Form Letter from Annie Fellows Johnston

Here is a copy of the form letter young readers would often receive from Annie Fellows Johnston.

In this excerpt from Chapter IV, “The Shadow Club ” from “The Little Colonel at Boarding School,” Annie Fellows Johnston describes the tremendous time and expense involved in answering all those letters from fans: 

…the principal found twenty-three letters in the mail-bag one morning, all addressed to a well-known writer of juvenile stories, whose books were the most popular in the school. An investigation proved that because one girl had received his autograph, twenty- three had followed her example in requesting it, and not one of them had enclosed a stamp; nor had it occurred to them that an author's time is too valuable to spend in answering questions, merely to satisfy the idle curiosity of his readers.

"One stamp is of little value," said the principal, "but multiply it by the hundreds he would have to use in a year in answering the letters of thoughtless strangers, who have no claim on him in any way." Twenty-three girls filed out into the hall after the principal's little talk that followed, and slipped their letters from the mail-bag. Ten of them threw theirs into the waste-basket. The others, who had asked no questions and were more desirous of obtaining their favourite author's autograph, opened theirs to enclose an envelope, stamped and addressed; but few more letters of the kind went out from Lloydsboro Seminary after that.

Was Johnston talking about herself or, by referring to the author in question as male, was she making a veiled reference to her friend, who wrote under the pen name George Madden Martin?

Undoubtedly, Authors Club members discussed both the joys and tribulations of commercial success. Answering fan mail and requests for autographs could certainly be counted among the tribulations.