Many in the mystery community know Mattes as the longtime proprietor of Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, but as she tells the Cambridge Chronicle, she's having a blast with her publishing imprint as part of the Boston-based Justin, Charles & Co. as well. She explains how she made the jump from bookseller to publisher:
"People would come to me with manuscripts all the time," says Mattes of the hordes of aspiring mystery writers parading through over the years. "I finally started charging to read them. That did cut out some. But it was frustrating, because you might read a good manuscript, but at what point to you stop helping somebody try to get published or get an agent?"
She shared her frustrations with regular customer and Rounder Records co-founder Bill Nowlin, who kept pushing her to become a publisher. Nowlin was friends with Stephen Hull, who was gearing up to start his own publishing firm, and he set up a lunch between Hull and Mattes.
"We met a couple of times and decided we would do it," says Mattes.
Based on the numbers, Richard Marinick's BOYOS is shaping up to be the imprint's first hit, although Mattes won't know for sure till the numbers come in around April.
Though she does stock a variety of books at her shop, there's one area she's long left behind -- children's books:
"My definition of mystery when I opened was much narrower than it is now," says Mattes. "There's not much written about nomenclature and how you define a mystery. The thing is that when I opened, I had the British novel and the hardboiled novel. I had spy fiction, but no horror. And that was a mistake, so I have horror now.
"But I don't sell children's books anymore. [When I did] it drove me nuts. Kids made a mess of the book section. They never cleaned up, their parents didn't have them clean up, and I thought, 'I don't want to do this every day. I'm gonna hate kids. And I like'em. I don't know if that was a smart decision or not, but it made me sane."
Sane or otherwise, no question Mattes is enjoying both sides of the book world.