"The Hunt for the Red October" represents two "firsts" for the price ($14.95) of one.

Besides being Tom Clancy's first novel, "Red October" is the first novel published by the Naval Institute Press since it was founded in 1902 and produced "Log of the Gloucester." Nonfiction books with a "naval orientation" are the press' forte.

"We say it has to be wet," said marketing director Jim Sutton.

"Our average press run is 3,000 to 5,000. We believe here that when we publish a book it's worth keeping in print . . . It's going to stay on our list for a while."

Some of the press' mainstays are "Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet," "How to Survive on Land and Sea" and "Dutton's Navigation and Piloting." The institute press this spring will publish the 14th edition of Dutton's, Sutton said.

"We have a reputation as one of the finest publishers of naval literature in the world," Sutton said. Despite "Red October's" success, he said, the novel "is not bringing in a whole lot of money." Rather, it is "giving us a wider audience," he said. Readers of "Red October" "have written to us to say, 'What else do you guys do?' "

As a university press, the Naval Institute Press does not consider sales income from "Red October" as "profit." The income "has to go to pay for other projects. The 'Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute' has to be subsidized by the book program . . . And our various membership activities, they benefit by the book sales. But there's no profit," Sutton said.

Sutton said the decision to publish a novel was made two years ago. Press director Thomas F. Epley set two standards: "We wanted good, original fiction, and we wanted it on solidly naval subjects."

Clancy's manuscript "just came to us," Sutton said. "He heard that we were looking for fiction." Acquisitions editor Deborah Guberti gave copies to Sutton and Epley. "We both read it and were both immediately knocked out," Sutton said.

"It was exactly the type of book we were looking for," said Epley.

Now the Naval Institute Press will publish "occasional fiction that meets our standards," Sutton said. But there are no plans to bring out another novel this year.