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The Guelph Mercury

Romantic Business

By Joanne Shuttleworth
The Guelph Mercury
December 27, 1999

Mike Pocock allowed himself one luxury-a vacation in California.

And as he sat on a deserted stretch of beach, poured himself another glass of wine and watched a lone guitar player singing in the distance he thought, ‘how romantic.'

From that inauspicious beginning, Pocock has built a thriving business based on the personalized romance novel.

"We knew we had something quite special when customers called back to say they laughed through the book but had a tear in their eye by the end,” said Pocock, owner of the London, Ontario-based company.

Star-struck lovers who must overcome great odds to be together.  Heroes, heroines and villains who show their true colours under extreme duress.  Raven-haired this, diaphanous that, bulging biceps, voluptuous women....its the stuff of dreams.

And if you've ever dreamed yourself in the starring role, look no further than Book By You Publishing.

"We knew we had something quite special when customers called back to say they laughed through the book but had a tear in their eye by the end,” said Pocock, owner of the London, Ontario-based company.

With help from Kim Dwyer of Guelph who edited the book and writers Dureen Sheahan and Christina Elliott who developed the plot, Pocock has created a romance with a twist.

In the name of research Pocock has a library full of romance novels.   "I think I'm a romantic at heart, but it is tough to live up to the standards in the book,” the 38-year -old bachelor said.

In this novel you become co-author as well as the leading lady and your significant other is the leading man.  Your best friend plays a role, so does your arch-enemy. Even your dog or pet hamster can get into the act.

Don't have a significant other? Put in your favourite movie star.   Can't think of anyone you don't like? Book By You Publishing can help you out with the list of famous people we love to hate. 

"There's been phenomenal interest,” said Pocock, who launched the book just four months ago.  "It's been popular for Christmas but I think Valentine's Day will be our busiest time of year.”  It also makes a great gift for anniversaries, birthdays, Mother's Day and the bride-to be. 

The book is called Love's Next Door and falls in the contemporary romance genre.  The heroine is a magazine editor who moves to the big city to launch a magazine.  But she becomes homesick and moves back home. 

The hero is quite literally the guy next door and the two have a history of playing practical jokes on each other.

But to complicate matters the hero has a girlfriend, arch-rival of the heroine, who winds up being unfaithful to the leading man.  "She's a nasty bit of business.  She gets what's coming to her in the end,” Pocock said mischievously.

The hero and villain eventually break up as the hero realizes his good friend next door is the one he truly loves. And that's you!

A visit to Pocock's web site ( offers a few sample paragraphs to play with before placing an order.  As I plucked Mel Gibson into my personal romance profile and read the accompanying paragraph, I began to swoon. 

"Mel stood watching as the fading sunlight caught the ends of her brown hair, turning them a golden hue.

The whole time they were together, the feelings that had been hidden for so long suddenly came rushing back to life.  Every turn of her head, the brush of her arm, even the sound of her laughter, made him want to hold her and smother her with kisses. And those breath-taking hazel eyes...”

The profile lets you choose the four main characters-heroine, hero, heroine's best friend and female villain- -their descriptions including hair and eye colour and body shape.  There are 30 characteristics in all that personalize the story and make it one-of-a-kind.

"As soon as they see their name in print they start to laugh..  Its a  real pick-me up, a great customized, hand-crafted gift,” he said.

The story is pretty standard stuff but Pocock said they worked on a few manuscripts before zeroing in on this one.  He sees sequels in the future but for now is focusing on marketing the novel and seeing the concept catch on.

"The original manuscript had some pretty explicit love scenes.   We changed that, adding humour instead.   There is still some rolling around and heavy breathing, but no smut,” Pocock said with a laugh.  "You can give this to anyone, even your grandmother.” He said the company is also moving into the personalized children's book, "in a way no one has ever contemplated.”

And although he wouldn't elaborate on that, he did say his book would be significantly different from the personalized  children's books that are available now. 

The book sells for $29.95 and is available in Guelph at Le Print Express in the Stone Road Mall.  You can also order it over their toll free line, 1-877-266 5298  although Pocock advises ordering on-line would be an easier option.

Reprinted courtesy of The Guelph Mercury