Advice from former book publicist Jane Heller

Reprinted with permission from The Fussy Librarian and Jane Heller...

Jane Heller worked in book publicity for years with a lot of big-time authors -- Erica Jong, Mary Higgins Clark, Judy Blume, and Danielle Steel – before she decided to write her first novel in 1994. Since then she’s gone on to write 12 other novels – several of them optioned for film and television – and two books of nonfiction.

So who better than to talk about how to get your novel or book noticed?

JEFFREY: When you were a book publicist, what was the most common misconception that authors had about publicity?

JANE: The most common misconception on the part of authors was, sad to say, that the publicity department would promote them with major campaigns -- authors tours, national television appearances, reviews in The New York Times Book Review.

Every author seemed to think we'd get them on the "Today" show, for example.

There was much more naiveté in those days, an assumption that every author would get the same marketing dollars and attention as the top-tiered, brand-name authors when, in fact, there was very little done for those whose books had smaller print runs.

Now, authors are more realistic in their expectations and that's led to a healthy trend of authors taking more control and publicizing their own books - from being active on Facebook and Twitter and their own blogs to arranging for signings at their local stores. Publicists do the best they can and it's important to view them as teammates, but they're overloaded and appreciate anything authors can do on their own.

JEFFREY: Were there certain genres of books that you found easier to publicize? And how much of a factor should that be in what a writer/novelist chooses to write about?

JANE: Nonfiction in general was much easier to publicize. Authors who were experts in the categories of how-to, self-help, autobiography, sports, politics, cooking, etc., were what the talk shows were looking for and it was a tougher sell to pitch producers on a novel.

That said, I worked with such novelists as Judy Blume, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark and Danielle Steel, as well as authors of genre romances and mysteries, and it was a thrill to get them exposure for their books because it was so much more challenging. You really had to come up with dynamic ways to attract the interest of producers and reviewers.

Should authors take that into consideration when they're deciding what to write about? Not in my opinion. As I said above, the old rules no longer apply and the social media component equalizes the playing field. The trick to landing on a talk show or in a news story for an author of fiction is for the author to find a nonfiction "hook" in their story.

JEFFREY: A lot of authors view marketing like eating their broccoli or going to the dentist -- something to avoid. How do we convince them that it's a required part of being an author these days?

JANE: I had a very specific problem with doing my own marketing when I made the switch from book publicist to author for my first novel. For one thing, I thought I should stay out of the way of the publisher's publicist. I knew only too well that publishers often resent the interference of an author, especially a demanding one. And, because of my experience as a publicist, I didn't want anyone to think I was overstepping and trying to do their job for them. So I overcompensated by sitting back like a good girl and waiting to see what they'd come up with.

When it dawned on me that the budget for my novel was small and that, despite the publisher's good intentions and genuine enthusiasm for the book, the marketing resources weren't there, I said, "Jane, get over yourself and be as creative with your own book as you were with those by the bestselling authors you used to promote."

So I decided to have fun with my own publicity - a concept I recommend highly to those who view marketing like eating broccoli (which I love, by the way). When Larry King said of my novel in USA Today that it "reads like a summer breeze" and is a "good beach read," I decided to do the first-ever "beach book author tour."

I was living in Connecticut at the time and literally promoted my hardcover novel at beaches along the Connecticut shore that summer. I called local indie bookstores and asked them to sell books at various beaches and they did!

We didn't sell a lot of books, but the publicity for the beach tour was spectacular, landing me in countless newspapers and magazines and, ultimately, on the "Today" show. So I advise authors to try to think of their own marketing not as a chore but to let their creativity shine. No idea is too outlandish. Have fun. Try something different. And remember: the book is your baby. Nobody will love and care for it as much as you do.

JEFFREY: Is there an inexpensive (or free) promotion technique that most authors overlook?

JANE: Obviously, promoting a book on Twitter and Facebook is a free way to spread the word. But as with the example I gave, think out of the box. The beach book tour cost me nothing except a lot of sunscreen. Yes, I had to spend a lot of time reaching out to various stores and getting beach permits from town commissions, but it was so worth it.

If you were creative enough to come up with a book idea, the chances are good that you can come up with a cool idea for promoting the book. If it's a novel, find some nonfiction "hook" -- how you researched it, how it's provocative or controversial in some way or different from other books out there in its genre, how it's ripped from the headlines or based on a true story.

If it's nonfiction, go with the topic and make it timely somehow, tie it into what's in the news. And then start emailing editors at relevant publications, write op-ep pieces, get your story out there on blogs. None of this costs money, only time and brainpower.

