Friday, June 20, 2008

Dear Reader,

Instigator and PC have recently tackled a task on their road to publication that I'd never given much thought to – the "Dear Reader" letter. I'll be the first to admit that I usually don't read them. I usually skip straight to the story. For all of you authors out there that agonize over each word of these letters, I apologize.

One reason I've always skipped over them is because they always seem sort of forced. As a writer, I can imagine it's awkward to have to write this letter to an audience explaining this book and where it came from. The creative process is complex and it evolves over time. I don't always remember where stuff starts. And writing this letter months or years after the original idea came to you makes it even more difficult.

Then you have to wonder – do the readers really want to know the truth? Do they want to know that you came up with it while standing in line at the grocery store? Is that the glamorous answer they want? Probably not, so you feel this pressure to make the story sound more interesting than it was.

To demonstrate my point, I'm writing two Dear Reader letters for the last book I wrote. One is what would go in the front of the book. The second is what should go in the front of the book. Note the subtle differences. :)

Dear Reader,

I am so excited to get the opportunity to share Isabelle and Ethan's story with you. I've always been intrigued by the idea of being able to read someone's mind. Adding the element of touch took the concept to a whole new level. The questions instantly started swirling in my head. What if you could read your lover's mind when you touched? What would you do with the knowledge? Would you drive him wild in bed fulfilling his every desire? And then I had to consider the consequences. Sometimes it's better not to know everything about someone. How far would you take it to protect yourself from the thoughts of everyone around you? What if the thoughts you uncovered held the potential to save someone's life?

Tackling these questions was a challenge, but an exciting one. I hope you enjoy reading Isabelle and Ethan's journey as much as I did writing it. Please share what you thought of the story at my website and email me at

Sincerely, Alex

Take 2...

Dear Reader,

You cannot imagine how relieved I am to be writing this letter. After well over a year of writing, editing, revising, and multiple bouts of nausea, this entire process is almost over and I am one step closer to holding my baby (and the check) in my hands. On the flip side, I'm having difficulties because I'm afraid I don't have a good story to tell you. I know you want to hear that the idea for this book came from some romantically divine moment, but the truth is that it came to me while my cruise ship was rocking and rolling in the Gulf of Alaska. I was hiding in my cabin watching Inside Edition to keep from puking the salmon croquette they insist on feeding tourists at every port.

Once the idea came to me, it sat in a story file for a while. I had no idea where to go with it. I spent several late nights with friends drinking and tossing around ideas. This is the process I use for most of my books, but by midnight after a couple margaritas, anything sounds good. The first incarnation of this book actually gave the heroine an albino ferret for a pet. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but my editor disagreed. Don't fear, the albino ferret might make an appearance in another story. I'm not ready to let that idea go yet.

When I sat down to write this book, I faced a couple major problems – If she doesn't touch people how the hell were they ever going to have sex? And when they did and she reads his mind, what does a man think about? If it's anything like a woman, I'm afraid he'd be thinking of whether or not he remembered to run the dishwasher before bed and if he looks fat lying on his back with his breasts slipping into his armpits. That's not very Blaze-worthy, is it?

So that's the story of this book. I wish I could say I enjoyed every minute of writing Camille and Sloan-- I mean Isabelle and Ethan's story, but to be honest, there were a few weeks where I wanted to hit my monitor with a baseball bat and go work at Hardees. Hope that doesn't show in the writing. My editor assures me we've addressed all the issues, but I'm certain you'll write to inform me otherwise. Direct that mail to my website at

Sincerely, Alex

So, honestly, do you read the Dear Reader letter? Would you rather hear the truth or something that maintains the fantasy? As a writer, do you enjoy writing your Dear Reader letter or is it a chore?



Maven LJ said...

I'm up WAY too early, and you made me laugh. This is too funny. And yes, pretty darn true.

I'm not a fan of the dear reader letter. Not only is it sometimes difficult to explain where the ideas came from and how they came together, I'm always leery of giving too much away before the first page.

Feel free NOT to read mine. :-)


Anonymous said...

I read the dear reader letter when it's an author I don't know. If it's an author I do I know that I can generally email them or ask them at their blog.

Playground Monitor said...

I read the Dear Reader letter as well as the dedications. I've been surprised a few times to see my name in a dedication. But I've heard folks grumble about having to write that DR letter and I imagine it must be tough.

You made me laugh too. I'm just glad I didn't have a mouthful of anything cause I would have choked.


birdzilla said...

The second description is perfect. But I have got to admit, that sounds nothing like you SP...

sorry, had to dodge a lightning strike.

