Funny, I don’t remember writing that book

Before I blog on this title, I just wanted to say it’s been a long, hard week.  I attended the memorial service for my dad in San Diego, and finally cried my heart out.  I want to thank everyone who wrote me, and I want to offer my sympathy to everyone who’s had to watch a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.  If any of you are so inclined, I strongly urge you to donate to Alzheimer’s research.  I’m telling my friends and family to donate to the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, University of California, San Diego, 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive, Suite C129, La Jolla, CA  92037-1707  (Attention: Pamela Bell.)

I want to stamp out this disease.  I look forward to the day when no one — no one — will have to live through what my dad did.

And now — it’s time to address the title of this blog entry.


I’m a writer with a past.

I’m reminded of this every time I get a note like this one from a reader:

“I love your thrillers, but I just read your latest book _____ and it was nothing but a love story!  What happened to you, Tess?”


“I see from Amazon that you have a new book coming out called MURDER AND MAYHEM.  How come you haven’t mentioned it in your blog?”

The answer is: I never wrote any book with that title.  In fact, there are a lot of books out there with my name on them, carrying titles that are completely unfamiliar to me.  How is this possible?  How can I not know about a book with my name on it?

The answer is simple: I have no control over their release.

Before I became a thriller writer, I wrote eight romantic suspense novels for the huge romance publisher, Harlequin Intrigue. Those books came out in paperback, and sold about average numbers for the genre.  I wasn’t getting rich off them, and neither was Harlequin.

Fast-forward to 1996, when my first big thriller, HARVEST, was published.  Suddenly, my books were hitting U.S. bestseller lists.  And then, in 2001, THE SURGEON was the first of my UK bestsellers. 

In the meantime, Harlequin continued to hold the rights to my eight old romance novels.  I did try to get back those rights, but as any romance writer will tell you, Harlequin never EVER relinquishes those rights.  They hold onto them forever, because they’re not stupid.  And because they know that a certain percentage of their writers will go on to become big bestselling authors.  Nora Roberts, for instance, has not been able to control the rights to her Harlequin books, and I have a feeling it must annoy her that those old romances keep popping back into print just as one of her new releases hits the stands.

You may ask: So what’s the problem with that?  Authors still get royalties on those books, right? 

Yes, we do.  And I very much appreciate that.  I understand why Harlequin would want to re-release my books, under different covers, in omnibus collections with different titles.  (They come out under the “Mira” imprint.)  After all, Harlequin’s a business, and they own an asset (my old titles) and naturally they want to keep mining those assets. 

The problem is, my readers get upset with me when they buy a Tess Gerritsen book, expecting a gritty thriller, and find they’ve bought an old romance novel.  My first reaction is to say to them: “Hey, try it, maybe you’ll like it.”  But a lot of them think they’ll get cooties or something from reading a romance, and then they write me angry letters.  Or even worse, they stop buying my books altogether.

And that’s the big problem.

Nora Roberts has dealt with the issue by adding a special symbol on her new releases, signalling to her readers that these are not old romances, but brand-new stories.  I can see why she had to do that.  Harlequin’s been very clever about re-packaging my old romances to look just like my new releases.  Their covers look almost exactly like my UK thrillers, complete with the “London Times bestseller” label.  And very often, they release these books to coincide with my first-run books, so they can piggy-back their sales onto my current publicity efforts.

Harlequin/Mira’s only doing what any business would do.  But I wish there was some way to let my readers know that I can’t be blamed, since I have absolutely no control over this.  I don’t know ahead of time when the romances will come out, or what their new titles may be, or what the covers will look like. 

So if you see a title for sale, and I don’t feature it here on my website, you can pretty much bet it’s one of my old romance novels.




17 replies
  1. Craig
    Craig says:

    Well, what Harlequin is doing may be legal, but it’s not right. All you can do is what you’ve been doing, but, and understand I’m suggesting this with no idea of how publishing works, since your publisher will be sending out fliers to bookstores about your latest anyway (they do don’t they?) perhaps they could supply a list of those Harlequins and caution the bookstores about them. I don’t know about the chains but maybe the indies could pass on the info to your fans. Is this a possiblity?

  2. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Hey, Tess! I looked up “cooties” in my favorite online medical dictionary and didn’t find it listed. 😉

    Anyway, yes, I was one of those folks who accidentally picked up an old romance novel of yours, but I wasn’t angry with you. Instead, I tried it and found it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected a romance novel to be. It was beautifully written and wasn’t as graphic as I pictured romance novels to be. So, well done!

  3. Amanda Stevens
    Amanda Stevens says:

    Hi Tess! I can understand what a frustrating situation this must be for you and for those readers who buy a romance thinking they’re getting a thriller. However, let me just say as an Intrigue writer who has been ‘packaged’ with one of your romances, wow, what a thrill! I’ve been writing for years and I think that might be the first time my kids were actually impressed by what I do, seeing as how Gravity is the standard by which they hold all books. So some good does come from those reprints!

  4. Ali M
    Ali M says:

    How annoying that must be, and unfair if readers abandon you’re work altogether. In a way I’m sure you’re thankful that they published your earlier work, however, if they affect your future sales thats not so good.

