A close-up view of how thick a writer’s skin needs to be.
Now I don’t expect every review to be positive, but sometimes the negative ones just seem so unwarranted that I’m at a loss for what to do. I’ve been writing professionally since 1988 and I’ve gotten plenty of rejection letters and bad reviews. I thought between all of the rejection letters and angry readers who I dealt with when I was a newspaper reporter that my skin was pretty thick. Then I read something or talk to someone and my skin doesn’t feel so thick.
I recently had an e-mail conversation with a woman who said I owed her mother an apology for things I wrote about her grandfather in one of my books. However, her problem was based on interviews with people who knew the man. I didn’t make them up. She also conveniently ignored some of the good points that I mentioned about him. When I pointed this out to her, she seemed to ignore them. And to top it all off, the man in question was mentioned only a half dozen times throughout the book because he was a very minor character.
I tried answering her accusations with examples in the book and explaining where my information came from, but she didn’t want to hear it.
So then, I came across another review (oddly, enough for the same book) that seems largely based on people identified in a picture. The reviewer goes on about how badly I screwed it up, but I didn’t identify the people. The identification was made by the man who gave me the pictures.
So should I point this out to the reviewer? Would it make a difference since the review is already posted?
My inclination is to not to do anything, but it sticks in my craw to be accused of sloppy research and making up facts. I know how much research I’ve done and it’s wasn’t sloppy.
I guess it’s a spillover from my reporting days when I used to get accused of all kinds of things. However, I always made sure to have both sides of a controversial subject in my stories and I also presented the strongest arguments on both sides. When I presented data, I always made sure that readers knew where it came from so they could find the original source. Yet, still I got berated; sometimes by both sides.
The lesson to be learned (if there is one) can be summed up by adapting something Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said. “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not please all of the people all of the people all of the time.”