You can’t please everyone

Recently I received a note from a reader telling me that she’d tried to read my medical thriller HARVEST and she just “couldn’t get into it.”  She said she liked the Jane Rizzoli series so much better, and she hoped that I would stick with that and never go back to those “boring medical thrillers.”

Then there was the reader who wrote to tell me that she didn’t really care for the Jane Rizzoli series and begged me to go back to writing those “great medical thrillers like HARVEST,” which was her favorite of all my books.

One reader told me that GRAVITY was the best book I’d ever written, and he asked when I’d write the sequel.  While another reader told me GRAVITY was just not her cup of tea, and that it was the one book of mine she didn’t finish.

A reader told me that of all my books, she thought BLOODSTREAM was my weakest.  A different reader told me BLOODSTREAM was her favorite.

Several readers wrote begging me to develop the love story between Maura and the priest, Father Brophy.  They can’t wait to see that bedroom scene.  And some readers told me to kill off Brophy because they’re tired of him, and of the flirtation.

What’s a writer to do with reader mail like this?

First, I’ll admit it.  It hurts when someone criticizes one of my babies.  I worked hard on every single one, so of course I don’t like to hear that someone, somewhere, thought the book stank.  But the longer I’m in this business, the more I realize that  reader opinions are all over the damn place.  If you write to please one reader, inevitably you’ll disappoint a different one.  Plus, some letter writers have their own agendas.  They’re looking for reasons to be upset, and — lucky me — they choose my book to get upset about. 

All you can do as a novelist is write for yourself — and for an audience of people just like you.  Because if you listen too hard to all that contradictory criticism (“no more medical thrillers!”  “no more crime thrillers!”  “no more space thrillers!”) you’ll be too paralyzed to write anything at all.



31 replies
  1. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    This just goes to prove you’re not a one-trick pony-some authors stick to formula like a chemist so they can be sure their readers will like every book-but they don’t expand their readership that way.there is one prolific mystery author who writes two series i really like and excellent short stories-but that author writes other series i won’t even pick up-they may be very good,but they don’t interest me-should i write to complain -no that would be a pretty ignorant thing to do-i just don’t bring them up,especially since i haven’t read them-and there’s a famous horror writer whose short stories and novelettes i really like,but not the novels(i think horror is more effective in a shorter format)-anyway please continue to go where your mind leads you and i think you’ll keep getting new fans-a person who can please everyone is usually a total nonentity

  2. Sandra Ruttan
    Sandra Ruttan says:

    This is great advice, Tess. So often, criticism in reviews and from readers comes down to personal taste. I find one negative comment can undermine the joy of ten positives…

  3. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    Okay Dr. Gerritsen, here’s what you do! You keep writing like you are first of all because I buy all of your books in hardcover (and I don’t do that but with about 4 authors you, King, Koontz, and Rowling) because I LOVE HOW YOU WRITE! Your novels all kick big butt! You are an excellent writer and you have many fans, some authors aren’t so special ;)…SO KEEP IT UP! Don’t let a few people get you down and make you mad, most of your loyal fan base loves you!

  4. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Tell you what, Tess. I’ll let you know which books of yours I love and keep silent about those I didn’t like, which so far, have been none, although I haven’t read all of them yet.


    P.S. My brother’s really into the space shuttle, ISS, satellites, irridium flares, and stuff like that, partly for his job. When he IM’ed me a URL for an article that discusses how problematic having sex in space would be, I thought about “Gravity”. He’s not a book reader, but I am going to give him “Gravity” for his birthday and challenge him to read it.

  5. Charissa
    Charissa says:

    If I don’t like what I read, I wouldn’t bother an author telling them that… Everyone has their own opinions, something I don’t like – someone else might love. I’ve loved all your books.

  6. BA
    BA says:

    The only criticism I could think of for a Gerritsen novel is that they’re impossible to rank because they all tie for first place. Each challenges the reader to fire a few synapses. For those uncomfortable with that process, I can see where displeasure may exist.

  7. andrewbaker2603
    andrewbaker2603 says:

    Hi Tess
    I have enjoyed every single book that you have released and I can hardly wait for The Mephisto Club. I also listen to the audio books, and I thought that I would give you some feedback. most of the time when I have bought and listened to an audiobook it has just been some actor reading into the recorder a book that they had never read. But the audio books that I have listened to have been excellent. So far I have listened to Life Support, Harvest and Bloodstream and I am starting on Vanish. I have read all the books but I thought that I would listen to the books on CD too.

