Okay, I lied. I hardly ever get letters. But I do get emails and lots of them. Not as many as when the Wall Street Journal article came out in 2010 (thank goodness) but plenty, and most of them are really, really nice.
They fall into these categories:
People who want me to go somewhere: writing conferences, book club visits, library talks. I almost always say yes if it's nearby and I don't have a conflict. I no longer do workshops, the kind where I actually instruct, complete with handouts and Q&As. As much as I enjoy that, it takes a ton of preparation to do well, which takes away from my writing time. I found that one three-hour workshop on a Saturday took two days of prep: making copies, organizing my notes, outlining etc. Plus, the anticipation stresses me out. Ask me to show up and talk and I'm good to go. Otherwise, not so much.
Emails from people who want me to do something for them: blurb their books, mention their books on Twitter or Facebook, answer questions about publishing, buy their book. I always answer and some of this I do, but not much. I refer most of the self-publishing questions to the FAQ page on my website telling them to scroll down to the bottom to find helpful links. I've actually become wary of saying too much in emails to people I don't know, because recently it backfired on me when someone, without informing me, used my friendly email exchange as quotes in a negative article. He took my words out of context and actually made up whole sections, which he attributed to me.
Book bloggers sometimes email asking for a copy of one of my books for review. I always make sure they get a copy. Sometimes I have extra copies here at home and I'll send it out myself, other times I contact the publisher.
Sometimes people email asking if I will do a Q&A for their blog or site, or else if I'll write a blog post. If I'm knee-deep in writing a novel (which is always), I tend not to want to do a blog post, but Q&As are fun and easy, as long as there aren't too many questions, so most often I'm agreeable. I've met some really nice people this way--other authors, book bloggers, journalists. It's generally a plus for me to get the word out about my books, which I appreciate.
I also get emails from people who've read and enjoyed my books. These are my absolute favorite. Seriously, two sentences can make my day. If you ever feel compelled to email an author, musician, artist,etc. but don't because you think it won't make a difference, think again. Everyone loves positive feedback, and when you work in solitude, it doesn't happen that often. (As an addendum to this, I'm sure Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have probably heard it enough, but if you want to send them an email, feel free to do so.)
Other emails give me updates on my Facebook and Twitter account, both of which I've sadly neglected. Ditto for Goodreads. These emails just make me feel guilty, like hearing from a relative you've been meaning to call. I'm particularly hopeless at Facebook. It's a lifeline for the next generation, I know. They love the ease of it, the way you can share things (photos! news! comments! articles!) in a few moments' time. Me, not so much. I always hover over the button wondering, will anyone care about this? I hate to be a bother. I suspect I'm just not a social media person.
Spam comments for the blog come into my email for my approval. Spammers always post on older threads, as if I won't see them. They say things like: This is a very interesting post. You have managed to sum things up nicely. I will share it with all my family and friends. And then there's a link to some pharmaceutical thing. Lately I've been getting a lot of comments that look like they're written in Russian or Polish. And I mean A LOT of comments. Maybe one every other day? I'm never curious enough to Google translate. I just delete.
Work correspondence. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I can say things like, "My publicist says..." After so many years of being unpublished, it still feels pretty dreamlike. So I secretly feel very grown-up and accomplished when I send an email to my publisher asking questions about marketing plans or tax issues. The other day my son asked something when I was in my office and he was in the other room. I yelled out to him, "Just a minute. I need to finish this email to my German translator." When I said it I wasn't trying to be a show-off, but he was impressed and believe me, that almost never happens.
Personal emails from people I actually know. I love it when I can shoot back a response and not worry about grammatical mistakes etc. Email is great for sending links or photos, or a quick comment about something. My younger sister has two extremely cute little boys and sometimes I'm the lucky recipient of a photo or anecdote. I'm sure she also posts these on Facebook, but knowing I'm out of the loop she sends them to me via email. Seeing those little faces on my computer screen is a definite day-brightener.
And that pretty much covers what comes into my inbox. Feel free to share any email stories of your own.