PUBLISH BEFORE YOU PERISH or The Little Red Hen

Today, it is pleasure to welcome author Syr Ruus to my blog. As both a traditionally and self-published author, Syr has kindly agreed to share her thoughts on this with us.

37816_135253859838486_2745956_nSyr Ruus was born in Tallinn, Estonia during the Second World War. As a small child, she escaped with her mother to Germany and
subsequently immigrated to the United States. She has an MA in English and MS in Education and taught in the English Department of Illinois State University. She has lived in Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia since 1970, formerly working as an elementary school teacher while raising her three children and currently devoting herself full-time to writing. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies and journals and in 2009 her novel “Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart” was published by Newfoundland’s Breakwater Press.

PUBLISH BEFORE YOU PERISH or The Little Red Hen

I have always loved books. I became a reader at three. More than thirty years later, I became a writer. Why did it take so long, you might ask? Perhaps because English is my second language, or maybe I felt that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. Once I started, however, I never stopped.

Publishing, of course, is another matter. People say it’s extremely hard to find a publisher these days with things being as they are. I know from personal experience that it has always been hard. It’s even difficult to find places to send a manuscript. Only small publishers accept unsolicited queries. If anyone does offer to take a closer look, it takes many months, even years, before a decision is reached. Often you hear nothing at all.

Not that this is altogether bad. It gives a writer a chance to reflect. After the first flush of enthusiasm, one can make some meaningful revisions. Sometimes, along with a rejection, there is feedback. I have read in a manual for writers that when you finish a novel, it should sit in a drawer for at least two years before you begin working on it again. A bit extreme, maybe. Yet often it sits that long in a slush pile on some junior editor’s desk. There does come a time, however, when a work is definitely ready. Finished. Done. Only a few final perks and tweaks could make it any better. Or perhaps not. Still no one has offered to publish it.

The wonderful news is that it has become more acceptable than ever to do it yourself. Even the Writers’ Union of Canada has recently voted to accept self-published writers.

321214_269317809765423_1682562519_nI was lucky. A smattering of my short stories appeared in Journals and anthologies. After my novel Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart received first prize in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia annual competition, it was published by Breakwater Press in 2009. This gave me a much needed boost and sufficient confidence to actually begin referring to myself as an author.

But what of the two books I had written earlier? In 1999, Devil’s Hump was being seriously considered by a well-regarded publisher before being rejected. A few years ago, a new editor at the same company found the same novel (revised edition) “transporting, enchanting, strange, unsentimental, vivid,” but not fitting in with “what we’re trying to do with the fiction list at present.”

“I do think you should be able to find a publisher for this,” she added.

So, like The Little Red Hen, I did it myself. Devil’s Hump was published in 2013 by etc. Press, Halifax, N.S.10569081_810453168985215_2058664649597654044_n

The first novel I ever wrote also received an award from WFNS. In 1994, Edgar was the winner in the juvenile novel category. After some years, I decided to incorporate the original story which concerned a pet crow within an adult novel about the family which raised it. As such it was shortlisted for the Ken Klonsky Novella Award, yet despite positive comments from various publishers, no one was prepared to take it on. Just a few months ago, The Little Red Hen did it again. The Story of Gar was published in December, 2014.

Each of our voices is important to our collective humanity. Those that have spoken to me in the books I have read over the years have enriched me beyond measure. Our writing preserves a personal vision of a world which is constantly changing. The characters we have created with such loving care deserve a chance to sit on a bookshelf and perhaps come to life in someone else’s mind also. It’s every writer’s dream to be published, but you can’t wait around forever. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

It’s exciting to prepare one’s work for print: to choose the paper, to select the font, to format the pages, to decide on a cover, to be in full control from beginning to end.
This includes promotion, of course, which these days is increasingly left up to the author, but which publishers certainly facilitate. Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart is available in bookstores all over the world (as I see when I Google myself). It was also reviewed in 10247462_880235172007014_1772275323027241970_nvarious newspapers and was submitted to contests which I cannot access as a self-published author. Since both of my independently published novels have a regional content (as does In Pleasantry, a collection of connected short stories, which I plan to publish next), shops in the area are willing to take a few copies on consignment. The books are printed in limited editions; the cost goes down as the number goes up. Being a diffident self-promoter, I am mainly depending on word-of-mouth for any future sales, and with luck, I may get back what I spent.

But as writers, we know that we don’t do it for the money—we do it for love.

Thanks so much, Syr, for sharing your thoughts and your wisdom. I hope that In Pleasantries will find the same success as your other novels. I am looking forward to reading your next literary offering.

To learn more about Syr, check out her WFNS page here. And her Facebook page. Her books are available locally at Coles in Bridgewater, The RiverHouse  and Lahave Bakery or by contacting the author directly: syr@eastlink.ca

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19 Comments

  1. Laura, thank you so much for asking Syr Ruus to share here about her work. I enjoyed this post immensely as she has become an author I greatly respect.

