Novel Idea

Two writers followed their passion for romance . . . and ended up with a love story of their own.

What: Personalized romance novels
Who: J.S. Fletcher and Kathy Newbern of
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
When: Started in 1992

Who knew regular people could star as protagonists in romance novels? Upon hearing a friend's passing comment about the idea, writers J.S. Fletcher, 52, and Kathy Newbern, 46, decided it would make a great business. After purchasing a computer and a printer, the two launched and immediately set out to write their first customized romance novel.

Initially, the partners used simple search and replace commands, but today they use a custom-made software program to personalize each book. Since 1992, they've written 10 novels together under the pen name Fletcher Newbern; customers can choose either wild (steamy scenes) or mild (hugging and kissing) versions. They've even released a book written by the winner of their romance novel contest.

Customers who log on to the Web site simply fill out a questionnaire, which gathers such data as names of characters (real or imagined--the most popular bachelor is George Clooney) and romantic setting of choice (such as exotic Caribbean islands, cruise ships and North Carolina lodges). The order is then sent to an outsourced printer; the personalized book, featuring a full-color cover and professional binding, is shipped and received in a matter of days.

Last year alone, the company sold 6,000 copies. And although sales were $300,000 in 2001, the payoff for Fletcher and Newbern has been more than just financial--they got married two years after launching the business.

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This article was originally published in the July 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Novel Idea.

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