    As regards to your preblog blog, I’m considering a job offer from a pharmaceutical company that manufactures medication for alzheimers, so hopefully I can contribute in my own small way. 🙂


  5. struggler
    struggler says:

    So Tess, with all your experience now, what advice would you give aspiring writers who want to avoid the situation you’re now in? I suppose the publishing world is a very different one to that of 20 years ago but are there any methods a new writer can adopt to protect him/herself from such frustrations in the future?

  6. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:


    I would think if anyone was wondering when a book was published they could go to the copyright page and look to see what was the first year it was copyrighted. It should also say what printing and what the previous title was, if it has been changed.

    Or is that just too geeky for some people to do? Similar to getting hives from reading a footnote.

    Sorry, but the information is there and it’s too bad they can’t just flip to the front of the book and answer their own question, before jumping to conclusions.

    Anyway, I hope you’re feeling better.


  7. JMH
    JMH says:


    On the first page of your current books, include:

    “Thrillers by Tess Gerritsen:

    “Romance Novels by Tess Gerritsen:

    That way at least your thriller readers will know that your books come in two different flavors and that they’ll need to pay attention when they buy a TG book.

  8. drosdelnoch
    drosdelnoch says:

    Perhaps one thing that you might want to do then Tess is have a symbol designed to go on the covers of the new releases. Perhaps run a competition for fans to design something special. Then see about getting the rights to it, ie in the competition it says that the winning entry would beused in this way however the right to use it would be yours and therefore your copyright.

    Perhaps launch this at paperback time (if different to HB release date. lol) Just a thought. As to the romance novels I have read them, its a case of remembering them and the titles that they were originally released under rather than a renamed product.

  9. wendy roberts
    wendy roberts says:

    I wrote for Red Dress Ink (Harlequin too) and now write mysteries for Penguin. Part of me hopes I can have this same problem down the road ha ha. Seriously though, readers feel jipped and that’s the worst part.

  10. Chrissy
    Chrissy says:

    I love all your books. I read one of your romances the other day, the cover looked like one of your thrillers.

    But don’t people read the back of the book? Because I always read the backs of books. I don’t just say ‘oh look there’s a book by _____ I think I’ll buy it.’

  11. putney1968
    putney1968 says:

    Thanks for the tip. I had just checked out one of your books to take on my vacation trip to Mexico, so I rushed over to my pile of books to make sure it was from your post-Romance career!Relax, it’s Gravity! One of my former medical group partner’s wives is a successful Romance novelist: Connie Brockway. She is a wonderful, smart person, but Romance novels are just not for me.
    By the way, I’m planning on attending the SEAK medical writing conference in October and I will be submitting a novel exerpt for the medical fiction contest very soon. I am pumped up about going to the conference!

  12. Tom Young
    Tom Young says:

    I must confess, I have bought one and even read it. It was my first ‘romance’ novel, I kept it in the car to read at appointments and such. But I love to read so, anything is really fair game for reading.

  13. DanaKaye
    DanaKaye says:

    Wow, it seems very sneaky on Harlequin’s part. For me, it would feel like someone republished a short story I wrote Junior year of high school or something! WHen you’ve developed so much as a writer over the years and gained so much experience, does it feel weird to have those first novels out on the shelves?

  14. april
    april says:

    I did hear that about Nora Roberts. I know that’s why she parted ways with the publisher which is a shame because I would have liked more MacGregors one day or something to that effect.

    I’m mostly a romance reader. I’d say it’s easier to count the non-romance authors/books that I read than the other way around, but I’ve never read one of yours. I suppose I will eventually, just haven’t had the opportunity. Plus, I like my suspense straight up. I don’t care for romantic suspense. When I read romance, I have something else in mind, I guess.

    Still, it’s not an author’s fault. A reader has to take responsibility for what he/she reads. If money is important, do a little research before you randomly buy a book. Pay attention to the publisher. Usually an author has the same one. If it’s a name not familiar, it’s probably and old book (which you can also tell from the inside cover page date).

    Anyway, my two cents…

  15. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    I came across one of those Romance Novels. I remember thinking, I haven’t seen or heard of this one. So, I flicked to the copyright, sure enough it was old. So I put it back down. It’s really not that difficult to look at the year it was written. Eh, perhaps if you are buying it over the internet, it may be different. Then again, a google search can often reveal when the book was written.

  16. rebeccajames
    rebeccajames says:

    wow…that’s a very interesting insight into the publishing world.

    I can understand why Harlequin would want to do that for business purposes but you’d think they’d do it with a bit of consultation and cooperation with the author – frustrating readers wouldn’t seem in the best interests of anyone!

  17. TerriBrisbin
    TerriBrisbin says:

    Lest anyone think Harlequin is the only evil empire in the universe, actually almost any publisher that owns the rights to previous books will do the same thing. An author friend of mine was just complaining about this with two other publishers doing the rerelease thing when her new books were scheduled…and making them similar in cover appearance as her new books. Very frustrating for readers and for the authors who get those nasty emails from unsuspecting readers.


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