Rejection, Rotten Reviews, and Social Media: 7 Ways Writers Need to be Like Rhinos

by Ruth Harris

Writers are always urged to have or develop  “rhino skin.”

But let me add a few words about rhino skin.

When I wrote ZURI, I did lots & lots of research about rhinos. As it turns out, rhinos have thick hides but sensitive skin—quite different from the usual perception.

What rhinos have is, in fact, is exactly what writers need:

1) We need thick hides to help insulate us from rejection, rotten reviews and incoming from the demands of marketing and social media.

2) We also require the sensitive skin that gives us the heightened awareness and sensitivity to others and to our surroundings that result in compelling fiction.

As I was contemplating the misconception about rhinos and their skin and the difference between a thick hide and a thin skin, it occurred to me there are a number of other rhino characteristics that would serve writers well:

1) Good sense of direction. 

Although rhinos have no GPS to guide them, they do have a superb sense of direction. Rhinos remember a route they have taken only once. They don’t get lost or distracted.

Writers need to keep from getting lost, too. Whether it’s deep in the thickets of a complicated plot or trying to decide between self-pub, small press or trad-pub, writers need to take a cue from rhinos:

Don’t get distracted and be careful not to get lost, lose sight of the goal or the way to get there.

2) Excellent memory

Rhinos remember people and places and can distinguish between friends and enemies.

Writers sometimes need to do lots of research (something rhinos can’t do) but writers, like rhinos, need to remember the apt fact, the relevant anecdote, the specific situation and the emotions linked to them. That depth and richness of memory allows us to describe a unique setting, a particular individual, and will contribute potent detail that result in powerful storytelling.

Writers also need to distinguish friends from enemies and, in our plots, the good guys from the bad guys. (Even though sometimes we try to keep it as complicated as possible, especially if we’re writing mysteries!)

3) Bond well with others. 

Although rhinos are nearsighted, they bond well with other rhinos (contrary to the popular perception of rhinos as solitary, in fact they are social and live in small groups). In addition, rhinos bond well with their human friends and keepers.

Writers will find much support from communities of other writers and, of course, writers want to bond well with their editors and readers. ;-)

4) Speed, strength, and resilience.

Despite their size, rhinos are surprisingly fast: they can attain speeds of 35-miles-per-hour over short distances. Writers also have a need for speed: to please readers who are anxiously waiting for the next book and, on deadline, a writer needs the ability to develop high speed over short periods of time as well as strength for the long haul.

It goes without saying that rhinos are huuuge! Rhinos, members of a mammalian class called odd-toed ungulates, are among of the largest creatures on earth. Fully grown, they can be six feet tall and weigh anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 pounds which makes them very, very strong indeed. Strong enough to withstand rejection or a rotten review? You bet! Can you imagine a rhino sulking over a crappy review? Hardly. Strong enough to power through a block? Plenty strong for that.

Can you see a rhino getting defeated by anything except maybe another rhino if he’s of the male persuasion and they’re fighting over a girl rhino? Nope. Rhinos are like the old Timex commercial: They take a licking but keep on ticking.

Ditto writers: Speed through and get that book finished—some will love it, others will hate it—but the writer keeps on writing.

5) Great listening skills.

The nearsighted rhino is blessed with superior hearing. What s/he can’t see, s/he can hear.

Writers would do well to hone their listening skills because good hearing equals good dialogue. A writer who really listens to what people say and the way they say it, will not burden his/her book with clunky dialogue. People speak in fragments and uncompleted thoughts, not long, well-considered sentences and paragraphs.

6) A nose for news

Rhinos have an excellent sense of smell, a quality that helped me write a triumphant ending for the baby rhino, Zuri.

For writers, a good sense of smell heightens the ability to sniff trends and detect BS in others, in their characters—and, most of all, in themselves.

7) What? You thought I wasn’t going to go there????


