Cover Story: Quill's Will
He compares the process to filling a bucket with an eyedropper until it finally overflows, at which point momentum takes over. “You would think the media would like to write about something new, but it doesn’t,” he says of fighting pop culture inertia. “It likes to write about what everybody else is writing about.” On the other hand, the right author at the right time can “fill the bucket” immediately, which is why Mettee is always on the lookout for what he calls “the good platform,” an author with a built-in fan base or other surefire credentials.
Dr. Gott is a case in point. Mettee had read the Connecticut doctor’s health column for years in the Fresno Bee and one day got to thinking that he’d do well as an author.
“I liked him, I liked his voice, I liked his style, and one day it dawned on me, ‘Hey, how come I never read about him having a book?’” Mettee recalls. An Internet search led to a transcontinental conversation between the doctor and publisher, which eventually resulted in “Live Longer, Live Better,” followed by Dr. Gott’s hugely successful diet book.
Not the conventional way to come by a manuscript, but Mettee’s never been too worried about doing things the conventional way. His favorite author-recruitment story concerns the famous sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
“Just put down that I met her at a Playboy party in Chicago,” he laughs—which, in fact, is true. But actually getting the spry Dr. Ruth under contract took years, as Mettee doggedly pursued his book idea with Westheimer’s agent.
“It took a couple of years for me to get her business manager to realize that I was a for-real publisher,” he says. “People like that are very wary of being used, so they are not open to every idea. I’d see [her agent] when I’d go to New York, and I think I wore him down.”