The Publishing Puzzle

Yattauh Mouhseui: cannot understand; puzzled, lost (lit. head in the fog) 

A poet named Hoh Daahm Yuh wrote this couplet:
“Which is the highest of the cloudy mountains that surround me?
I lost my way in the heavy fog.”

From then on, yattauh mouhseui became a common expression.

Taipei 101 in the mist.

I feel like I’m yattauh mouhseui whenever I examine the publishing puzzle.  Three options exist: traditional publishing, small press, and self-publishing.  (Look here for a great explanation from an author who’s used all three choices.)  Since I’m querying literary agents at the moment, I’ve been taking the traditional route so far.  However,  I’m now exploring the other two arenas (especially after my recent rejections from my pitch slam manuscript requests).  My take on the varying options appears below:

A writer needs an agent to get into the door.  With the merger of two of the “big six” publishing companies, attracting their attention may be even more difficult.  I’ve heard divergent experiences regarding big presses from two of my previous UCLA professors:  1) Hannah Dennison writes the Vicky Hill mystery series  featuring unusual British hobbies.  She connected with a literary agent through a referral, after graduating from the UCLA Writers’ Program and has enjoyed a wonderful experience with her publisher.  2) David Samuel Levinson‘s debut book, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, comes out in 2013.  It’s taken him a sometimes frustrating ten-year-journey from the inception of his novel to its publication.  (In the meantime, you can purchase a collection of his short stories.)   

-Small Press:
These smaller publishers tend to make fewer sales and may be more specific in their tastes.  On the bright side, they don’t require a book to be a potential blockbuster before acquiring it.  I’m currently researching Kaya Press, which specializes in Asian diasporic literature.    

I know some fellow Not Bobbers from the April platform challenge who have self-published or plan on doing so.  At the Writer’s Digest Conference I attended, I heard many positive reviews about James Scott Bell’s seminar on “Creating a Career out of Ebooks.”  I missed his session, but I did purchase his book, Self Publishing Attack.  I’m attracted to this option because of the ability to promote across genres (instead of getting stuck in a niche).  Another nice benefit is that the author is very involved in every aspect of getting the book out to the public.  It’s also encouraging that Bell insists writers can make a steady income through self-publishing.

I sort of feel like Goldilocks now in front of three steaming bowls of publishing.  Which one will taste “just right” for me? 

Please share any thoughts and/or experiences on this subject to clear up my confusion.  Thanks! 


Mission: Submission
Sunny Days, Sweeping the Clouds Away


  1. Yes, quiet a dilemma. Rachelle Gardner,agent, has a great website where she frequently blogs about publishing, self publishing, and everything in between.
    Self publishing means a lot of self promotion (but come to think of it, so does trad pub and small press. Sorry, I’m no help. But research some more and in the meantime write, write, write.

  2. Monica is offering great advice. My plan of attack is to have three novels in a mystery series all pretty much ready to go as well as a compilation of short stories with overlapping characters. Indie publish those in rapid fire succession. After I’ve sold 5K, I hope to move to hybrid. In the meanwhile, write, write, write.

    Ah, Taipei in the early morning mist. Nice memories.

  3. Beautiful photo and I love the expression yattauh mouhseui.

    I haven’t got a manuscript ready enough to have to make a decision on this. I hope for traditional publishing because that’s what I’ve wanted since I was 8 — a physical book on a physical shelf in a physical bookstore. But I may have waited too long for that dream to come true.

    I’ll be interested in how this plays out for you.

    I’m encouraged that someone insists that you can make a steady income from self-publishing. I hope it’s true. I may have to look into that book.

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