What about you, scriveners? Can you develop a thick hide over your sensitive writer skin? Do you have a rhino  "nose" for news and BS? Do you think you can tell friends from enemies as well as rhinos do? What helped you develop your "rhino" habits?

Anne and I love our readers and, because we want to keep them happy,  we are offering special deals every Sunday. This week, in honor of all I’ve learned from and about rhinos and in appreciation of our readers, I’m reducing ZURI to 99c from its usual price of $3.99.

 Only 99c for a limited time! At Amazon US. Amazon UK, NOOK

The kindness of humans.
The intelligence of animals.
A book that will move you like no other.

ZURI's triggering event is the near-extinction of Africa's black rhino. Rhino horn is more valuable than gold and the illicit global trade in wild animals is third only to the smuggling of drugs and weapons. (Contains no sex or cursing and is appropriate for older YA readers as well as adults.) 

NOTE to readers outside the US
: We apologize if sometimes our links go to a full-price book. We can't access prices in other countries' Amazon sites, so we have no way of checking. This is yet another reason why we recommend Mick and the gang at Ebook Bargains UK (EBUK) who send you daily book deals with links to UK sites: not just Amazon, but Waterstones, Foyles, etc. (and no, we're not getting kickbacks. We just like them because they're affordable. :-) Now how about doing some more newsletters for our Canadian, European, and Aussie friends, Mick?)

NOTE to followers who've been reading this blog in Google Reader. Google Reader died today. RIP. But don't despair. You can either subscribe by email (in the sidebar, just under the blogfriends widget) or use any of a number or other readers. You can get great suggestions from Suzannah at Write it Sideways or Meghan Ward at Writerland.


1) Iron Writer Insane-a-Thon! The Dreadful Cafe will hold their annual writing marathon on July 13, 2013. There are prizes for the most words written in a 24 hour period and for raising the most money for their charity, St. Jude's Hospital. It's a wild and crazy insane-a-thon for a great cause. More at The Dreadful Cafe. Send in your entry before midnight on July 13 to:

2) Quirk Books "Looking for Love" contest. They offer a $10,000 prize for the best quirky love story of 50,000 words or more. Visit the Quirk Books website to download the entry form or for further information. Quirk Books was founded in 2002 and publishes around 25 books each year. Their bestselling titles include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Soon to be a major motion picture) Entries close October 1, 2013

3) Escargot Books
is expanding its catalogue and are now accepting submissions. Crime fiction (dark thrillers to cozies), women’s fiction, wealth and fitness, children’s, sci-fi and dystopian. All books will be published in digital format. Some books will be chosen for print and/or audio as well. Escargot Books does not offer an advance, but they offer higher royalties than traditional publishers, especially for direct sales from our website, as well as editing, formatting, promotion, and the company of bestselling authors. They have some big name authors and a good track record. Here’s their online submission form

"We're currently assembling a new Market Book titled the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing, and it's been great except for one problem-we need more freelance designer listings! It's currently filled with listings for self-publishing companies, freelance editors, and other services of value to self-publishers. But we need more freelance designers. If you are a freelance designer, send an e-mail to with the subject line: Freelance Designer and request a questionnaire. It's only one page, and the listing is completely free."

5) Affordable book advertising to British readers from Ebook Bargains UKAll ads half price for the next two months. Lots of authors and publishers have had huge successes with their FREE or SALE books by advertising on BookBub, ENT, KND, POI, etc. But none of those target the UK, and their links go to US sites Brits can't use. But now there’s a newsletter for UK readers only. It links to all the big UK retailers like Apple UK, Waterstones and Foyles as well as Amazon UK. They don’t sell books direct or get paid for clickthroughs, so they don't have any restrictions on how many free books they can spotlight. So it's THE place to tell Brits about your book when it goes free or on sale in the UK.  And if you're in the UK, do sign up for their newsletter. It brings links to free and bargain ebooks—at the UK bookstore of your choice—in your inbox every morning. You can subscribe here.

Labels: , , , , , , ,