Thick Skin

When I come across a request online for a comment or a review, I always try to frame my answer in a positive way.

I’ve posted requests on Facebook (TJManrique) and Twitter (@ManriqueTJ) for helpful comments about my cover concepts, my web page, my web page content, and other components of my writing journey.

The experience has confirmed to me, with no room for doubt at all, that if you are going to submit anything to the public, you have to have a very thick skin.

From people that do not read your question when you ask for help, to people that are downright mean, there are all kinds out there.

An anecdote, to share one of my experiences with you.

I posted on FB a Canva ( “homemade/placeholder” book cover. I explained clearly that I needed comments on the concept, not the quality of the images since it was simply a rough rendition to test out my ideas.

I got some really good feedback. People who took the time to read my post and even some people took the time to answer each of my questions individually.

I took the post down in a day.

The rest were the meanest spirited comments I had seen in general, and in particular, directed at me.

One person was especially rough on me. I explained in the post that it was an initial idea, to test the concept and see if it worked, if it conveyed the genre adequately, if the font was a good choice for the title and the subtitle, and also if it worked as a thumbnail. The person started by saying that the image was amateurish at best, and showed that the person was not a graphic designer (true, I’m not, but I had already stated that in the post), then went on to say that one of the images had a “white halo around it, and that raises a whole other set of concerns”. To me, that implied I had taken the image, cropped it, and placed it there (all true), without authorization and infringing copyright. As I stated before and in the post, I used Canva, and all the images are free to use, for one thing, and for another, I was testing the concept. That cover was not for commercial use. I further stated on the post that I planned to hire an artist for the final rendition. All the same, my “critic” went on to say that I was opening myself to all kinds of legal trouble, and explained in excruciating detail why I shouldn’t steal other people’s work and try to pass it as my own. Then he really leaned into it, explaining that if the person was in a space ship airlock, they would not be wearing jeans and sneakers. That the lighting was all wrong, that the “pixel density” was vastly different and would make the final product evidently amateurish, and so many more observations on the technical side that if I put it all here, that’d be the post.

To be honest, I always expect a few negative comments. I always expect a few negative, or neutral, reviews.

Look, I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I’ve known that for many years. It’s normal and understandable. We all have different tastes, different expectations.

There is an audience for Romance and there is an audience for Erotica. They both deal with interpersonal relationships, you may even have cross overs of sorts *cough* -50 Shades of Gray- *cough*, but usually Romance readers do not read Erotica.

There is a huge audience for Fantasy, even Epic Fantasy, where there are many anthropomorphized animals and hybrids such as centaurs, and there are many morphing wizards. There is a large audience for Horror, where morphing people that turn into vampire bats or wolf-human hybrids are common. The audience for each does not automatically like the other genre, even if the story deals with the same basic concept.

So I know, for a fact, that my writing will not be for everybody.

Just so, I knew my cover would not please the vast majority of people. The thing is, that’s not what that image was for. I needed to know if the idea of the murder victim in the spaceship airlock conveyed that the novel was a “who-done-it” in space and if the font was adequate for SciFi. To have my failing as a graphic designer spelled out in detail was being hurtful for the sake of hurting my feelings. I had already stated I wasn’t one.

Other comments were mean but amusing, I don’t think they meant to hurt my feelings. One indicated that the airlock was terrible, that it looked more like a storage room (that’s because I cropped a storage room image with a spaceship door on it). Another comment pointed out that the spaceship airlock had to have jumpseats on the walls, because of course it did. One said that if it was a murder victim there had to be blood all over, and there wasn’t. Well, the character died of asphyxiation, so…

But you get where I’m going with this. Their comments were not being helpful. Not even pretending to be helpful or answering the questions. They were zeroing in on everything they felt was wrong and pointing it out, some with more vitriol than others, but giving no positive feedback or alternatives on how to make it better. It’s easy to say: “that sucks”. It’s a lot more difficult to say: “you know, if you xxx, and xxx, or maybe xxx, that might come out better.”

That being said, the #WritingCommunity on Twitter and several Author Help pages on Facebook have been fantastic as a resonating board and a fountain of helpful ideas and advice.

Any time I see a question or a request for help, I take a look. If it is something I think I can help with, I do so.

Sometimes, it’s simply to say: “Wow! That’s great. Congratulations.” Because I think they did a great job and I can not add anything else. And I think it’s important to reinforce creators when their work is good. I never underestimate the value of a positive word or a figurative pat on the back.

Sometimes, I offer my opinion and try to explain why I feel that way. Sometimes is the colors, or the font, or the use of adverbs, it all depends on what the question is.

My point, though, is that I always try to be supportive and never be negative in my comments. Sometimes, some things need correcting. It is very different when you say: “It may be improved if you…”, and when you say: “well that’s wrong.”

In the first example, which is what I always try to do, there is a suggestion on how to improve. That does not mean at all that it’ll work. In my case, I may have missed something fundamental in what the author was trying to convey. It may be that the author may choose not to use my suggestion, but upon reflection, improve the work in another, more personal, way.

In the second example, saying something is wrong is a little less than useless. If it was perfect, at least to the eyes of the author, the person wouldn’t be asking for help.

Or the person can be so self-absorbed that they do not realize their own failings, which the general public will quickly and effectively convey once the work goes out in public.

In any case, I always try to be positive, supportive, and honest.

If I review your book, I’ll either give it a 4 or 5 stars review or I will send you a personal note, if at all possible, with my thoughts.

In every case, I always try to frame my comments in the most positive way I can.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have a great day.

Published by tjmanrique

I'm a SciFi, horror and fantasy writer. I will publish sometime in 2021. Mean time, My web page has my book cover concepts and a few short stories and stories about my writing journey.

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