JEFFREY: Even with your professional experience, did you find promotion tougher than you expected?

JANE: Yes! Everyone assumed that because I'd been a publicist for ten years, even rising to vice president, I would cruise into the role of my own publicist. Wrong. It's very different to promote other people than it is promoting yourself.

I was exquisitely self-conscious about selling myself in the beginning. When I got on the "Today" show, I should have been relaxed. I'd regularly escorted authors to the green room at NBC and prepped them before going on the air, telling them, "Just say the name of your book three times and smile!"

When it was my turn, I was a nervous wreck. My doctor gave me a prescription for Xanax and I took two before going on the air. When Katie Couric asked, "So Jane, how does it feel going from publicist to author?" I felt my eyes roll back in my head and I said -- no kidding -- "I don't know. I'm heavily sedated."

Clearly, the idea of selling myself made me cringe. But here's what made me cringe even more: seeing my book go without publicity. And so I got over my jitters and focused on the task at hand: spreading the word about my book. I've since been a guest on national television shows many times -- without Xanax.
* * *
You can learn more about Jane and her novels at her website.

Check out The Fussy Librarian for personalized book suggestions.

Thank you, Jeffrey and Jane, for allowing us to post this on our blog.

Dos and Don'ts for Submitting A Manuscript to Imajin Books

As we approach our manuscript submission time (open March 15), we thought we'd share some important reminders and tips for authors planning to submit their works to us (or any publisher, for that matter).

So here are some Dos and Don'ts...


  1. …remember we read manuscripts every year, and yours must stand out and hook us immediately, so grab us with the very first sentence!
  2. …hire an editor BEFORE you submit your work to a publisher; there's too much competition not to submit your best work possible.
  3. …edit your work multiple times until you believe it's polished and ready. Then edit once more.
  4. …be sure you understand Chicago Manual of Style grammar rules—subscribe or buy the book. Refresh your memory on grammar skills often. Be sure you're using dialogue tags and beats correctly.
  5. …run your work through a spell check AFTER setting the language (US is most common, but if you're from UK and your book is set in UK, set the language to British English.)
  6. …read our guidelines, and give us what we ask for, including the genres we're looking for.
  7. …get to know the publisher, Cheryl Tardif, on Facebook and Twitter, and follow/Friend Imajin Books and Cheryl Kaye Tardif (author).
  8. …present yourself as a professional writer on your Facebook page—because we WILL check it. Same with Twitter.
  9. …include links in your first correspondence to your FB, Twitter, website and blog.
  10. …be patient, and give us at least 6 weeks to review your submission. We have a process that includes two beta readers, and this takes time. If you don't hear from us by then, feel free to email us.

  1. …send us anything BEFORE we're open for submissions. This includes agents. Thank you.
  2. …send us manuscripts outside of the ones we're looking for, which are listed on our submission page.
  3. …send us an unedited manuscript with poorly constructed sentences and dialog, and don't blame inadequate spelling skills on "dyslexia." The publisher at Imajin Books is dyslexic, and she knows the difference between that and poor spelling.
  4. …pitch your book to us as "perfect for anyone any age." Know WHO your target audience is and why they will read it.
  5. …send us a manuscript without a well-written 3-paragraph synopsis that reads like back cover text. Hint: READ back covers of other books in your genre, and fashion your paragraphs after them. Hint 2: Present tense!
  6. …present an unprofessional image online anywhere.
  7. …send us multiple emails pushing your book. If you've submitted it already, be patient.
  8. …expect huge 6-figure advances from us. We're a small, independent publishing company and we don't do large advances.
  9. …expect any publisher, including us, to do ALL the marketing for your book. A publisher can position your title for distribution, but authors sell books, and that's part of your responsibility. That's how you establish your brand. So be prepared to work hard and invest in your brand. It'll pay off in the end.
  10. …give up. If we turn down your book, it means it wasn't right for us. That doesn't mean it might not be right for another publishing company. If we give you any unsolicited tips or suggestions, which we might do on occasion, learn from them as they most likely will improve your work.
  11. ...tell us you aren't interested in a contract unless we accept your ready-made cover (or one you paid for) or edits by only your editor/friend/mother/aunt/teacher. And don't tell us you'll only reveal your novel plot/synopsis if we make a deal right now (on a book we haven't even read yet). This tells us you're an amateur and/or don't understand the publishing business.
  12. rude or demanding to a publisher, and don't burn bridges. Not only is this unprofessional, it'll bite you in the ass. Publishers usually know other publishers, and word gets around like a bad virus if there's a nasty writer on the loose.
While the Don'ts may seem harsh, please remember why we bothered to post them here. We're looking for professional authors who conduct themselves as such and treat others with respect. Believe me, if you could see some of the emails we get--and some of the questions we're asked--you'd understand why there are Don'ts.

