Thank you for sharing.

  20. One thing I love about social media is the opportunity to get to know authors better. My interactions on Twitter and FB have influenced whose books I buy. And while e-mails are perhaps a little more personal, as you said, a "contact me" box invites people to connect with you.

    I understand that trying to answer reader e-mails with a lengthy response may be too time consuming for some writers, but a simple "Thank you for letting me know how much you enjoyed my book," shouldn't be that hard.

  21. Great post and advice. As I was reading, #1 is what I thought of first. If you don't have the time, don't invite people to contact you.

    The other thing I thought was that it would only take a minute to hit reply and say "Thank you for your note!"

    Right? Something that simple would be enough for most people to feel like the author cared enough to respond.

  22. So many comments! I am just going to be redundant. I agree with what you posted. It was a wonderful post. If you are too busy to respond, then do not have a contact me box. Personally, no response would not entice me to buy another book, no matter how much I enjoyed it. I have gotten to know so many great authors through book reviewing and I am fortunate that I can email them and they will respond back. If not for the reader, you may be an author, but you will not sell books. That little response means so much to the reader. Your book covers are beautiful. Look forward to more of your posts.

  23. Very interesting to think about, and I think you're absolutely right. I think especially doing something as simple as having a little note along with our info at least lets people know how things stand.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  24. I am also surprised at the sense of community in the Christian writing world. I wrote an email to Dee Henderson years ago and we began corresponding. It was quite fun and yet not something I expected. The same with Jeanette Windle, not expected but quite nice. I was on a mission trip to Bolivia and was in the city where she set "Crossfire". She was happy to know one of her readers had been to the same city.

    I still am taking meds for a severe case of "imposter syndrome" and was popping freckles when I got a comment on my blog the other day from someone who's initials are G.M.
    Having a "contact me" button does not mean "good luck because I am an aloof twit'. Especially to a child who is putting on her brave shoes and stepping out in the hopes that someone will be polite.
    I know that most authors do all kinds of other things besides write, and have busy lives. But do not , for one second, think that hurt feelings and bad manners do not ripple beyond the spot from whence the pebble entered the water.

    Although, not wanting to brag, I already have an assistant. No, I do. Really. I will now quote his most common phrase.

    "Hey, honey, you have an email."

  25. Thanks for the kind words about my book covers, Donna! Yes, with the plethora of books out there, why chance alienating readers through unresponsiveness? There are SO many other great authors readers can chose from. Why not take a few seconds to write even a brief note and possibly win a fan for life?

  26. LOL! Sounds like you have a wonderful assistant, Jennifer! I'm jealous! ;-)

  27. I definitely agree with all your points here. If you don't want to be contacted, don't make it easy to be contacted. But who doesn't want to be contacted? And goodness me, we've got to give back as much as we get given in my opinion. If anyone contacts me personally, I make it a priority to follow it up. If the task is too long, I make a note of it, briefly email the person to say I'm busy and let them know they'll get a proper reply from me later. And it's worth it. I truly believe that.

  28. I think your comment about not having a "contact me" box if you don't intend to respond is reasonable. Of course, everyone is told they should be accessible! And I understand that life gets busy. But the readers are what this is all about, right? As long as we can, we should treat them that way.

  29. Ditto Charmaine, about Carolyn Keene. :(

    As a blogger, I love comments and try to respond to all of them. But that works right now because my site has low numbers.

    I've written to authors who haven't responded. I'm usually a bit miffed about it, but I also understand they are busy and can't respond to everyone.

    Great idea about a disclosure or something. When I get pubbed I'd give a reasonable timeline to expect a response, and try to deliver early. :)

  30. Barbara, yes, I think the disclosure next to the contact box is important. In fact, next to mine, I indicate that I DO respond and that if they haven't heard back from me within in a week to try again, that perhaps the email got lost in cyberspace or spam or something.

  31. This is such a great post. I've never contacted an author because I figure they'd be too busy to respond, which I totally understand. I like your idea of having a disclaimer by the contact box, or not having one at all.

