How to Make a Fan

Rusty_2  By Mike MacLean

In one day, three writers made an instant fan for life–J.A. Konrath, Thomas O’Callaghan, and Murderati’s own Paul Guyot.

How did they do it?  They each sent an email with a few words of encouragement.  That’s it.  One little email and they now have a life-long fan.

I’d been writing stories online for a while, yet hadn’t received much in the way of recognition.  Dave White once sent a note, but for the most part encouragement was a far off speck on the horizon.  Then last year I was lucky enough to have stories posted at both Thrilling Detective, and Demolition.  Although I’d never met them, Konrath, O’Callaghan, and Guyot each wrote me.  Nothing major, just a few kind words.  The impact was tremendous.

Bonethief200 Hearing that professional writers had not only read but enjoyed my work meant the world to me.  It made me feel like all those hours behind the keyboard might actually payoff, that someday I could possibly carve out a little place for myself in publishing.

A few short emails, that’s all it took.

Even before hearing from these guys, I’d made it a habit to contact webzine writers when I enjoyed their stories.  I haven’t been doing that lately.  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, "Life comes at you pretty fast," and I’ve been busy.  But now, I’m vowing to make time for zine writers again.  And I strongly suggest anyone reading this should do the same.  Let me illustrate why with two points. Whenonemandies_124_2

1.  It will make you feel good giving a struggling writer some encouragement.

2.  Your time reading the story and sending a short note might pay off in book sales.  For example, I’ve bought Konrath’s books, I’ve bought O’Callaghan’s, and I’ll be the first in line to buy Guyot’s and White’s.  Also, I’ve just mentioned each of these guys in a blog which is read by other people who might now go out and buy their books.

So when you’ve finished with this, cruise over to one of the fine sites below and browse a few stories.  I  guarantee you’ll find one you like.  Then track down the author and tell him so.  If you have time, come back and mention the story you read in the comments page so others can check it out too.

Thrilling Detective


Thug Lit

Hardluck Stories


Muzzle Flash

Mouth Full of Bullets

Shred of Evidence

(If I missed anyone, I apologize)

And while you’re at it, drop the editors a note.  These people put blood, sweat, tears, and cash into their zines, often with little appreciation, all to give new writers a voice.  I for one would like to thank each and every one of them.


17 thoughts on “How to Make a Fan

  1. Dave White

    Thanks for the mention, Mike. I wouldn’t have emailed you if I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I did. And now you have a fan for life too because you write really well.

  2. billie

    Funny – I was just reading/commenting on a similar thing over at Backspace. It’s both amazing and wonderful to me how generous all the writers I know are with their knowledge, their contacts, and their time… I agree, Mike – it’s a great idea to pass on compliments when writing moves us. I’ve been the recipient of such and it can absolutely make my day/week/month. Especially when I’m in the midst of working on something new and need a boost in confidence!

  3. Stacey Cochran

    You’re absolutely right. I can’t tell you how helpful and encouraging folks in the crime/mystery community have been to me these past few years. A bunch of folks here at Murderati have personally encouraged me (I still remember chatting with Pari at the airport leaving Bouchercon Chicago, not to mention dinner with JD, drinks with Alex, a blurb from Simon, and more than a few kind words from Louise since first meeting at Poisoned Pen in August 2005). Let it be known; this stuff matters!

    And I appreciate it.


  4. Naomi

    I do think that mystery writers are the most generous authors out there. (I’ve also heard that about horror writers.)

    That’s why it’s so great to be in this genre.

  5. JT Ellison

    Mike, nice job. Tom O’C is one of my favorite men on the planet, he’s so sweet. Dave aka Josh as well. Obviously G is great.

    You have a fan for life for your writing as well. A lovely, gracious post, my friend.

  6. pari

    Mike,You’ve hit it spot-on. Somehow, I think many people — including other writers — forget how important it is to take that kind, encouraging and generous step to give positive feedback.

    I try to do it often. And you’re right, it makes me feel great. I LOVE to hear that my words helped someone over a hump of self-doubt or to a new level — or just gave them a brief respite from the confidence-busting we all seem to practice.