Focus on the Dos! :-)

You can read our submission guidelines at

Like our Facebook page at

Follow us on Twitter at

The origins of Imajin Books are revealed at The Gift Blog

If you ever wanted to know why someone would start up a new publishing company when so many others have closed their doors or gone bankrupt, check out the post over at The Gift Blog:

Book, Books, WONDERFUL Books: Spotlight on A Phenomenal NEW Publisher - IMAJIN BOOKS

Kiana Davenport's publisher demands she stop self-publishing

I "met" Kiana Davenport a while ago online and recently read about her battle with one of the Big 6 publishers. On August 25th, Kiana blogged about her ordeal on her blog post: Sleeping With the Enemy: A Cautionary Tale. As an author, I was horrified by how her publisher treated her and by their unfair and unrealistic demands, which directly affect her income. As a publisher, I just don't get their thinking...or lack of it.

Here's a recap:

Kiana signed with a major publisher in January 2010 for a novel that was to be published in 2012. She had self-published one book before even signing the contract with this publisher. In July, she self-published another title. Both  are collections of short stories, many of which had been published already in other anthologies.

As an author, I know that most traditional publishers aren't interested in previously self-published works, or works that have been published numerous times. Kiana's chances of having her major publisher take these collections would be slim to none, based on my observations and experiences.

When her Big 6 publisher discovered the two self-published works, "they went ballistic," states Kiana in her post. "The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone. I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of 'blatantly betraying them with Amazon,' their biggest and most intimidating competitor. I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy."

Here's where I think this editor suffered from Alzheimers. Amazon is NOT the enemy to a publisher. They are an important PARTNER. Most publishers are happy when their books are sold through Amazon, which is responsible for a huge percentage of book sales. Yes, Amazon offers self-publishing opportunities. Not everyone wants that, as is evidenced by the number of manuscript submissions we get now with barely any advertising--and we're a NEW publishing company.

Kiana's publisher then demanded that she "immediately and totally delete CANNIBAL NIGHTS from Amazon, iNook, iPad, and all other e-platforms. Plus, that I delete all Google hits mentioning me and CANNIBAL NIGHTS."

It would be different if her publisher had already secured the rights to that work, but they hadn't. As for deleting Google hits, I'm not sure where they found this editor, but it concerns me that a major publisher has hired someone who doesn't understand the Internet, how it works or Google hits.

So why has Imajin Books taken Kiana Davenport's side? One major reason: authors should be free to earn income with their other works if a publisher hasn't already secured those rights. PERIOD. And they should be free to publish any damn way they want to. Does this shock you, hearing this from a somewhat "traditional" publisher like us?

Here's why we think this publisher is being unreasonable and farsighted:

1. A happy author is a huge plus. Make your authors happy and they'll produce more publishable works.
2. Authors need to earn income to be able to continue doing what they're doing. Earning money will make them happy and productive, which will make US happy.
3. No publisher should have the right to tell an author they cannot seek other forms of publishing, including self-publishing--unless they have secured the rights to every work the author produces, in which case I sure hope the author didn't settle for less than a 5 million dollar advance.
4. Her publisher is completely missing the boat on the potential for more sales. If Kiana is reaching a wider audience by promoting her other books, some of that audience will spill over to her traditionally published book.
5. The more prolific a writer is, the more people want to read them. This means more sales overall and more money for her publisher. Doh!

In short, Kiana's publisher is being narrow-minded and paranoid. They need to step out of their tiny box and start moving with the tides. The industry has shifted. Old models aren't productive or prosperous as they once were. Get with the program...or get out!

What does this teach writers:

Do your homework and don't skimp on getting an entertainment lawyer to go over the contract with you. Make sure you understand what you can and cannot do with your other works. Ask if you can publish elsewhere or self-publish and get this in writing, or at least make sure your contract does not restrict you. When in doubt, ask. There are no dumb questions.

Don't discount ALL traditional publishers. Not everyone thinks the way Kiana's former publisher does. Some are far more forward-thinking. At Imajin Books we embrace our authors' successes, no matter where else they are published or if they choose to self-publish as well. We've even signed contracts for previously published (traditional AND self-published) works.

Kiana, we'd be happy to consider publishing your works. And you can self-publish other works on the side all you want.

As far as I'm concerned this whole situation is just one more nail in the prehistoric coffin of old-school traditional publishing models that simply don't work anymore, and it's time that authors are treated like the partners they are, not purely as cheap slave labor.