    Syr, thank you for sharing about your experience and the decisions you made for your books. Congratulations on your success thus far.
    To me the publishing process is daunting. I haven’t taken the leap into self publishing, but if I don’t do something soon I’ll never get my books published. I may have to take the step and change my identity from chicken (one in a flock of many wannabes) to the determined Little Red Hen.

    Thank you Laura and Syr for the fine examples you are to me and many others. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • syr ruus

       /  March 9, 2015

      Unlike the Little Red Hen, I find great joy in sharing the product of my labours with others. Thank you so much Lynn, for reading my books and for your wonderful reviews. Persist! Your time will come.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    • I was most happy when Syr agreed to be a guest on my blog, Lynn. I so value what she has to say and feel blessed to call her my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Laura, thank you for the introduction to author Syr Ruus and her books and background. She is an inspiration. I have enjoyed her guest post.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. I love Syr Ruus and her writing. It was good to reinforce the fact that it takes time and perseverance to get published. Thanks Laura!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. syr ruus

     /  March 9, 2015

    Thank you, Darlene, for reading my work and for your great review of “Devil’s Hump.”

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. Thank you for providing a great look at the publishing world today. For many writers, they wonder when to stop writing because they are not being accepted by publishers. I think they should wonder when they should take that leap into self-publishing, as you did. Publishers can’t accept every story even if they were great.

    It seems you have found a good balance between traditional and untraditional publishing that works for you. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • syr ruus

       /  March 9, 2015

      Thank you, Diane. I know that you have produced some independently published works yourself. It’s such a wonderful option for sharing one’s work, when other venues have not been forthcoming and time is running short.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. I love the little red hen analogy! Perfect for the state of my publishing life. Thanks! A friend and I had a conversation yesterday, wondering how many rejections you should receive (or not, since most publishers don’t reply) before you self-publish. On one side, rejections are a real part of the publishing process that almost every writer deals with. On the plus side, how wonderful it is today to have a self-publishing option that can get your words to your readers. We picked 100 as the number by the way. Wishing you both all the best in your future writing projects.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  7. syr ruus

     /  March 10, 2015

    I agree, Heather, that it is important to send your work to publishers for quite some before considering self-publishing. Rejections with comments are like gold and provide the impetus to rewrite and revise. But publishers have to consider the fluctuating tastes of the marketplace and the profit margin above anything else, whereas we writers can indulge ourselves and “bake the best cake we can.”

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  8. Syr … thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about your amazing journey and thanks to Laura for posting it here.

    As a late bloomer, I came to the decision to write my stories after I retired. That was seven years ago. Before that I might have described myself as an oral story teller, loving to enchant friends with my funny tales about my family and my ever-strange childhood.

    During these seven years I have written nine novels and twenty-five short stories and one way or another, I have every intention of publishing them all. I don’t know how … but I am preparing to start with traditional and then go indie … becoming what is called a hybrid.

    I dipped my feet in the waters to send out queries and sample pages for three of these stories. Sadly, I did that before my work was print-worthy. Things have changed and I will send again … this time being ready to go and confident I will find an ear for my voice. While I do that, I play with my blog, read, and all the other things one does … including run an on-line shop on Etsy for my handmade crafts.

    And so … the journey continues … with love and hope and always having fun 🙂

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    • syr ruus

       /  March 10, 2015

      Most writers make the mistake of sending out a story or a novel before it has seasoned. I certainly have been very happy (after the initial few days of dejection) that some of my early efforts were sent back with regrets and my very first attempt at an adult novel made it into the circular file (wastebasket) with no regrets whatsoever. If you read something you wrote with fresh eyes and amaze yourself, then it has probably cooked long enough, but whenever I look at anything I’ve written, I can’t resist a few tweaks and perks even after it’s published. As every writer knows, the best part of it all is the process itself. If someone else enjoys it, that’s the frosting on the cake. Have a good journey.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your story, Syr. I don’t believe every writer who is rejected by traditional publishers should turn to self-publishing, because some rejections are an indication that a story isn’t ready to face the world, but it’s certainly a good option for some. You’ve proven that. 🙂

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    • syr ruus

       /  March 11, 2015

      I totally agree with you Carol. A collection of positive rejections, the regional character of these books, and the pressure of time led me to finally make the decision to publish them myself.

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      Reply
  10. Thanks so much, Laura and Syr. Your story is a rude awakening to some, Syr, but a necessary tale if we want to make a life-long commitment to writing novels. Thanks for reminding me why I do this.

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    • syr ruus

       /  March 15, 2015

      True joy comes from within. When enduring rejection, that’s sometimes difficult to remember.

      Like

      Reply

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