  32. As a middle school and high school language arts teacher, I always encouraged my students to contact writers of their favorite books. I felt it lent a sort of real-world element to them. Obviously, I realized and told my students so, that writer's wouldn't always be able to respond. But when writing I felt it was good for my students to try to engage in a conversation, not just say hey I enjoyed your book, but ask questions as to why a character made a certain choice, or why a particular setting.

    I did enjoy your post and felt it had some great points. As a writer myself, I took note and hope to connect with my readers not only with my articles and books, but personally too. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  33. I think it's a great idea to use Facebook instead of a contact box. Then you are under less pressure. It's lovely how much you interact with readers, Jody but if you are at a particularly busy time, you could say something to that effect so that you don't get overwhelmed. Great post as usual.

  34. I don't disagree with you, but I think it should be up to the author to determine how they interact with their readers. Some choose Twitter and Facebook (or Tumblr, or Blogger, or LiveJournal, or...) as a way of interacting with as wide of an audience as possible and some choose email or snail mail to maintain personal/private communication.

    Either way, I don't think there should be an expectation of their time or availability. I've seen authors who spent hours interacting with readers and still only hit 5-10% of their inbox. A week isn't very much time if an author is on tour or on deadline. (or sick, or with family, or...)

    I guess I would always err on the side of giving them the freedom to choose what works for them and the benefit of the doubt when it doesn't meet reader-created expectations.

  35. The author could have at least sent a short thank you for your note email back to your daughter. I have gotten that from every author I have emailed, if not more. I hope that they are traveling or just busy and have not had a chance to write back, and that they do respond.

  36. I think it would depend on the kind of letter that the writer received. If it was a nice letter like the one that your daughter wrote, I'd be much more inclined to respond because it really is nice to connect with readers like that. On the other hand, I've heard of writers like Stephen King who get angry letters from readers who are offended by what he wrote; he actually wrote back to some of them to explain himself, but I don't blame authors like him if he doesn't want to write back to all the angry readers.

  37. Thank you all for your input today!! I'm thinking I'll need another blog post in the future to discuss other issues some of you have brought up! Great thoughts, everyone!!

  38. Love this post. I know that some authors pass that point of popularity where they can't respond to everything but if you're not mega-bestseller, I think responding for readers has to be on your list of priorities. Especially if you write for kids, who get so hopeful to get a response, you need to make an effort. I love hearing from readers and consider each note a gift. They took the time to reach out to me, so I'm going to respond. But I do like your options if and when the author gets too busy. If you're not going to be able to respond, let the readers know in some way so they're not left feeling ignored.

  39. Brand loyalty is built by being as accessible as possible. Musician John Forte once emailed me an mp3 file of a song he performed in concert because I tweeted about it not being available for sale. Now THAT'S a man who's got a fan for life in me.

    My first novel will be out early next year. If I get any fan mail, you can bet I'll do what I can say thanks, trying to take after John Forte and you, Jody.

  40. Yes, I've written to authors to tell them how much I liked their book and have not heard anything back from most. Maybe I am picking too busy of authors but you do remember but I still read their books. I hope that I would be the kind of author who always tries to answer everyone eventually.

  41. Hi Jody:

    I cannot imagine not responding to someone who writes to me regarding my novels. It is truly unfathomable to me to ignore an email like your daughter's.

    I've had people write to me after reading an interview with me, saying they were going to read my novels, and I responded immediately to them.

    Yes, I am very busy. But if someone chose MY novel to read, how could I not want to say thank you and respond?

    Thanks for a great blog.

  42. This was touching and yes when an author takes time to respond it is special. I have been thrilled and sometimes surprised to hear back from writers I admire so I can imagine how special it must be for your daughter. Hopefully next time.

  43. I agree that authors should at least have some close contact with their readers. Very few are celebs, and they should at least get to know the people they write for.

    Plus, I tend to like the book better if the author is fun and nice.

  44. Jody, Great post. Responding to our readers is probably one of the most important things authors do. I doubt that I'll ever be too busy to at least send a reply to a nice email. And when a reader takes the time to actually send a written letter, I respond with one of my own, including an autographed postcard featuring all four of my books as well as a signed bookplate. It's the least we can do.