Cheryl Tardif,
Publisher at Imajin Books and Bestselling Suspense Author

5 Dos and 5 Don'ts when querying Imajin Books

Hopefully, if you're a writer thinking of querying us, you've read Jeff Rivera's query posts here. If not, I recommend you read them before submitting a query letter to us. It'll save us both time and energy.

And here are a few more Dos and Don'ts you should apply.


1. Do query us in a personal, friendly tone. We aren't stuffy, starched-shirt executives working from a corner office on the 12th floor with a river view. We're people who love a good story.
2. Do address me, the acquisition editor, by name. CHERYL. Not Ma'am or Miss or Publisher. And yes, your email may get deleted if you can't be bothered to spell my name correctly. Sorry, but if you can't spell CHERYL, then there are probably a ton of typos in your manuscript.
3. Do HOOK me with your first sentence and paragraph of your query letter. Follow this advice for your novel too. I look for a strong first sentence, paragraph, page and chapter. If you don't have this, edit. Your query too.
4. Do email me your query. Don't send it by mail. Ever. Especially now. Canada Post is on strike.
5. Do feel free to blog about Imajin Books (in glowing terms, of course) and promote any of our fabulous authors. Feel free to contact them for interviews and guest blogs. Ask them to donate a free ebook to a contest/draw on your site/blog.

1. Don't query us with NON-fiction. Unless you see our tagline under our company name change, we only publish FICTION. For those of you who are still confused over the difference, NON-fiction means the story is based on truth, on someone's life, is factual. This includes memoirs, historical accounts etc. FICTION is a made up story, a fantasy not based on truth, though it may be inspired by a true story.
2. Don't ever call us in place of an emailed query. We do not want to be pitched to by phone. We have a business to run.
3. Don't leave us voice messages asking us to call you so you can pitch a book to us.
4. Don't tell us your manuscript has been professionally edited because when we find typos--and we always do--we're going to wonder who you hired and why you bothered. Or we'll think your mother's sister's best friend who cleans the coffee room at a newspaper edited it for you for free.
5. Don't send us a five page query. Keep it short and sweet. If we want to know more, we'll ask. If we ask, that's a good sign we're interested. If we're interested, we may just publish your book. If we publish your book, you'll have a publisher and your book will be read by readers.

~ Cheryl Tardif

Querying publisher tips...aka how NOT to query a publisher

Dear Cheryl Tardiff,
It is with great pleasure that I am submitting my manuscript sample. Hoping to hear from you in due course.
The above is an actual query letter received by an author, and the subsequent replies. Though I always give credit to authors who follow their dream, there is following it boldly and there is not doing your homework and being a bit annoying. The last thing you want to do is annoy a publisher.

In the above email, the writer clearly shows me he hasn't got a clue what we publish or what we're looking for. I appreciate those who take two minutes to read the guidelines and review WHAT we publish...and spell my name correctly. To be honest, I could have overlooked the spelling error if it weren't for the fact that this writer then proceeded to pitch us something entirely different from what we publish. NON-FICTION.

Our logline is: Quality fiction beyond your wildest dreams. One look at our book list tells you we publish...FICTION.

My reply:
Dear Author,
Thank you for your submission to Imajin Books. Unfortunately, we only publish fiction at this time and do not publish memoirs, so we’re not the right publisher for you.
We wish you the best success in your search for a publisher that can properly market your work. Keep trying!
All the best,
Cheryl Tardif, Imajin Books
My reply to the author was polite and friendly, explaining the issue, rejecting his manuscript kindly (the way I'd want to be rejected), with a positive message at the end. That should have been the end of this conversation. But it wasn't.
Dear Cheryl,
Although my manuscript is memoirs, it can also be classified as narrative non-fiction. Your submission details (which is enclosed as an attachment) does not say that you do not publish memoirs. I would urge you to read the chapters that I have sent you and then decide.
The author basically redefines his work and still describes it as NON-FICTION. Um, sorry but what part of "we only publish fiction" don't you understand? And by attaching OUR guidelines, he's insinuating I haven't read them. Um, I wrote them. And our guidelines say: "A novel..." Heads up, people! A novel is FICTION. Then he urges me to consider reading his memoirs...yeah, no, that's NOT going to happen.

His emails tell me a lot about him: he's new at querying publishers; he's probably never been published before; and he doesn't understand the business or some very simple etiquette that every writer should learn BEFORE they query an agent or publisher.

