A Novel Concept

'Net publisher will put your book on a shelf for $100


John T. Jones always wanted to be a published novelist. Now, thanks to the Internet and a personal check for $100, he is.

In fact, Jones now has four novels under his belt and ready for national release -- two detective novels and two westerns. But these aren't electronic books you can only read on a computer. They're the real handheld McCoy, with real ink on real paper and real full-color artwork on his choice of quality paperback or hardcover binding.

Jones, you see, may be Payson's very first bestselling author-wannabe to take advantage of what could shape up as a publishing revolution.

His books became physical entities through iUniverse.com, which uses the latest print-on-demand technology to not only print books, but to sell them one at a time through its own publishing site as well as such well-surfed online bookstores as Amazon.com and the Barnes and Noble site.

After a submitted book goes through the editing and cover design processes, iUniverse.com sets the cover price and starts its marketing machine. When an online order is received, Jones said, it takes the company less than five minutes to print the book, bind it, and ship it out.

The price for all this is $100 per title for a 'trade' (oversized) paperback, charged to the author, not counting individual copies the author may wish to order for himself. Jones' books are priced in the $12 range.

Considering that the fees charged by the traditional self-publishing houses, or "vanity presses," typically begin around $20,000 for enough books to fill a fledgling writer's double garage, iUniverse.com is a bargain for anyone who's always dreamed of seeing their name on a dust cover.

Author, author

Jones wasn't a novice writer when he first tried his hand at fiction. A longtime engineer in the ceramic industry, he wrote one textbook, "Engineering for You: A Career Guide," and co-wrote another, "Ceramics: Industrial Processing and Testing." Both were published and continue to be reprinted by the Iowa State University Press.

His first stab at fiction came in the form of a children's book -- and, in a way, it was successful. "Whenever I read it to my kids, they'd fall asleep," he quipped.

He finally chose the detective and Western genres because he was sure one of them would provide his big breakthrough, but wasn't sure which.

"I figured that if the detective books sold and the Westerns didn't, I'd be a detective writer," Jones said. "Or if the Westerns sold and the detective books didn't, I'd be a Western writer."

Either way, it won't affect Jones' reading habits. He says he doesn't enjoy reading Westerns novels, including those of Zane Grey, or any detective novels not written by hardboiled 1950s pulp writer Mickey Spillane.

His first novel was a Western saga titled "Bull," followed by the literary oater "Revenge on the Mogollon Rim" and the twin detective tales "Bone China" and "In No Way Guilty." The latter tome is a modern murder mystery set right here in Rim country, featuring cameo appearances by actual locals -- including Rye tavern owner Don Garvin.

Of course, as any writer will tell you, writing a book -- no matter how difficult the process is -- is the easy part. Finding a publisher is the hard part.

"After I wrote 'Bull,' I sent it around to some publishers, but I didn't hear anything back."

Not until he stumbled upon iUniverse.com, anyway. And although he has yet to see or hold an actual copy of one of his books -- the first copies should arrive by FedEx any day now -- Jones couldn't be happier with the results.

"iUniverse.com has really good people working for it," he said. "Everything is done online: the editing, the jacket design, all the communication, no matter what it is."

Turning the page into profit

Which brings Jones to another plus. Whereas most major publishing houses offer its authors no more than 15 percent of all sales, iUniverse offers from 25 to 40 percent, depending on the arrangement an author strikes with them. So if the author happens to have any self-marketing savvy to add to the efforts of iUniverse.com, the financial rewards could be limitless.

So far, virtually all of Jones' book sales have been courtesy of just one customer: Jones himself, who is eager to hand the finished product to friends and relatives. But once they are available for public consumption and the iUniverse marketing machine springs into action, "Who knows?" Jones said.

"Mostly, though, I just wanted to get my books into print. That way my kids can read them, my grandkids can read them. And it gives me a little bit of immortality for just $100 a book. You can't beat it."

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