  45. I've had the same experience your daughter suffered. It is disappointing to not hear back from an author, especially because most readers don't ever take the time to drop a note.

  46. This is so true Jody:) I like it when I can connect with an author..even if it's just to say I love their books! To be available to readers...and stay humble:)

  47. Personally, I've never expected a response when I've written an author. I've always figured they're busy but would probably like to hear I liked their book. When I have heard back, it's such a nice surprise! Thinking about a few of those interactions still brings a smile to my face.

    If my novel is published, I definitely would plan on responding to any emails I receive. I know how much it means to me as a reader and how much it would mean as a writer to get that sort of feedback.

  48. That is SUCH a good point about not putting a contact box up if we're not going to respond. Or, like you said, putting up an explanation that every email is read but not responded to.

    I, personally, LOVE hearing from readers and cannot wait to email them back! Connecting with readers is hands down, one of the BEST things about this whole journey. Writing and connecting. The two best things.

  49. I resond to everyone. It takes time,a nd it might not be the same day, but I think that connection, that "yes, they are there" interaction is important.

    I had a similar experience with my ten year old son. He wanted to ask an author a question. He was thrilled to receive an email back the very next day.

    You know what happened? That bright smile on my kid's face turned into a big "yes" when he asked if he could purchase the next 12 book in the series.

    Slam dunk. You made my kid happy, I will support you. If he was bumbed, I might not be so quick to have supported this author.

  50. I agree Jody. It's all about reader-writer relationships; I think more so if you are a children's author. To bring a smile to a kid's face and make them feel special - priceless!

    I hope your daughter gets a reply soon. :)

  51. I am always overjoyed when a reader contacts me. I also communicate with authors when a book moves me. Many years ago, when I was still at drama school, I read a book by a now-very-famous British actor called The Year of the King. It was Anthony Sher's account of his year's preparation for and then performance of the role of Richard II. The book was incredible and I read it through the entire night from early evening until the next morning. I was inspired to write to the actor/author, never thinking I'd receive a reply. He sent back an illustrated postcard of the play (his own art work in the book) depicting the main character, and a charming note. I cherished that postcard (I still have it), and never forgot how important it is to be gracious to your audience!

  52. I wrote to author Lisa McMann to see about interviewing her. I heard back several weeks later from ...her PR assistant declining my offer. ??


    Oh well. I made a mental note that if I had a "contact me" button on my blog or author page, I would make sure I respond...not my assistant, but ME!

    It's important!

    Great post, again. Thanks for the info!

  53. Hi Jody .. makes absolute sense to me .. we need to relate and reply .. especially because kids get so enthusiastic and never forget - so that author has lost a lot of readers/buyers for life.

    A salutory lesson for us all .. cheers Hilary

  54. Great post, thank you.

    I try to write back to my teen readers within 48-ish hours (and almost always succeed within that window).

    In many cases, based on what they've said, I'll have books by other authors to suggest (hey, I can only write so fast, and they always want the sequel tomorrow--besides, why not share the love?).

    But I don't have newborn twins or a demanding day job or significant health challenges...

    I believe those of us who inclined to respond honestly do our best, and those who aren't...may not be the best interpersonal match for communicating one-one-one with kids. Best leave it to the books.

  55. Cynthia, great point. We just don't know the circumstances surrounding the lives of other authors. And even though we might do things differently, we can't pass judgement on others!

  56. Hi Jody, Great post. I agree with your point on managing expectations. If you aren't available to reply, don't put a contact box on your site. Same for bloggers, if you don't want or appreciate comments, don't make your site available for comments.

    What avenues have you found to communicate with your readers besides your site, facebook and twitter?

  57. Great question! I put my contact info in the backs of my books for snail mail, email, twitter, and FB. I do get handwritten letters. Though the primary means readers contact me is probably through my contact box on my website. I always take the time to respond back, no matter what venue readers use! I check all of them periodically and make sure to stay visible.

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