I'm not posting this to embarrass this writer--he probably won't be checking our blog any time soon. I'm posting this to help educate other writers who may be under the misconception that any of this would be a good way to approach a publisher. It isn't. We're busy people with deadlines and we have a lot of juggling and coordinating. We don't have times to argue with people about what we publish and what we don't publish. Read our guidelines and for goodness sake, check out our books. Buy a couple; see what exactly we're publishing, what we get excited about. If you give us something similar yet unique, we may just get excited about your FICTION work. :-)

And please...pitch us FICTION. We don't do NON-FICTION--and that includes memoirs.

Press release: Imajin Books - An Innovative Publisher of 'Quality Fiction'

EDMONTON, AB, May 12, 2011 - In February 2011, an innovative, unique Canadian publisher with an eye on exciting, ever-changing trends and opportunities in publishing, opened its 'doors' to authors worldwide. Owned by bestselling suspense author Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Imajin Books has been in business since 2005, publishing only the author's books up. But now it has a list of debut and established authors who are about to release some sensational reads starting this May.

"Other writers asked me if I'd consider publishing their works and I always said no," Tardif says. "But just over a year ago, I researched the possibilities. With the number of publishing companies that have closed their doors or amalgamated their imprints under one roof, it's a bit risky to start a new publishing venture. But I am a risk taker and I knew I could make this work."

Tardif's goals were simple: fulfill a need and publish what was selling. This led her to do something few publishers are doing―offer ebook contracts as a primary right and paperback contracts as a subsidiary right. This is backwards from the antiquated system that has been in place for decades.

"Ebooks are where the money is," Tardif states. "Print sales have decreased and ebook sales have increased to the point of outselling print. As ereaders come down in price, which has recently been seen with the $114 Kindle with wi-fi offer, more readers will be tempted to test one out. And once they do, they'll be hooked. We want to provide readers with affordable, stimulating, unique books that they can't put down."

Imajin Books promises great reads by wonderful authors, with ebooks priced under $5 and trade paperbacks under $16. Throughout the year, various ebooks will be on sale for even less, some even priced at $0.99. You can also expect contests and other specials, like ebook bundles.

Imajin Books promises its authors a unique experience in publishing, where authors don't take a back seat as with most traditional-type publishers. Authors published with Imajin Books will have more say in the content of their book, their book titles, the creation of book covers and trailers. "We treat our authors like the partners they are," Tardif says. "We respect their creative intelligence and want them to be happy and proud of their book."

Debut novelist Alison Bruce is awaiting the May release of her western romance, Under a Texas Star. "Working with Imajin is going to spoil me," Bruce says. "I'll be expecting personal attention, excellent work and sound advice from everyone. The creative, editorial and marketing skills I've found at Imajin have made the launch of my first novel a joy."

Awaiting the June release of her debut romantic fantasy, Rowena Through the Wall, author Melodie Campbell says, "What makes Imajin outstanding is the personal attention they give to the author and project every step of the way. This is evident in the care they take to solicit author input…The marketing people at Imajin are first rate…And the best part―the people are so darn nice, I want them as friends."

Other than Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who has a reputation as a skilled book marketer, Imajin Books has brought in a number of freelance professionals, including book cover designers, editors, a book video designer, a production manager, and a research and marketing assistant.

Jennifer Johnson, from Sapphire Designs, is the senior book cover designer for Imajin Books. "Working with Imajin Books has been a dream come true for me. It has allowed me to fulfil one of my biggest dreams in being a cover artist and for that I can't thank them enough. The people at Imajin Books are a true pleasure to work with in every way; I can't say enough good things about them!"

Canadian fantasy author and book video designer, Kelly Komm, has this to say: "Imajin Books puts out excellent novels and the same can be said for their authors. They are always eager to work with me toward a common goal: creating an effective, intriguing, and entertaining book trailer."

From The future of reading is ebooks, and the future is NOW!

Writers interested in querying Imajin Books should check the submission guidelines at Submissions are currently open until June 30, 2011.

Imajin Books is OPEN for submissions until February 15th

The search is on! Imajin Books is looking for quality fiction!

We are now accepting submissions until February 15th, 2011.

Imajin Books is looking for novels in various genres, including YA, romance, mystery, thrillers, horror. At this time we are not looking for science fiction, but may consider your work if it's a crossover genre with one of the above.

Please visit our Submission Guidelines page for more information.

Welcome to Imajin Books

Imajin Books publishes ebooks and trade paperbacks in various fiction genres, with a leaning toward suspense and paranormal. The company was created by bestselling Canadian author Cheryl Kaye Tardif (aka romantic suspense author Cherish D'Angelo).

Check out the Books tab to view the current ebooks and trade paperbacks available.

AMENDMENT: Imajin Books opened to accept other authors in February 2011.

Happy reading!