OVER the past two years, I have sent out more than 300 of my books to people I've met. Takes a bit of time to write the letters and wrap up the books and then take them off to the post office. Costs a bit of money too, not just for the post and packaging, but for the books themselves.
But as for the Thank You notes that I've received, I could count them on the fingers of my hands.
Now that I'm whining. This is not some harrumphing rant about people never bothering to write their "Thank you" letters.
But what it's made me realise is... The huge power of Thank You. And if that "Thank You" happens to come in the form of an actual hand-written letter, then its power is extraordinary.
The reason being: We hardly ever seen them. They are unusual. We study a hand-written letter much more closely than we do a text or an email.
If I meet anyone new, then I'll generally send them one of my books. Could be Red Top, my book on how to be a journalist. Could be one of my love stories, like The Woman Who Was The Desert Dream. And if they look like a murder-mystery fan, then I'll send them the Lord Lucan memoirs that I edited. (That'd be Lord Lucan: My Story.)
For every thirty books I send out, I will probably see one hand-written Thank You note. These tend to come from people who are aged over forty and who've had these old-school manners drilled into them by their martinet parents.
When I get these letters, I sit up. I take notice.
Hand-written letters are so rare that they are a brilliant way to stand out from the rest of the herd. It's a way to get yourself noticed - whether you're after a job, or whether you're after a lover.
For a kicker, most people aren't even BOTHERING to say thank you. They've been treated to dinner, or a night at the cinema, or maybe they've even had a wonderful wedding gift. Who the hell cares? Nobody else is saying thank you. What's the big deal? I'll say "Ta v.much" next time I see you.
Of the (minority) of people who are saying Thank You, most are going to do it by email. Email is cool. Email is just great. You can rattle an email off in two minutes flat, and by the next morning it can all be done, dusted, message received and understood.
Texting: doesn't quite have the same power. Texts are short and sweet, so unless you're a wordsmith, it's difficult to convey a lively sense of gratitude.
Still - not that I'm whingeing. These days, if I receive any sort of Thank You note whatsoever, then I'm pretty perky. It registers. Those people who do bother to say "Thank you" are mentally filed away as high-fliers - particularly the students.
But for real power, you need to write a letter. This is not just for Thank Yous, by the way, but also congratulations; and, particularly, condolences. Very tricky one writing a letter of condolence. Most people find it so awkward that they funk it and send nothing at all.
If you're writing a letter, then you might as well do it right. Doesn't have to be expensive paper - just not tat. I get mine from Ryman's; dead cheap.
And if you've got the decent paper, then you might as well go the whole hog and use an ink pen. (Bah humbug!)
As to what you're actually going to write... Now here's a tip. Doesn't need to be very long. At all.
A Thank You letter only needs to be two sentences. First sentence you're just saying thank you. With a bit of luck, this will be in a slightly quirky way that might even be, well, interesting.
Second sentence - now this is the clever bit - this is a little joke that has been specifically handcrafted just for that person and for that letter. It's just for them. Going to make them feel reee-al special.
The thing is: a Thank You letter doesn't need to be much longer than two sentences. If it's some great screed over two pages saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you," then it gets a bit saccharine. Starts to cloy. Like having to swallow a whole mouthful of Old Nurse's Fudge.
But get it right, and... Prospective bosses will be interested; bosses will be flattered; friends will be charmed; and as for prospective lovers... They are going to pay attention. Get it right, and you can blow them clean out of the water.