South Park author Jackie Druga defies the odds, churns out 8-10 books a year
A few years ago, Jackie Druga received her 1,172th rejection letter from a book publisher.
Then things got worse.
Her husband left, leaving behind four kids, one of them a pregnant teenager. She lost her house and car, moved into a cramped four-room apartment and found a minimum wage job at a nursing home.
It got even worse.
Her daughter, 17, gave birth to a boy with a mild form of autism. Druga took over the primary responsibility of raising the baby and stood in line for formula at a food bank. The South Park resident still wrote when she found the time, but only for herself. When a friend suggested she try Kindle Direct Publishing in 2010, she reluctantly agreed. Two months later Druga received a check for $33 and celebrated by buying a pizza.
Now, eight years later, Druga has published 135 novels and sells between 60,000-80,000 books (predominately e-versions) per year. She also has a series on Amazon Prime based on her “Beginnings” books, about a virus outbreak that threatens humanity.
“I worked so hard for so long,” Druga says, “was called a dreamer and told to get a real job. When success in writing happened, I didn't believe it was real, nor do I now. I can't. If I allow myself to believe I am successful, then I will lose a part of that passionate fighter and writer who strives to succeed, and that person makes me the writer I am.
One of the keys to Druga's success is that she's found a niche. Her books almost always involve apocalyptic scenarios that appeal to readers who love end-of-the-world scenarios.
“Sometimes the books I want to write don't appeal to the hardcore base,” she says.
Druga writes between 8 to 10 books per year. In order to keep such a frenetic pace, she has a regimented routine:
8:30 a.m.: Gets up and has her first cup of coffee. (She often makes three Starbucks runs for the chain's cold brew). Checks e-mail and reads a newspaper.
Mid-morning: Volunteers at grandchildren's school in lunch room or A.V. club
12:45 p.m.: Home for lunch
1-3 p.m.: Reviews material from previous day
3-6 p.m.: Edits, re-writes, outlines
6-11 p.m.: Free time, including an hour's nap
11 p.m. – 6 a.m.: Writing
There's something essential, at least for most people, that's missing from Druga's schedule: sleep.
“I usually get three hours sleep,” she says. “I have trained myself so that if I sleep more than five hours, I'm sick as a dog. My body gets dehydrated. It's ridiculous, I feel like I'm hungover.”
Druga has sold books to readers as far away as China and Russia. She has a hardcore fan base of 500 who will buy any book she writes and boost her rankings on Amazon. Druga also has a free book club that donates copies to readers who can't afford to buy her work and puts out a monthly newsletter.
While life still isn't perfect for Druga, she's cognizant now that her life has unspooled as part of a greater plan.
“I truly believe I'm blessed,” Druga says. “God knew there was something special about my grandson. He knew that I needed to be there for him. That I couldn't work at the nursing home, that I couldn't work anywhere else and needed to be with him to take him to therapy four days a week, to put a roof over his head, to give him a life he deserves. I was given the chance, spiritually, to do this, and I took it and ran with it.”
More information: jacquelinedruga.com
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.