I am interested in the story plot though. Keep up the good work (that was not sarcastic).

Rhonda Nelson said...

SP, you're a hoot!

As for the DR letter, it's just intimidating. The book is written FOR the reader--the DR is written TO them. Makes a big difference.

Maven Linda said...

I hate DR letters, because, yes, the request for one always comes at a time when my mind is somewhere else -- like in a different book -- and I have to mentally scramble. Then I feel as i I'm in no-man's land, talking about people I don't know.

The second letter -- I wish they were all as entertaining! I'd read every one of the if they were that honest about the writing process.

Playground Monitor said...

I wonder what they'd do if you actually sent in #2? I suppose if you had an editor with a good sense of humor it could be good for some laughs. They DO say, however, that honesty is the best policy.


Sherry W. said...

OMG SP, you are hilarious!

And yes, I do read the DR letters and the dedications. Just curious I guess.

I bet if most authors wrote the 'true' second letter it would be A LOT more entertaining!

Instigator said...

Yeah, I never read the Dear Reader letters until I had to write one of my own. I'm usually skipping that stuff to get the book I'm excited about.

This was hilarious though! And so, so true. It had been so long since I'd started my book it took me a LONG time to remember where the idea had come from.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

SP, I nearly got coffee all over my iMac. NOT good, and my hubby would be very angry. I would have to direct him to you. :)

But, ROFL!! I love the second letter. I'd read that for sure. I pretty much skim the reader letter, but I do read it. I figure some poor author slaved over it the way I do a query letter, so I read it, kind of a "yeah, sistah, I feel your pain" moment. :)

Gee, I want to read that second book....

Smarty Pants said...

The sad part is the 2nd letter is absolutely true (as is the first, its all in the spin, I guess). This book is sitting on an editor's desk as we speak.

Maybe one day when I'm famous for my irreverent humor, they'll let me write a dear reader letter like this...

Eddie the Albino Ferret will rise again!

Kathy said...

Long live Eddie the Albino Ferret!

LMHO, SP! And so like you too. It's a good thing I didn't have hot tea in my mouth when I read this.

Perhaps we should all remember to write the Dear Reader letter right after we've written the book and file it away. At least, it would give us a better idea of what we were thinking at that time. :-)

Problem Child said...

I read everything...Dear Reader, the dedication, even the copyright page. I'm a nerd.

But I *Love* letter number two. I think you need to add "by then end, I wanted to kill them both in a fiery car crash" just to keep it honest!

Marcy said...

LOL at what women think about in are SO right. But alas, not very sexy.

Thanks for telling it like it is!


Playground Monitor said...

I started thinking about what a Dear Reader letter would be like for the stories I've sold to the Trues.

Dear Reader,

Is your family "normal" or do you have the usual cast of wacko family members like most? Think back to the incident that shocked you most. That's what "Mistaken for His Mistress" was all about -- the most unbelievable scenario in our wacko family history book.

Maybe you can learn from this story. Things like never jump to conclusions, don't marry a man whose idea of fun is to take a cow up to the second story of the girls' dormitory, and when he abuses you the first time, RUN AWAY!


Angel said...

Hilarious!!! And brings back such fond memories. :)

I don't usually read the DR letters. Occassionally I do if they are authors I know. I read the dedication page, that's it.


Anonymous said...

I suppose I am a nerd also.....I read everything....this is how I found Rhonda Nelson's web site, that eventually lead me to you ladies!!! But I do agree that those letters do sometimes read...forced, for a lack of a better word. And i can honestly say that I want to read both of those stories now, so back to work!!! Have a great day!

Sheryl Maness

Ellen said...

I read Dear Reader letters but the question is this: Are you saying the first letter was a total lie??? If so why write it??? I certainly don't want to read the second letter in a book true or not. Isn't there a happy medium between the two?

Smarty Pants said...

It's not that its a lie, Ellen. Both letters are for the exact same book. Nothing in the second letter contradicts the first one, I simply didn't address where I got the idea, for example, because it wasn't an exciting story to tell. Its all in how you look at it. Glass half full vs. half empty, I guess. The truth is probably best somewhere in the middle.

Ellen said...

Sorry -- guess I misinterpreted what you were saying about the first letter.

AuthorLisaLogan said...

Nope, never read those things...except when a book so grips me that I can't bear to put it down when it's over. Those tales you hate to leave, grasping for just a Few.More.Words....those I'll read the dedictation, reader notes, bios, coming attractions, and ISBN info...just so I don't have to admit that the ride is REALLY over. So in my camp, getting the Dear Reader letter read is high compliment. :)