  8. andrewbaker2603
    andrewbaker2603 says:

    PS thanks so much for the bookmark and the reader’s guide, I got it in the post last week and I have already read the guide tons of times.

  9. struggler
    struggler says:

    I have never contacted a writer to criticise one of his/her books and never would. However I do find it frustrating when a book I disliked intensely receives glowing praise from amateur critics on sites such as Amazon. I won’t mention names, but a film was made of one of his books recently (which I certainly won’t be seeing!).

    Regading your own work Tess, so far I have only read The Surgeon, which was outstanding, and it prompted me to rush out and buy all the other Rizzoli novels. Also, I think it’s worth noting that people are generally more willing to take the trouble to slag a book off than to sing its praises, which means that you probably see about 90% of the bad opinions but maybe only 10% of the opinions of those who enjoyed it.

  10. Craig
    Craig says:

    Struggler, you said it best. Tess, you are the first author that I’ve ever contacted online and it was because of Body Double. I collect the horror and supernatural fiction of the 30’s and 40’s and the scene in Body Double where the luminol is being sprayed on that basement staircase scared me more than Lovecraft ever did. That’s why I have a special fondness for it. Because I’m not a writer I don’t have any suggestions for you other than I too don’t go around panning books. You won’t catch me On Amazon ripping someone’s work apart. If I really don’t like a book the best course of action is to ignore it and not mention it to anyone. The most effective way to kill a book is to ignore it.

  11. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Hi Tess. I’m your newest fan. I just finished my second Gerritsen book (Body Double) last night at two a.m., and loved it just as much if not more than my first (Bloodstream). I’m definitely hooked. Didn’t know there was a series to Body Double until half way through the book and I read it somewhere (probably on your website) and realized I was reading out of sequence.

    Re Brophy, I kinda hope Maura finds a better mate. I didn’t think he seemed upset enough when he thought she was the dead woman in the car (or relieved enough that she wasn’t).

    Anyway, can’t wait to read more of your work. It’s been a long time that a book like that kept me up so late—and on edge. Admittedly I was a little unsure about reading something labelled “medical thriller”, because medical jargon will usually bore me. But you do such a fabulous job with it, explaining things in layman terms I appreciate. I love the line in Body Double where I think it was Rizzoli who says something about why can’t the doctors just say a broken wrist is a broken wrist (or something like that). Too funny.

    And I hate to do it, but. . . loved, loved Mattie Purvis and hope she gets a story of her own—and a better husband.

  12. jewel_725
    jewel_725 says:

    Tess, I’ve been a voracious reader since about the age of 9 (I’m now 46), so with all of those years as a reader, I guess I’m an ‘expert’. One of the reasons I like to read a book is to escape, let the author take you where he/she wants. I agree with you, if a reader complains, it’s because they are looking for a reason to be upset.
    My advice to you? Keep up the excellent work! No complaints from this corner.

  13. LrParks
    LrParks says:

    Hi Tess, I just discovered you not too long ago. I started with Life Support and just finished Harvest. I love your writing style. I am now a new fan of yours! I have Vanish and Body Double to read next and can’t wait to read Gravity. Please ignore the critics even though it can be hard. There are always going to be people that you can’t please always! You are a wonderful suspense writer and I look forward to your books.

  14. Rachael from NJ
    Rachael from NJ says:

    Hi Tess,
    I have read all of your books and loved them all. My first book by you was Life Support and that one is still my favorite. I read all the medical thrillers first and I loved them all. I do also like the series books but I really love the medical thrillers. I am dying to read your new book. I was wondering what authors you like to read? Also, I read your blog constantly and love you!! Keep on writing! 🙂

  15. hannah
    hannah says:

    im only 15 years old and have never had any interest in reading books but whilst on holiday i couldnt put down body double! it is a brilliant book its a very infectious book and is incredibally well written i have read plenty of other books but none have had the same impact and kept me readin oncant wate to read the rest!!! thanks for putting my intrest back on the pages and not on the screen your an inspiration to young people such as my self i think thatyour writing is brilliant critics are jus critics its there job to complain and pick things out you have millions of fans you just have to keep optimistic :)x x x hannah x x x

  16. Barbie Roberts
    Barbie Roberts says:

    Tess, I have yet to find a book of yours that I have not enjoyed. You are one of the very few authors whose books I will buy in hardcover. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite (they are all wonderful), but Gravity was the book that prompted me to write you for the first time. I was sorry to see that the option for film rights of it hasn’t generated a movie. Do you think we will ever see a “Tess Gerritsen” film? Or does that even matter to you?

