For years I’ve given a talk called “Three Ways to Publish,” in which I describe the three main paths to publication: selling your book to a rights-buying “traditional” publisher, hiring a publishing services firm like Wheatmark to publish your book, or starting a publishing company of your own (self-publishing). Over the past few years the lines between these paths have become increasingly blurred:

  • The largest retailer of books in the world, Amazon, carries nearly every traditionally and self-published book equally
  • Authors with successful self-published books are often picked up by traditional publishing houses
  • Successful authors often dump their traditional publishing houses in favor of going “indie”
  • Publicists, editors, agents, and book marketing professionals who used to work exclusively for traditional publishers now routinely offer their services to publishing services firms and indie authors

Another way the lines are blurring is that savvy indie authors and publishing services firms are adopting the best editorial, design, and marketing practices of traditional publishers. At Wheatmark, we work to incorporate these best practices into the publishing process we offer our clients. I recently ran across one such best practice.

At a panel discussion I attended at the Tucson Festival of Books in March, a well-known author advised an aspiring author to go through the exercise of crafting a traditional query letter even if the author planned to self-publish. The panelist argued that writing a query letter required the author to perfect their pitch and bio, both of which need to be perfected before finalizing the marketing plan, editing, and book design. (Also, the pitch and the bio will be needed later for the book’s cover.) The panelist also thought it might be a good idea for the author to send the query letter to a few literary agents. What could it hurt? If the author received no response, the pitch might need more work. If the author received a response, it might provide valuable feedback or even an offer to work with the agent. Oddly enough, later that day, at another festival panel presentation a prominent literary agent gave virtually the same advice to another aspiring author. We will definitely be exploring this as a “best practice” to be incorporated in the Wheatmark publishing process.

Maybe I should replace my talk “The Three Ways to Publish” with a talk about “The Best Way to Publish.”