U Star Novels In the Media
Appear In A Romance Novel
29 November 2009
If sex sells, and romance sells, it only makes sense that a sexy personalized romance novel will sell, too.
That's what Katie Olver and her partner, Jon Reader, thought when they began U Star Novels in 2006. To date, they've sold almost 10,000 books.
Each book is custom-made and takes about a week to produce. The "custom" part of the book is developed from your responses to a series of questions.
Each book is the size of a conventional paperback, is 150-180 pages long and some offer a choice of two covers.
"It really is quite a cool gift idea," said Olver, 32, during a recent phone interview.
Getting personal has a price. The book costs $39.95 plus $4.95 for shipping and handling.
Olver said they determined the price using their costs and market availability.
"It's not just all automated. There's human involvement in it, too," she said. "We make sure people's answers work well with our text."
To determine how risque the titles are, the books are rated by a Lovin-O-Meter. Of the seven, two gay and lesbian selections and one erotic novel are included.
"Amsterdam Lessons" is the raciest of the bunch, Olver said.
U Star's stable of seven novels each features a different author, six from the United Kingdom and one from Australia.
"Fever in France" remains the most popular selection, she said.
"I think it's because of the sexual content, to be honest," Olver said. "It appeals to men and women. The men take on a James Bond kind of role, but it's equally romantic for the ladies as well."
Olver met her partner about 10 years ago in a bar in her native Sydney, Australia. She and Reader traveled around America and Canada for several months until settling in England about nine years ago.
"English people think I'm Australian and Australian people think I'm English," she said of her accent, laughing.
Olver and Reader have two sons, 2-year-old Sullivan and 5-month-old Mitchell.
Arizona Daily Star readers will receive a 20 percent discount when they order a book using the promo code DCAZSTAR at www.ustarnovels.com. The offer is good until Christmas Day.
To get a taste of how the books are written, you can visit the site, choose a book and fill out some questions. The site will provide an excerpt using your responses.
We recently spoke with Olver by phone about the books and her company.
When did you come up with this idea?
"Ages ago. It must have been 2004 when I originally had the idea."
Were you a big fan of choose-your-own-adventure stories?
"I loved them. I read quite a few of those growing up. Our books are a bit like that. I think it would be really neat for our next erotic novel to pick and choose your ending."
How did this idea form?
"I was looking for a gift for my sister-in-law, and she loves romance novels. I didn't know what kind she was into, so I thought. 'Wouldn't it be funny if she could be the star of her own book?' "
Why did you choose the romance and erotic genre?
"We saw where the market was. There's so many romantics out there."
Which are your favorite books and why?
"Probably 'Fever in France' and 'Safari Nights.' The sexual content in 'Fever' appeals to me. The erotic book is a lot more descriptive.
" 'Fever in France' is written by a man … the sex scenes are shorter — they don't take a whole chapter. It's a different kind of sex scene. 'Safari Nights' is a really romantic story."
Would you view this as sort of a karaoke version of reading?
"I suppose everyone can do it (laughing). I'm surprised by the number of men who have read our books. We've really got quite an equal split on that. They enjoy the book together with their partner. I think that's nice in a way because you don't get time to sit down and have quality time with your partner."
How often do you unveil books? What's coming up?
"There's no real schedule, but we're gearing up to do two more for Valentine's Day.
"We're kind of leaning toward going into personalized classic novels, like 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Dracula.' "
Contact reporter Valerie Vinyard at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4136.