Tess Gerritsen protests

I was intrigued by this post: Tess Gerritsen’s Blog » And the opposite of fan mail…. Tess Gerritsen is a bestselling crime-fiction novelist. I have read all of her current series of novels, but was not impressed by the most recent, which seemed to me mechanical.

Putting that to one side, in the post to which I link above, Tess is outraged to receive a letter from a reader who is upset to have picked up a book by Tess, only to find it a reissue of one of her earlier romance novels. I did not know Tess Gerritsen wrote romance novels, but I certainly identify with her reader’s frustration at buying a book and finding it to be very different from her expecations.

I have had a similar experience with Tami Hoag, whose publishers reissue her old books now that she has made the "big time" in such a way that it is rather hard to work out whether the book is new or not. Tess herself is furious with her reader, though, stating in her post that she takes no responsibility for the reissue of her earlier books. I was not convinced by her indignance. After all, she did write them, and no doubt was thrilled when they were published.

This is what she writes on her blog: "I am not, repeat NOT responsible for the re-release of my old romance novels.  And any reader who knows how the real world of publishing works should understand that. It still just flabbergasts me that readers can hate the romance novels so much that they will boycott an author for EVER IN HER LIFE having written the genre." So we have an indignant reader and an equally indignant author. What’s the way forward, though?

13 thoughts on “Tess Gerritsen protests

  1. Um, unless I read that wrong, the reader isn’t upset about getting a romance novel, but about getting a book she’s already read repackaged as if it’s something new.
    Who cares if TG wrote romance novels? Every writer starts somewhere and she probably found it easier to start in that genre … Although, come to think of it, I had a friend once who wrote romance novels and you really can’t do it unless you like to read them yourself. If you just try to whip one off for the dough, you’ll fail because it will come off like a parody.

  2. Oops — typed too soon. She’s upset that it wasn’t the *sort* of book she was expecting. Well, tough. Read the jacket cover before you buy the book; flip through the pages.

  3. The reader is out of line, but I have no idea why any successful writer would deem this criticism worthy of a public response. TG is the one with the power; who cares what the occasional crank thinks?

  4. I think the reader was aware it was reprinted, and she’s not upset that the book is romance. She’s upset because she thinks it’s trash: “I have never read (I couldn’t even finish it) such utter rubbish. You should be ashamed to have had it print again.”
    Perhaps the reader is crazy. You don’t attack and boycott an author like that because you don’t like one of her books, especially if you enjoyed the others. Not if you’re sane, at least. But TG shouldn’t have made it public, no.

  5. To add some context to this, TG says in the post “…I received some angry mail from yet another reader…” and in her immediately previous post she started by saying:
    “For the past week, I’ve thought about giving it up. Quitting the writing biz and taking up, oh, winemaking instead. I’m serious about this. I’ve been depressed and whining to my husband that I’ve lost my writer’s instincts and no longer know what the hell I’m doing. I question my ability to ever write another book. Most of all, I’m tired of pouring my heart and soul into a story, just to have it ripped to shreds by complete strangers.”
    Perhaps she was feeling a bit down at the time and the criticism rankled more than normal?
    She goes on to say “…I am not, repeat NOT responsible for the re-release of my old romance novels. And any reader who knows how the real world of publishing works should understand that…” I think that type of reader is in the very small minority. Most readers (buying or through library loans) won’t have a clue about the intricacies of the publishing industry; they read because they enjoy reading and because they enjoy that type of book or author.
    I have sympathy with those who simply read for pleasure as in a previous career incarnation I was exposed to many different industries, but never publishing. Thankfully, due to various blogs, I have learned a lot about the publishing & bookselling industry over the last couple of years. It has to be the oddest one I’ve come across! It’s also very complicated. I’ve even had an author say to me “Even I don’t know what’s going on half the time.”
    It can be hard to be an author. It can also be hard to be a disapppointed and naive reader, especially wherer naivety is not always a sin…

  6. At least it was a different book. I find the publishing of the same book in the USA and the UK with different titles difficult to understand.

  7. Romances should all be packaged in pink (like Barbara Cartland) and crime novels in red (for blood) or maybe blue (if the police are involved) 🙂

  8. Obviously rude and mildly unhinged reader, obviously too bad that TG takes such things so much to heart, obviously silly things about romance–and yet I do feel the reader has a point. The re-release of an author’s early books with VERY little if any marking as to the fact of their being reissues really feels to me like false advertising. (I was burned by one of the Ian Rankin “Jack Harvey” rereleases–you buy a book thinking it is a brand-new novel by a favorite writer in his prime, and you find out it’s a fifteen-years-old fairly humdrum thriller written before the author really found his voice. Do you not feel cheated?) Esp. the fact that this one was packaged as a thriller and turned out to be a romance–false advertising–not, of course, the author’s fault exactly, definitely the publisher’s responsibility, and yet why should readers be expected to know this? It’s natural to feel a sense of betrayal towards the author as well…

  9. You have to put it in context:
    There is a huge smoking gun on the cover no pink to be seen and the blurb says ‘This title is a thrilling suspense from the number one bestselling author of “Body Double”‘
    What would you think it was about? The reader isn’t a crank she has been mislead by a shitty maketing trick. The writer has an open relationship with her fans. So why souldn’t the reader contact the originator of the work?
    Rather than being angry with the reader she should apologise for the confusion and explain what has happened. The only person winning is the publisher.

  10. I think the publishers do have a lot to answer for in their packaging — as Jenny says, it is frustrating for a reader when an author’s nascent works are reissued to “cash in” (I read those Jack Harvey books too, although not in ignorance, and can concur they are not as good as matured Rankin by any means) or when, as Norm says, the same book is issued with a different title depending on region or time passed. I wish Tess G had shown more awareness of this point, as surely authors can at least put some pressure on publishers, if acting as a group? Misleading packaging will cause readers to avoid certain authors just because the publishers are not being straightforward with their labelling – just a brief note in the biblio detail page is all that a regular reader requires, being upfront about publication dates (is the book a reissue) and titles (all titles listed).

  11. It seems like Mira on this occasion have gone out of their way to cash-in seeing as this is published as a trade paperback with a trade paperback price along with the new cover etc.

  12. I like the comment immediately above this one, “from” Tess Gerritsen, referring to herself as “he”. Very convincing.
    Tess herself has commented further on this matter on her own blog, for those interested.
    I’ve also checked out her official website since writing my post, and see that her romance novels are listed in her bibliography there (if discreetly). So this author has definitely informed readers and potential readers of the subject matter of her book, and provided the series in reading sequence. Readers may need to check out her website first, whatever the publishers might have put (or not) in the books themselves.
    I frequently check out author (not publisher) websites for this kind of information if I’m going to buy a book online by an author whose oeuvre I am reading, but equally I freqently don’t buy a book on impulse in a bookstore if I’m not sure whether it is an “early, reissued” work masquerading as something else. In my case, therefore, publishers are pushing trade towards the internet and away from bookstores. Yes I have a bad memory, but I would like to be able to trust the publisher to help me along a little!

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