Writing Letters to Authors: Top Tips

In the last few years pupils from my classes and I have written hundreds of letters to authors of children's books. We have had some fantastic personal responses from some of our favourite writers.

Here are some of the lessons we have learnt along the way:
  1. You will stand a better chance of getting a response if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SAE). Not only does this make it easier for the author to reply - they don't have to take the time to write and stamp a return envelope - but it's also a gesture that demonstrates that you appreciate the effort they are making.
  2. You are more likely to get an interesting relpy if you ask interesting questions.
  3. Mention how much you have enjoyed the author's books. Be specific. Which of the author's books is your favourite? Why? Which character did you most enjoy reading about? Why?
  4. Some authors are too busy to respond personally to every letter. Some authors simply receive too much mail. If they replied to every letter, they wouldn't have any time to write their books! You stand a better chance of getting a personal response if you write to a less well-known author.
  5. Be polite. Don't make demands of the author. In letters, just as face-to-face, people are turned off by rudeness.
  6. Although it doesn't seem to make too much difference, handwritten letters seem to get a slightly better response than typed ones.
  7. If you get an interesting reply, write to the author to say thank you. Not only is this a courteous thing to do, but it can also lead to a more prolonged correspondence. One of the girls in my Year 5 class received over ten letters from the same author during the course of the school year.
  8. Most authors can be contacted via their publishers. Some authors also have details on how to write to them on their websites.
  9. Be patient. Authors are busy people. Sometimes a reply will take months to reach you.

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