You can’t possibly be talking about me

I might as well blog about it, because a lot of other publishing blogsites have mentioned it.   They’re talking about a recent article in the Los Angeles Times by Josh Getlin, about the glut of books by big-name authors being released this fall.  He writes:

“There are new books from bestselling “blockbuster” types such as John Grisham, making his first foray into nonfiction; John Le Carré; Stephen King; Michael Crichton; Robert Ludlum; James Patterson; Dean Koontz; Michael Connelly; Tess Gerritsen; David Baldacci; and Danielle Steel, all of whom rarely, if ever, publish a sales dud.”

I was blithely reading through the article when I came across my name in that paragraph and stopped dead.  That was my name in the list.  Included among the “blockbuster” types that “rarely, if ever, publish a sales dud”.

Um, excuse me, Mr. Getlin.  But I think you must mean some other author named Tess Gerritsen. 

It’s true that my last six books have been NYT bestsellers in hardcover and paperback.  It’s true that it’s a likely possibility my next release will also hit the list.  But I have never considered my future as a writer a sure thing. 

I haven’t had a chance to talk about this subject with other authors who’ve hit the list. Maybe I’m unique.  Or maybe they’re just like me.  Maybe we all feel as if we’re hanging on in this business by the skin of our teeth, and that every time we hit the list, we secretly think: “I squeaked through and got lucky again.”   

Or maybe they don’t.  Maybe they’ve accepted the fact they’re “blockbuster, sure-thing authors”.  Maybe I’m the only one who still has attacks of desperation and uncertainty.  Who still wonders if anyone is buyng my books.  

The insecurity is especially acute during book tour (which I’m currently on), when I walk into a bookstore and see the thousands and thousands of competing titles.  In the past, I’ve compared selling books to selling detergent, but you know what?  Competing in the detergent market is a heckuva lot easier.  There are no more than a dozen brands at the most jockeying for our attention.  But as an author, I’m up against a dozen NEW big titles each month.  Every month. 

Tide Detergent never had to struggle this hard.

So call me a blockbuster author if you want to.  It’s flattering to see my name in any list with Stephen King and Michael Connelly.  But I know I don’t belong there.  And I never will.

No matter how many books I sell.

39 replies
  1. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    yes you do-the only other currennt fiction authors who can give you a run for your money are cormac mccarthy(and he writes in a totally different vein-like apples and oranges)and lawrence block in his scudder and keller books-some of the “big names”are coasting on their reputations,repetitive,and hard to get through-you are always new and original and provide great collateral detail about so many subjects

  2. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    Uhh, pardonez-moi? Next to Stephen King, you ARE my favorite author. I am just one person of course, but you shouldn’t feel lesser than the King at all. You are your own writer and you have talents unique to YOU. But don’t attack yourself because you DO diserve to be in with those other authors. Oh, and have fun on your tour Dr. G!!!

  3. writeforlove
    writeforlove says:

    You don’t give yourself enough credit Tess!! If I had experienced your path to success, I’d take it and RUN with it. I’d walk around with an a-frame sign attached to me at all times that read, “Who wants to mess with me now????”

    No I really wouldn’t, but you get my point. You belong at the top–you’ve earned your way there and your work speaks for itself. You don’t get clumped into that category without some backing… like they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” (i tend to overuse cliches… sorry).

  4. Eva
    Eva says:

    Oh, Tess it’s great to be humble but please don’t be insecure. You have loyal readers, you really do. Once somebody discovers you at any given time, odds are like me, they will go back and read all your books and from then on look forward to every book you will write!
    Not to mention these new fans will tell their friends(like I did.) I think ultimately that is what keeps an author or singer etc, selling,loyalty!

  5. Craig
    Craig says:

    It’s because you feel that way you do that you do belong there. Stay insecure while you’re writing and never be satisfied and you will continue to release first rate novels.

