DEPRESSION SUCKS. In ways I can’t even begin to understand or explain.
And additional trauma stacked on top of latent depression (like getting crashed into by a woman who’s texting doing 80 mph) can send you spiraling right back into the pit of hell.
But here’s the thing I’ve learned the hard way . . . writing can help you claw your way back out from the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Hell.
And winning at writing is even better. I’m talking about my foray into e-publishing.
My first encounter with ebooks was via a strange little woman in 2009, who told me she was, and I’m not making this up (and she said it in a very high, very airy, sing-songy voice), “I am a fairy, born without wings.”
As a journalist at the largest newspaper in Central Texas, my first reaction was, Uh huh. Go ahead and sprinkle some glitter on that glue you been sniffin,’ Sister, and sell crazy someplace else.
Turns out, she wasn’t so crazy after all.
Well, not about ebooks, anyway.
Three years later, Amazon is selling circles around traditional book and mortar bookstores, and while a Kindle will never replace the weight and feel, the slightly peppery smell of my first book, Where the Red Fern Grows, it has taken it’s place on my night stand. And my beach bag. And the kitchen counter where I still keep my Mama’s cookbooks . . .
The Road to Hell . . . and Back
In 2007, my first book, Scoop, was published by a wonderful publishing company who sent me on an all-expense paid trip to Book Expo, where I signed next to . . . wait for it . . . Newt Gingrich. I managed to attend the signing with minimal Extreme-Right-Wing-Crazy Cooties, and outsell him 20 to 1 (woo hoo!), was a Mystery Guild Pick of the Month and voted Author To Watch.
And then, as I was halfway through writing my second book, Dead Copy, I got pregnant.
I was on top of the world. Prancing around the house, painting the walls in Classic Winnie the Pooh, planning, dreaming . . .
And then I lost our baby.
In the most horrifying, terrible way possible.
I wound up rushed to the emergency room, where the ER doctor literally sliced my body in half, and along with little Rose, he also sliced out a big chunk of my soul. And most of my sanity.
I slipped into a black hole of soul-sucking depression that left me agoraphobic to the point where I couldn’t even answer the phone–so bad that my publisher sent a fellow Texas author to drive 60 miles up from San Antonio to make sure I hadn’t been killed in one of my own killer murder-mystery/comedy plots.
And while my life was falling apart Dead Copy did very well, went #1 in the Southwest, won me the coveted Barnes & Noble Author of the Month, and just as my career was skyrocketing, I slipped even deeper into the dark, unending pit of depression and dropped off the face of the Earth.
By the winter of 2009, I was unreliable, unreachable, and basically unpublishable in the eyes of New York, and it was only my friends and family and their steadfast, unshakable love when I was at my most unreachable that got me through it.
And, by the time I was ready to try again, it was too late–or so I thought.
In those three short years, everything publishing had changed.
Ebooks were on the verge of taking down Barnes & Noble, author websites and web presence were more important than ever, and Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, along with Amazon, were taking over the world.
I was back, so to speak, but in a strange new world–figuratively and literally. We moved out to the middle of nowhere in my personal life, and I had to learn a whole new language in my professional life.
A world where the old Publishing Rules that no longer applied.
The first thing I did was create a blog and write on it every day. Whether I felt like it or not, whether I wanted to or not, whether I thought I could or not.
I created An Accidental Cowgirl to accomplish two things: 1) help me learn social networking by teaching
others; and 2) seriously up my overall Web presence.
In order to write my blog posts, I had to do a lot of research. That led to me reading things like JA Konrath’s Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog.
Which led to me epubbing my out-of-print backlist, and, though I never thought I would, e-publishing my new books–which also led me to a contract for a screenwriting option, so that if I don’t feel like it, I won’t have to work in an office again.
Cutting a New Path
Finally, after getting my rights to Scoop and Dead Copy back, I published through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble E-books and other outlets, and went through my years of teaching classes and what I’ve learned about writing and writing well all at the same time–the thing about ebooks (that I learned from Konrath) is that the more titles you have, the more it improves your cyber discoverability.
Price it well, according to Konrath, and you’ll sell a whole heckuvalot of books.
The Konrath Principle
When I got my first check from Amazon, I nearly wet myself. I made more in that quarter (e-pubs pay quarterly) than I had the whole last year I made busting my ass, working 80 hours a week and drinking entirely too much at the newspaper.
What I’ve Learned from Epublishing
Other than enough cash to stay home and write with my dog and cat, what epublishing did for me was give me back a writing career I’d nearly ruined with depression and self-destructive behavior.
It’s taught me that well-written stories about spunky women who are not perfect but give life their best shot are not out of style. From my sales figures and reader feedback, I know readers do still want them. There’s no spread sheet for measuring that. And I’m okay with that. Fairy wings or not . . .