When Robert James Waller walked into the Front Street Books store in Alpine, Texas, he was like any other customer--except he had penned The Bridges of Madison County. Owners Mike and Jean Hardy were acquainted with Waller, but nothing prepared them for his proposition: to publish the Bridges sequel, A Thousand Country Roads, through their other business, John M. Hardy Publishing Co.
Waller's publisher, Warner Books, was unwilling to print the sequel, presenting a chance of a lifetime for the Hardys, both 59. Plans to publish 25,000 copies drew interest after The Associated Press newswire announced the project. Soon, the Hardys had advance orders for 400,000 copies.
Mike, who used to beg for projects, has received more than 100 manuscripts, resulting in four contracts. With projected 2003 sales of over $500,000, the Hardys balance their lives as well-known publishers with their small-town roots. "I have things I didn't before," says Mike, "but I still think of myself as a small publisher."