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      I'm often asked for help when writing for autographs, so here are a few of my observations acquired through sixteen years of collecting. Points one and two are in my view the most important! 



    Always enclose an SAE (stamped addressed envelope). Don't expect the star to pay your postage costs. After all the star is paying the cost of the photograph you've asked for!
     If you are writing to a star overseas or abroad then enclose at least one or two IRCs (International Reply Coupons) which are available from post offices and postal services of most countries. The star then exchanges these for stamps of their own nation in order to send you a reply. A few people have asked me if I send my requests by first or second class mail when writing to British stars. My own view is that subliminally I appear more eager for a reply if I send a request by sending the request by first class and enclose a first class stamp on my SAE. But of course it's more cost effective to use second class stamps. So I think that particular question is up to the individual collector to answer.
         The SAE - when writing to British stars, the SAE I used to send was a strong manilla envelope approximately 9x6 in size. I would then send this SAE along with my request in an envelope measuring 10x7 in size. This worked quite well. I ended up with the odd one or two creased autograph, and now and again I'd get a signed photo that the celeb had cut down from 10x8 in order to get it to fit into my SAE. Today I send out fewer requests so I spend a bit more on my SAEs. Now I always send a cardbacked envelope 10x8 in size, and that's both to British and overseas celebrities. Cardbacked envelopes already have 'please do not bend' printed on the front, but it's a good idea to also write it on the reverse. Also on the reverse you should write your own name and address, that way if your request cannot be delivered it can be returned safely to you.

Be patient!!! Don't go expecting a reply a few days after sending your request! Of course some performers, especially British character actors, may well reply in less than a week, but there's no guarantee. Stars have lives as well. They don't sit around waiting for fan mail to arrive so that they can answer it within five minutes! My philosophy is this --- write the letter; keep a log detailing when the letter was sent and to what address; post the letter and then forget you ever wrote it! Don't even expect to get a reply! And then if a reply does arrive it's going to be much more of a surprise.

The letter! It's common practice among some autograph collectors to keep the letters they write to just one page and to follow the formula --- paragraph one to say how much you enjoy the stars work; paragraph two to ask for an autograph; paragraph three to close the letter. It is believed celebrities will discard lengthy letters without even reading them!
      I'm afraid I don't subscribe to this belief. I believe a letter should be short and to the point yes! But if that letter runs to three pages then, as long as it's not all waffle, so be it. I've had some of my best replies from lengthy letters. I think you should say everything you have to say and if it won't all fit on one page go on to a second and a third...... Don't try to cram it all onto one page if it won't fit. It's no good sending a one page letter if the writing is so small it can't be read!
      And think how boring it must be for the recipient getting piles and piles of the same formulaic fan letter!
      My advice is to be original and inject your own personality into the letter. Your letter should be as interesting as possible! It needs to inspire the recipient and provoke them into sending a reply. I have a good sense of humour so I use it in the letters I send. As an example, when I wrote to Paul O'Grady (Lily Savage's alter ego) I decided to write it to Lily and to make it humorous I started the letter with "Dear Dame Lily (it's only a matter of time)" and continued in that vein.
      Always, always, ALWAYS make your letter stand out from the crowd and you're guaranteed to get some great replies!

Only write to those people for whom you have a genuine admiration! There are too many 'collectors' in the world of philography who will write to anyone and everyone whether they are a fan or not. They hear that 'so-and-so' always sends out signed photos and they write to them just to get an autograph, not because they are a genuine fan! This ruins it for the star's true fans. Some big stars have become so snowed under with autograph requests that they've stopped signing all together. And anyway if you're a real fan that will show in your letter, as will your enthusiasm and that way you're more likely to get a better response than the 'average' collector!

Less is more!  Who's the better autograph collector, chap A who churns out 50 standard letters or chap B who spends the same amount of time compiling 10 interesting, well thought out and humorous letters? Chap B of course! It's quality not quantity that counts.

Ask questions. Some collectors believe throwing in more than 'the odd' question per letter will put a star off and they won't reply. Again that's piffle! Think about it - asking questions is flattering. It shows you have an interest in their work. Every so often a star will actually enclose a letter answering your questions. The more interesting and out-of-the-ordinary the questions are the more likely you are to have them answered.

Skeleton letters! I get asked a lot  about whether I use these. It's basically the bare bones of a letter to which you then make 'minor' changes in order to make it relevant to the person you are writing to. This is an example of a very simple skeleton letter,

Dear Harrison Ford
      I loved you in Star Wars.
      Please send me a signed photo.
      Yours sincerely,

      A. Fan

      All you have to do then is simply change the name of the star and the name of the film and in an hour you could probably churn out a hundred letters. The letters wouldn't be very good though would they?
      I use a skeleton letter 'of sorts'! All letters you send will obviously have your name and address and opening salutation at the top and a closing paragraph and your name at the bottom. So to save time typing this information out for each letter I save it as a skeleton letter and then use it each time I send out a request. But apart from that the main content of each letter is different for each star I write to!


     Hope this information is of help to you! These, of course,  are only my opinions and you should experiment to see what works best for you!





 This page was last updated    25 July 2003