Lost Art of Letter Writing Finds a Home on Web Site

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A Hearst editor has taken to the Web to revive an art resurrected somewhat by e-mail but lacking the flourish: letter writing.

Samara O'Shea, an associate editor at Country Living magazine, launched the site at www.letterlover.net, targeting consumers who cannot express love, remorse or disinterest via elegant prose. For a small fee, she writes custom letters of the emotional or professional kind outside of her day job.

"Letter writing is a form of art that has lost its foothold, and I want to reinstate it as a meaningful, effective way to communicate," O'Shea said in New York. "People are no longer trained in letter writing since it's now an optional way to send a message and not a necessary one."

O'Shea is e-mailing her list of friends, family and influential current and former co-workers, relying initially on word of mouth to promote LetterLover.net. She is also doing her own public relations to reach writers and editors at consumer magazines and Web sites.

Her site reflects a small business. New York-based Ben Morrison, who also works as an actor, designed the transaction-capable site. Though there are no links or deals with stationery-related merchants, O'Shea hopes to contact New York retail favorites like Kate's Paperie or Chelsea Paper.

But the site's aura of romance differentiates it from others that post generic love missives, apologia and play-by-the-book cover letters for jobs. Take the aphorism from "anonymous" on the Break Up page: "Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you never knew."

LetterLover.net initially offers a menu of love, apology and breakup letters.

"The only letters I won't write are hate letters," O'Shea said. "That's not what this is about. I believe in saying things, even if they're hard and hurtful, in the most considerate way possible."

Consumers interested in having O'Shea write a letter visit the site's "To Order" page. Once there, they e-mail her the type of letter they want, including the details of their situation. O'Shea will respond with questions she has, along with an estimate of the letter's length. A letter's length matters, as that differentiates it from other communications vehicles.

"Since someone really has to go out of their way to write a letter these days, the act in itself is a demonstration of ultimate caring," O'Shea said. "E-mails and text messages are ideal for speed, but their shorthand leaves much to the imagination as far as emotions are concerned."

O'Shea charges by the word -- how most publications pay freelancers -- so nailing the letter's length is crucial. A letter of 200-300 words costs $15 and 300-400 words is $20, with a $5 increase for every 100 words added. The top amount is $40 for 700-800 words.

After the letter is written, O'Shea will e-mail it to the customer as an attachment. She will revise the letter if the customer is unhappy and immediately indicates as such. If both cannot reach a resolution, the customer gets a refund.

"However, if someone approves the letter when I send it, and then decides they don't like it based on the reaction of the recipient, then there's nothing I can do," O'Shea said. "I, myself, have sent letters to people expecting one response and getting the exact opposite, sometimes better and sometimes worse. Human emotionalism is so unpredictable."

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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