    And, I love to hear from other writers, too. It makes a difference to have people who’ve struggled similarly send an encouraging word.

    Of course, ANY encouraging word works like a balm on my bedraggled soul.

    Mike, thank you for this post. It reminded me to be grateful, once again, for our community.

  7. Mike MacLean

    I was surprised at how supportive the Mystery/Crime/Thriller community has been. That’s a rare thing in such a competitive industry. I thought there would be more Machiavellians in the crowd. Maybe I just haven’t met those guys yet.

    I wonder how supportive the “Literary” crowd is?

  8. Louise Ure

    I love the idea of paying it forward, Mike. Especially when it’s done in all honesty, with heartfelt congratulations for a job well done.

    As you mentioned, there can be side benefits too, although I found a different one than the increased sales you mentioned.

    I recently spotted a short story by a former friend in an online magazine. His words — his story — were so remarkable that I had to write to tell him I loved it. It helped us bridge that gap that had caused the falling out two years ago.

  9. billie

    Mike, I can’t speak for the lit fiction world at large, but the lit-fic crowd in NC is amazingly generous.

    I’ve also had wonderful support from a handful of literary writers outside NC – met via me sending letters about their work, or at conferences, readings, etc.

    I don’t know what it would be like to be in this business of writing/seeking publication if it were otherwise.

    Thanks for a great post and reminder.

  10. thomas o'callaghan

    Mike, I am deeply, deeply flattered. One expects heartfelt gifts on Christmas, their birthday, Valentine’s Day, (if they’ve behaved ~ actually if they haven’t it might prompt a more, shall we say, creative gift. Hmmm…). But, receiving your unexpected, expertly crafted, and well wrapped present on April 1, convinces me it’s only the misinformed who give into the whole April Fools hoopla. If I were more in touch with my feminine side, I’d send you flowers. Since I’m still trying to project the “Hey, I’m from Brooklyn,”, thing, you’ll have to settle for drinks on me at ThrillerFest, a conference where you’ve certainly earned an invitation. I hope we can share some time there.

  11. Mike MacLean


    Once again, thanks for the encouragement. And I’ll take drinks over flowers any day. But, I’m nit going to make Thriller Fest this year. Life got in the way in the form of a baby girl who will be born mere weeks from now. My plane ticket and time off of work went into a new nursery, a combined office for my wife and I, and some bonding time after the event. New York will have to wait.

  12. thomas o'callaghan

    Congrats on the upcoming birth of your daughter! Money well spent at home, I see. Good for you and the bride. Daughters are a blessing. And you didn’t hear me say it, ’cause my daughter Kelli might misinterpret my remark, but her daughter, my GRAND DAUGHTER, puts me on an even higher cloud. One I never new existed! Kristin’s five, calls me PaPa, then watches me melt. Best of luck, my friend!

  13. guyot

    Mike,You suck.

    Seriously, I know exactly what you’re talking about. That is why I’ve always made a point of telling writers when I like their stuff. The other reason is – there is so much crap out there now. Everyone thinks they can write, and guess what? Most of them are wrong.

    A writer puts up a blog, or gets a book pub’d by a Vanity Press or the like, and suddenly they’re spewing writing advice like they’re Hemingway.

    Good writing is a great, rare, wonderful thing to find. You write great, Mike. Whether you have a novel deal or not. You write great. Be proud of that. And keep walking the walk. Keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing – don’t try to change things, don’t try to do anything any different because you want a deal.

    Just do what you do. I agree with Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, and several others – good writing always finds a home.

    Bad writing may get lucky and find one now and then, but good writing always finds a home.

  14. Kevin Einarson

    Thanks for the plug of Spinetingler.

    It’s always easier to look at other authors as competition and either ignore or tear them down. But it is when we encourage each other that we can become a true community. I often think of people such as Ken Bruen who give encouragement so freely when it would be much easier to just do nothing but write his own stuff.

    J.A. Konrath once said authors are not in competition with each other. People can buy more than one book at a time.


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