  6. bob k
    bob k says:

    One thing you have forgotten Tess…you may be competing with the other books on the shelf, but unlike when I buy Tide…I will often buy more than 1 book on each trip to the bookstore. Just because you and Stephen King had a book in stores at the same time…I wouldn’t feel it was an either/or choice. But if I am in the market for Tide, I am not likely to buy All too.

  7. spyscribbler
    spyscribbler says:

    Sometimes, striving to continually improve can be difficult, because with each pinnacle we reach, we see a higher and more difficult mountain to climb — one we’re driven to climb. That’s overwhelming and just a bit discouraging.

    You’re right; you’ll probably never FEEL like you belong, but only because you won’t stick around long enough. You’ll be on to the next peak, and the next one, then the next one …

    But don’t let yourself get too discouraged. Instead of looking up at the next peak all the time, look behind you now and then, and realize how very far you’ve come, and how very much you’ve achieved. And appreciate the journey. Or read some old German romantic lit for some company. *grins*

    And, Tess, you DO belong!

  8. Rob Gregory Browne
    Rob Gregory Browne says:

    Tess, Tess, Tess. Of course, you belong on that list. You really need to accept the simple fact that readers love you, love your writing, love your stories. Hitting the list once is a fluke. Hitting it over and over again is not.

    You have loyal fans who will always buy your books as long as you keep entertaining them. And I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

  9. Darlene Ryan
    Darlene Ryan says:

    You’re on that list because you deserve to be on that list. Your books are consistently intriguing and enjoyable. I think your bit of insecurity makes you very human–and your characters as well.

  10. ladybug
    ladybug says:

    I must say, to my embarrassment, that I had not read any of your books until a week ago. I was in the library looking for something different to read when I stumbled upon “The Surgeon”. I didn’t just read this book-I inhaled it! I love your writing style and manner. Your medical background serves you well. You can spout medical terminology and conditions in a way that it is not tiresome or boring and extremely relevant to the story. Needless to say, I now have 2 more of your books to read and I can happily say you have a fan for life! And yes Tess, you certainly do deserve to be on the “list”. Keep them coming! You are fantastic at what you do!

  11. Terry
    Terry says:

    Only two of those “blockbuster types” make my personal list of ten favorite authors: Baldacci and you.

  12. John
    John says:

    Tess, to me you’re such a consistently good writer that it always surprises me just how insecure about your own abilities and talents you are. As someone else said though this may not be such a bad trait of yours as you’re not someone who’s ever going to become blazee.
    Do you know are good you are? You don’t do you?

  13. vividexpression
    vividexpression says:

    I remember back in grade eight when this girl read a story I wrote and liked it. She said it almost made her cry. It was weird to hear, because I had seen it simply as another story. It’s hard to be subjective about your own work.

    Granted, I wasn’t trying to make a living back then, but I think because the stories writers tell are so close to them, that there is always worry whether people will like it. It takes a strong person to be that vulnerable.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this comment. Mostly that because the writing industry is so unpredictable and difficult to break into that the feelings are wrote about are normal.

    Just keep writing and relax a little!

  14. Tess
    Tess says:

    Thanks for all the really nice comments!

    I’d love to hear from other authors who’ve hit the bestseller lists. At Thrillerfest this year, Sandra Brown said she still feels insecure about her writing, but I don’t remember her saying anything about feeling insecure about “the business.” I bet I’m not the only one!

  15. Barbie Roberts
    Barbie Roberts says:

    Tess, whatever formula you’ve been using keep using. From what I’ve read from you, that involves sleepless nights sometimes worrying over such “trivial” things as word choice and sentence structure, not to mention whether the plot is really going anywhere. Because you love what you do and you endure those kind of nights, you end up telling a story that draws the reader right in and doesn’t let go until the final sentence. I think that as long as you continue to care so much about the story and not the success, then the success will continue to follow.

  16. zaedok
    zaedok says:

    For some of us, maybe most of us, insecurity seems to be a part of the human condition. In my job, I used to dread the annual review, even though negative ones were few and far between. In your case, I selfishly hope you never lose the insecure feeling that has prodded you to write such excellent mysteries.

