~ By J.R. (Randy) Hardin
I’d like to apologize to my high school guidance counselor. He gave me a test my senior year to see what I’d be interested in doing once I graduated. The test revealed that I should study to be a writer. As I had barely passed English, I thought the idea of me being a writer was ridiculous. Instead of writing, I took drafting courses and worked as a draftsman and designer for thirty-five years. I worked for General Electric for eighteen years until the plant shut down and moved everything to Mexico. Then I went to work for Square D Company for seventeen years until they shut the plant down and moved everything to Mexico. It looked like I was going to have to sneak into Mexico to find a job.
Despite my poor grammar skills and terrible spelling, I have always enjoyed writing. So, after I retired, I signed up to take some writing courses from the Institute of Children’s Literature in order to sharpen my language arts skills. My computer took care of the spelling. I passed the courses and finished my first manuscript, The Kudzu Monsters, a chapter book for middle grade readers. In 2007, my instructor thought it was fantastic and encouraged me to pursue publishing it.
The institute provided me with a book that listed several hundred publishers in the United States and Canada. One of my courses showed me how to write a letter to a publisher. It told me not to get discouraged if I was turned down a few hundred times. A few hundred times! It also mentioned that the big publishers, who only publish one out of every three hundred manuscripts they receive, would make most of the money on my first book. After a few rejections and growing doubts of the publishing industry, I stopped sending my manuscript to the big publishers.
I wrote my second book, Kalvin The Kudzu Monster, in 2008. I still didn’t have a publisher. In 2009, I let a fifth-grade schoolteacher read my first manuscript. She liked it and wanted to read it to her class. I asked her to pass along any criticism they had, but she said they loved it! Once again, I thought about getting my first book published.
My sister, Betty, is a retired schoolteacher and worked as an editor at the Methodist Publishing House in Nashville for a number of years. She agreed to edit my books for the cheapest price possible: free! I decided to use an independent publisher and had my first book published in June of 2010 by a large publisher in Indiana. They published my second book in October of 2010. Their initial publishing price was cheap, but my cost to buy the books was expensive, as were their marketing programs.
The same month that I had my second book published, I decided to sign with a new publishing company in Cumming, Georgia, where I was living at the time: Boutique of Quality Books Publishing. Signing with them has been the best decision that I’ve made so far for my books. The publisher, Terri Leidich, helped me with marketing even before I had a book published by her company. My first book through BQB was The Kudzu Monsters Versus The Creeper Horde, released in December of 2010.
Since then, BQB published The Adventures of Little Dog Koko in May of 2011 and The Kudzu Monster Trilogy in March of 2012. Today, I realize my high school guidance counselor was onto something a long time ago. I just wish my wife and my parents were still living when I became what I was supposed to be when I grew up: a published author.