For six years, Grateful Steps has been serving Asheville, N.C. and the Southeast as a traditional publisher turning out books in all genres—from novels to children’s books to nonfiction to poetry and photography—using an all-inclusive author-first approach that emphasizes working nascent ideas into marketable, high-quality books. Beginning next month Grateful Steps founder Micki Cabaniss Eutsler will open the company’s own bookstore in the publisher’s new offices along a recently renovated stretch of South Lexington Ave. near such Asheville establishments as the Orange Peel. Though she’s still looking for a dedicated bookseller to add to her staff, Eutsler plans to use the bookstore not just as a central location from which to sell the company’s catalog of 30 books, but a community center for readings, workshops, and art shows.
“We’re not out to compete head-on with our booksellers,” said Eustler, who has long depended on local bookstores to carry their titles. But with the rocky economic climate, “we knew we needed to sell more books directly,” and a store of their own made sense. Besides Grateful Steps’ own books, the store will “emphasize local authors and some niche areas that aren’t always covered, like poetry.” Eutsler said.
Eutsler is planning on a November opening, just in time to launch what she hopes will be a popular title, Look Up Asheville, a book of close-up architectural photography by Michael Oppenheim, with text by poet Laura Hope-Gill, Grateful Steps’ regional marketing director. First printing was 1,000 copies and Grateful Steps is going back to press for another 5,000. Hope-Gill, also director of the Asheville Wordfest Poetry Festival, previously used the southern Appalachian photography of John Fletcher, Jr. as inspiration for her 2009 collection The Soul Tree, another photo-rich offering from Grateful Steps.
Grateful Steps has a unique selection process, working with one author a month. “We don’t look for ‘only the worthy books.’ We make them worthy in collaboration with the author. That is the real thrill of our work," said Eutsler. The company currently has a five year waiting list and a diverse catalog, especially for a company with a faith-based mission. “We have a Christian philosophy,” Eustler said, “but we are not a religious publisher.” That means an open-arm policy of “helping others tell their stories,” rather than “getting other people to live ours.” The first title they published, in fact, was a novel about the troubled romance between a Jewish woman and Muslim man, The Other Half of My Soul by Bahia Abrams.
In addition to opening the store, Eutsler is organizing the second annual Western North Carolina Authors’ and Publishers’ Expo, set for December 4 at Asheville’s Jubilee community center; last year’s inaugural event drew local literary concerns like Bright Mountain, WorldCom, Native Ground, Asheville Poetry Review, and Lark Books. “We have struggled to get where we are,” said Eutsler, “but we’re an energetic, excited group who love what we’re doing.” With three books currently on the way to press and an electronics division making a push into e-publishing, she’s hopeful for the future: “Our financial advisor recently said that the companies that can make it through a recession, or a depression, thrive. We intend to thrive.”