Most of the time, I feel like a reclusive clockmaker whoÂ painstakingly crafts gears and chains and sprockets and weavesÂ together intricate bits of machinery.Â Since I toil in solitude, I often forget there are real readers out there who buy my creations, readers who actually know my name.
Then I go someplace like Switzerland and Germany, and I’m totally amazed by how many readers I have.
My book tour last week started in Zurich and moved on to Munich, Berlin, Hannover, and Hamburg.Â Â My publisher Limes toured me with a gorgeous German-speaking actress,Â Marie-Lou Sellem, and at the book events, we took turns reading from BLUTMALE (the German version of THE MEPHISTO CLUB.)Â Â In just about every town, I had interviews with radio stations, newspapers, and I even managed to get onto TV in Berlin.Â I also (as you might expect!) sampled the wonderfulÂ local beers, dined onÂ curry wurst and schnitzel, and stayed up way too late every nightÂ with my willowy companion Inge andÂ my event moderators GunterÂ and Margarete.
Â With every stop, the crowds grew larger until, on the last night, I gazed in awe at a sold-out auditorium.Â (And yes, the readers had to pay toÂ attend.) Â Despite heavy rains and gale-force winds, hundreds of readersÂ came to hear me speak in Hamburg — and afterwards they stood in an endless line, some of them carrying armloads of books to be autographed.Â (“Next time she comes here, we’ll have to get a bigger space,” was the organizer’s comment.)Â Â Here in the U.S., I’m ecstatic if 30 people turn up at one of my booksignings.Â In Germany, I felt like a rock star.
While the huge crowds were astonishing,Â it was aÂ random encounter with a strangerÂ inÂ Berlin that sticks most vividly in my mind.Â It happened at the plush Regent Hotel, which wasÂ swarming with police becauseÂ some of the Saudi royal family was stayingÂ there.Â IÂ was sittingÂ at the bar, having a late-night supper, andÂ whenÂ the serverÂ tookÂ my tab, she said “Thank you, Ms. Gerritsen.”Â A table away, a well-dressed German businessman suddenly snapped to attention and stared at me.Â “Are you Tess Gerritsen, the author?” he asked.Â He told me his job keeps him too busyÂ to read more than one book a year “but it’s always one of yours!”
That’s the kind of encounter that makes a writer giddy.Â Â Â
Success in America doesn’t always translate to success abroad.Â And the opposite is true as well — an obscure authorÂ in the U.S. can achieveÂ astonishing success in Europe.Â American author Jilliane Hoffman is hugely popularÂ in Europe, but I don’t think she’s found nearly as big an American audience.Â Two of my favorite authors, Nicci French and Linwood Barclay, areÂ big names in Germany but for some reason they haven’t yet gained traction in the U.S., althoughÂ I hope theyÂ will one of these days.Â Â In German bookstores, I found many prominently displayed books by American authors whose namesÂ I rarely see here at home, but who are clearly doing well abroad.
Foreign markets give a writer a whole different audience and another chance at success. You don’t need to be an American bestseller to make a goodÂ living as an author.Â Selling well justÂ in Germany and the UKÂ alone could keep a writer prosperous.Â
And with the dollar crashing, it doesn’t hurt to get paid in Euros.