Cover Story: Quill's Will
In distribution as much as in marketing, Mettee says the strategic focus should be on giving a book traction. The conundrum for an independent publisher can be that, to get momentum, you need to get a book in stores, while retailers will look for markers of success when deciding whether to stock a book.
“It’s not necessarily the reader who cares,” he says, of a book’s association with a big-name author. “It’s all the gatekeepers that are between the publisher and the reader who care. I can get better distribution when I go to the buyer at Barnes & Noble with an author like Dr. Ruth than I can with your mother-in-law.”
Still, with his eye for good material and an eager audience, Mettee has been able to turn a number of unknowns into successful authors. Indeed, some of his authors discovered the company through his stable of books for writers, including a well-known guide to writing book proposals that he authored.
“I love writers,” Mettee says. “I’d rather know the author of the book a movie was [based on] than the star of the movie. … They are the force that drives our industry. I have to [remember to] put on my businessman’s hat because I get in trouble helping them out more than I should sometimes.”
His rapport with writers has paid dividends however, as it did with the author of a popular Best Half of Life title on improving memory, whom he met at a writer’s conference where he was presenting.
“People ask me what works,” he says. “The No. 1 thing you have to have is good books. If you are competing with the big guys out in New York, they’ve got good books—well-thought-out, good content, well-edited, well-written, easy to read. If you don’t have that, it’s just not going to sell.”