  17. JanetK
    JanetK says:

    Sorry to say that I didn’t like GRAVITY as much as the others — but not because it wasn’t well-written. Because it was too freaking scary! I had to skip entire pages because I couldn’t take the tension. Very well done.

    Cheers to Hannah for getting excited about reading, and double cheers to Tess for writing a book for Hannah 🙂

  18. kim
    kim says:

    Hi Tess. Just want to say that if writing to please yourself is what you do, then continue because you’re doing a fantastic job!!! I love all your books whether it be a crime, space or medical thriller! I read ‘Gravity’ a couple of days ago and it was perfect! Had goosebumps throughout the entire novel. Can’t wait to get your latest book. Don’t trouble yourself over the negative feedback, just enjoy the positives and continue to do what you do best. Love your work. Keep it up!!!

  19. Rob Gregory Browne
    Rob Gregory Browne says:

    When I was screenwriting, I quickly learned that when you sit in a room of executives, they all have a different idea about how you need to fix the story — and it’s usually all over the map.

    So then you go home and you write what pleases you and hope that you entertain them enough to stay employed.

    Which may be why my screenwriting career hit the skids.

    Oh, well.

  20. Genevieve
    Genevieve says:

    Hi Tess,

    First-time I have commented on here.

    I came across your novels by chance. I was reading a bookguide earlier this year and came across an excerpt from ‘Body Double’. I had never read anything in this genre before and decided I would try it. As it happens, I bought several of your other books before reading ‘Body Double’ and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

    Personally, I’m of the opinion if you don’t like the style, don’t read it. Simple as that.

    On a more general note, I would like to say thank you for re-igniting my passion for reading which I had lost for several years. I have not read so much in my life as I have in these last few months!!!

    Looking forward to the next book.


  21. cissyhowse
    cissyhowse says:

    Like everyone else here, I love you books. I started with Body Double, realised it was part of a series (and lord knows I hate to read a series out of sequence) then bought the whole Jane Rizzoli series. While waiting for Vanish to come out on paperback (not that I didn’t wan’t your hardcovers, but I don’t like mixing books) I started reading some of your other novels. Bloodstream I finished a little while ago – loved it! – and I’m trying to find your other books to finish.

    The short winded version of that paragraph:
    Keep doing the good work, writers who write for themselves are the best. Not all their books are the same.

    I am currently reading an author right now, who will remain nameless, and this author is a really good author, but after the third or fourth book I realised that all the books had the same basic plot, and it’s turned me off of that author. Good writer, but writing for the fans, not themselves. Big turnoff.

  22. krista
    krista says:

    Hello Tess, i recently purchased The mephisto Club online.and the day it came in the mail, i stared reading it.I have one word for it “amazing”.One of your best yet.I have added it to my collection.GOOD JOB Tess.

  23. Shammeh
    Shammeh says:

    I couldn’t quite believe it when I was absorbed into your book ‘gravity’ so fast. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, as anything space related usually loses my interest quickly. However I became hooked on it and read it in slightly less then two days! W

  24. Shammeh
    Shammeh says:

    Oh dear I submitted that too early!! Oh well you can probably predict it was further compliments too your work!!! 🙂 Where do you find all your biological facts from by the way? Some of them have made me somewhat paranoid though, I’ll never look at freshwater the same way again!! Although I doubt anything too dangerous lives in the coldness of scotland..*sigh of relief* …thank god the ‘candiru’ is not near! I really can’t wait to go and purchase ‘vanish’, sounds like another killer twist…your books would make amazing movies!!

  25. mlparker
    mlparker says:

    Are you kidding me?! There’s not a single book that I’ve been able to put down once I’ve started it. There may have been a book that I didn’t find as intriguing as another, but guess what? I couldn’t tell you what one that may be! Each book has been so great; I cannot wait to delve into the next one!

  26. lady88
    lady88 says:

    I happen to of read all your books since Harvest and cant wait for more! I went to and there you were with The Mephisto Club. So I go to my local Hastings and to my surprise they did not have your new book. I double checked on Amazon and sure enough it was out. Needless to say I let Hastings have an ear full and I ended up buying it on Amazon. I read it in one day! I loved it! I thought Daniel and Maura was exciting. Im catholic and when I read what was going on the first thing I thought was they are only human. The fact that you delve into such interesting topics for your books that people with open minds can read and not only enjoy your books but understand them as well. The Mephisto Club was by far your most thrilling and insightfull into things that may educate someone who otherwise may not have known. Stories are everywhere but not everyone has heard them. Keep up the excellent work!!!

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