  17. JA Konrath
    JA Konrath says:

    I haven’t hit the bestseller lists, and am constantly worried that I never will.

    If I do manage to make the lists, I’ll worry I won’t be there long.

    If my books get made into hit movies, and they debut at #1 consistently, I’ll still be paranoid my career isn’t going to last.

    Which is why I drink. 🙂

  18. Craig
    Craig says:

    Well, Mr. Konrath, if you haven’t made the lists YET it isn’t because you haven’t been trying. I’m 2/3 through Rusty Nail and you’re good, sir. I have a short list of authors whose next effort I just automatically pick up–Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, Will Thomas, Marcia Preston, Preston and Child, Perry O’Shaughnessy, Tess of course and now you. For those of you who haven’t checked this man out and haven’t met The Gingerbread Man let me tell you that we should all pray to whatever deity or deities we have that he’s not in our gene pool.

  19. BA
    BA says:

    I’ve always had the feeling that you just don’t GET IT, Tess! You are the absolute favorite of many. We don’t say that just to be nice! I’ve noticed that many people with real talent don’t fully appreciate their gift, having lived with it every day of their lives – they do not understand the special-ness of it. You have “IT.” You really do.

  20. JanetK
    JanetK says:

    This thread makes me think of a quote from Lisa Scottoline’s KILLER SMILE: “If you can’t be brave, be determined, and you’ll end up in the same place.”

  21. jillmansell
    jillmansell says:

    Tess, I don’t sell in the US but my last 11 novels have all done well in the UK, hitting the top 5 of the Sunday Times bestseller lists, and I can confirm that I feel EXACTLY the same way as you. The disbelief doesn’t lessen and my fear of failure increases with each new book. Every time I finish one, I’m convinced it will be rejected by my embarrassed publishers. Reading your post was like reading my own thoughts – so, no, I don’t think those feelings will ever go away. Looks like we’re stuck with them for good!
    Jill Mansell

  22. Tess
    Tess says:

    thanks for that! People outside publishing always seem so surprised that we writers feel this way. You said, “Every time I finish one, I’m convinced it will be rejected by my embarrassed publishers.” I could have written that line!

  23. Gabriele
    Gabriele says:

    Tess Gerritsen has self doubts and Robbie Williams a depression – what’s the world coming to? 😀

    On a serious note, I think the majority of artistic people has a hightened level of sensibility and self-awareness. It gives us the empathy to understand and thus to create, but it comes with a price tag.

    Nancy Normal may have less self doubts, but won’t ever get the idea to write a book. I know my brother won’t, and he thinks I’m weird for doing it. 😉

    Sure, there are people with low self esteem who are not creative, maybe because they’ve blocked that part of their personality (and how many therapies for people with problems include painting and other creative endeavours?), and some creative people may feel sure in what they do, but I think there is some pattern.

    You go, girl.

  24. Tess
    Tess says:

    You all really should give JA Konrath a try. His books are a terrific combination of scary of funny — a really difficult blend for any writer, but Joe does it well.

  25. Angi
    Angi says:

    Tess Gerrisen and James Patterson…The top 2 on my list! Why not on everyone elses? I finally read Life Support…I could never write like that! I would scare myself to death! 🙂
    Do you belong on that list?? Are you kidding me? YES! YES! and YES again!! Congrats!! It is an honor well earned!!

  26. hankask
    hankask says:

    There are a lot of great authors out there at this time, and I also consider you amoung the very best.
    I read my first Tess Gerritsen book about eleven months ago and could not put it down.I have read ten of your books and they were all page turners. When I purchace more than one book at a time, it’s hard to decide wether to read your book first or save the best for last.

  27. mlparker
    mlparker says:

    Are you kidding me!?! I think you’re a fabulous writer and you absolutely belong on that list! I devour your books quicker than a bag of chocolate chip cookies! (and that’s saying a lot!) I look forward to each and every book you release. I’ve already read The Mephisto Club and am anticipating your next release!

