Before I blog on this title, I just wanted to say it’s been a long, hard week.Â I attendedÂ the memorial service for my dad in San Diego, and finally cried my heart out.Â 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.Â If any of you are so inclined, I strongly urge you to donate to Alzheimer’s research.Â 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, CAÂ 92037-1707Â (Attention: Pamela Bell.)
I want to stamp out this disease.Â 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 toÂ 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 bookÂ _____ and it was nothing but aÂ love story!Â What happened to you, Tess?”
“I see from Amazon that you have a new bookÂ coming out calledÂ MURDER AND MAYHEM.Â How come you haven’t mentioned it in your blog?”
The answer is: IÂ never wroteÂ anyÂ book with that title.Â In fact, there are a lot of books out there withÂ my name on them, carrying titles that are completely unfamiliar to me.Â How is this possible?Â How can I not know about a bookÂ with my name on it?
The answer is simple: I have no control over their release.
Before I became a thriller writer,Â I wrote eight romantic suspense novelsÂ for the huge romance publisher, Harlequin Intrigue.Â Those books came out in paperback, and sold about average numbersÂ for the genre.Â I wasn’t getting rich off them, and neither was Harlequin.
Fast-forward to 1996, when my first big thriller, HARVEST, was published.Â Suddenly, my books were hitting U.S. bestseller lists.Â And then, in 2001, THE SURGEON was the first of my UK bestsellers.Â
In the meantime,Â Harlequin continued to hold the rights to my eight old romance novels.Â I did try to get back those rights, butÂ asÂ any romance writer will tell you, Harlequin never EVER relinquishes those rights.Â They hold onto them forever,Â because they’re not stupid.Â And because they know that a certain percentage of their writers will go on to become big bestselling authors.Â Â Nora Roberts, for instance, has not been able toÂ control the rights to her Harlequin books, and I have a feeling it must annoy herÂ thatÂ those old romances keep popping back into print just as one of herÂ new releases hits the stands.
You may ask: So what’s the problem with that?Â Authors still get royalties on those books,Â right?Â
Yes,Â we do.Â And I very much appreciate that.Â I understand why Harlequin would want to re-release my books, under different covers, in omnibus collections with different titles.Â (They come out under the “Mira” imprint.)Â After all, Harlequin’s a business, and they own an asset (my old titles) and naturally they want to keep mining those assets.Â
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 oldÂ romance novel.Â My first reaction is to say to them:Â “Hey, try it, maybe you’ll like it.”Â But a lot of them think they’ll get cooties or something from reading a romance, and then they write me angry letters.Â Or even worse, they stop buying my books altogether.
And that’sÂ the bigÂ problem.
Nora Roberts has dealt with theÂ issue by adding a special symbol on her new releases, signalling to her readers that these are not old romances, but brand-new stories.Â I can see why she had to do that.Â Harlequin’s been very clever about re-packaging my old romances to look just like my new releases.Â Their coversÂ look almost exactly like my UK thrillers, complete with the “London Times bestseller” label.Â 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.Â 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.Â I don’t know ahead of time when the romances willÂ come out, or what their newÂ titles may be, or what the covers will look like.Â
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.