    You are a very talented writer. I can only dream of success like your’s! Keep up the great work!

  28. huisi
    huisi says:

    hey! just in case u didnt know, oops, u wouldnt know, that i read almost all (except some of your older romance novels which i cant find) your books, but i have nv read stephen king or michael connelly (though i see their books on the shelve) mayb i haven gotten thru the first few pages of their books, or i havent had any emotional attachments to their characters. But i really think your book is distinctively unique, and your writing draws me into the story. yeah.. u are not in their league, u are wayyy betta! u go!!

  29. huisi
    huisi says:

    hey! just in case u didnt know, oops, u wouldnt know, that i read almost all (except some of your older romance novels which i cant find) your books, but i have nv read stephen king or michael connelly (though i see their books on the shelve) mayb i haven gotten thru the first few pages of their books, or i havent had any emotional attachments to their characters. But i really think your book is distinctively unique, and your writing draws me into the story. yeah.. u are not in their league, u are wayyy betta! u go!!
    love mephisto club! finished it in less than 3 hrs!

  30. wy82331
    wy82331 says:

    Hey Tess,
    You sell yourself short. You belong alongside all those authors whom you feel that they are above you. I just read your book , Vanish, It is great. I have read many of your books , but this is your coming out book.
    When I think of you and this book a vision comes to my mind. I see an eagle that has sort of been limited but is now sitting on the edge of its perch. I see it lifting off of that perch and soaring high into the sky. Nothing is impossible now.
    Soar Tess, soar.

  31. wy82331
    wy82331 says:

    Hello Tess,
    Just finished your latest book , The Mephisto Club. Great, enjoyed it very much.
    I haven’t read all the blogs but was reading one about how hard it is write. I had a great idea, having worked in a prison, to write but it takes lots of work and imagination. Maybe I will have to relate a hawk in my vision , as I know of no eagles which have flaming red hair. But which ever, your soaring! I enjoy your books very much.
    I so admire someone that can write. We all have ideas but making them happen and ending up with a book is huge. Like movies, lots of “B” type out there. Yours belong on the top shelf. Keep up the wonderful work.

  32. wy82331
    wy82331 says:

    Hi Tess,
    I was just logging off when I saw those painful words, ” I don’t belong there.” Well you do! If a preson reads all the books of an author we see the growth of that author. They, those super authors , which you feel you don’t belong once wrote their first book. Each book following got just a little better, more complete, more descriptive. Your are like that as well. Don’t let the ” good old boys” scare you.
    Hey, they have all the fears and doubts and worries that you feel. Like climbing a mountain, we only go one step at a time. It must be about the same writing a book.
    So, Please, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Soar!

  33. noraini
    noraini says:

    Hi Tess,

    When I started to read The Surgeon, I just can’t stop myself from reading your books..I have yet to read the Mephisto Club…which in Singapore, not available yet..but I do hope that they will bring it in soonest. Ever since, I have been telling my friends to read your writing and also, when I saw someone not sure which book to read in the bookstore, I recommend your books, I told them that they will not regret it. One of my friends, I lend her The Surgeon, she stay whole night to read it and before she could finish it, the next day, she went to a bookstore and bought 4 more books of yours. And she keeps telling me that Tess Gerristsen is not only good but SUPER GOOD. Anyway, I feel that you are the THE BEST female writer. Pls keep writing.

  34. Sheana
    Sheana says:

    Good heavens.
    I read your book late into the night, early in the morning, and rushed home to ignore animals, food and partner – just to get to the next enlightening moment.
    When asked to give a review (a day late – nothing changes) for Mephisto Club, I could think of no equal for murder detail, supernatural colouring and just overall good reading. Stephen King and Grisham came close – I would even maybe slot in Rendell and Carroll O’Connell for keep-you-guessing sleuthing – but none quite in your category.
    I was impressed. So were and are a lot of others. Don’t stop, and the LAT prediction will be a fact.

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