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

YOU KNOW YOUR QUERY LETTER SUCKS WHEN ... You Haven't Grabbed Them Emotionally

When reading this series of articles from my good friend Jeff Rivera, please substitute "agent" for "publisher" and follow his advice to send us a query letter we'll be excited to read. ~Cheryl Tardif, publisher

YOU KNOW YOUR QUERY LETTER SUCKS WHEN ... You Haven't Grabbed Them Emotionally

by Jeff Rivera, founder of http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com

I love going to the movies. Chomping on the popcorn, being so engaged with the film that for two hours (and sometimes dreadfully much longer) you forget about your worries and strife and if you're lucky, you're swept away on an emotional journey that takes your breath away.

People want to feel the same way when they read your memoir or your novel and believe it or not, agents would love to feel the same way when they read your query letter.

Your query letter is supposed to be an example of your storytelling skills. But let's be honest, what if your story is just another Da Vinci Code knock off? What can you do to really grab the agent in that very first sentence?

I've ghost written over 100 query letters for clients and all of them, 100%, have gotten at least 10 top agents to request to read their manuscripts.

When I run across a client who's weak on spaghetti sauce but heavy on spaghetti, then I know that I need to dig a little deeper. Sometimes the selling point is the author themselves. Their backstory is much more interesting than the actual story they're telling.

I once had a client who had written a book of poetry, which anyone will tell you is the hardest thing to sell for an agent right next to a collection of short stories, yet his backstory of success from the tough streets of South Chicago to being an incredibly successful broadcast executive was so powerful, I just had to include that in the query letter.

The result? Over 30 clients requested to read his manuscript. In fact, you can read his query letter here: http://tinyurl.com/25t2mkj

Use this technique and you'll be one step closer to landing an agent.

If you would like to see an example of query letters that worked, visit: http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com

Jeff Rivera is the founder of http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com. He and his works have been featured or mentioned in Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, Mediabistro, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer, NPR and many other media outlets.

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.

YOU KNOW YOUR QUERY LETTER SUCKS WHEN ... "You Don't Grab Them in the First Sentence"

When reading this series of articles from my good friend Jeff Rivera, please substitute "agent" for "publisher" and follow his advice to send us a query letter we'll be excited to read. ~Cheryl Tardif, publisher

YOU KNOW YOUR QUERY LETTER SUCKS WHEN ... "You Don't Grab Them in the First Sentence"

by Jeff Rivera, founder of http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com

Agents are so busy nowadays they won't even give a query letter an entire paragraph to grab them.

If you've passed the first test, what I like to call the scan test (meaning it looks professional at first glance), then you'll be lucky to go on to the next test: the first sentence.

They might be patient enough to even give you the first few sentences but Honey, if you don't have it together by then, you can kiss your chances of landing that agent goodbye. There are so many different ways to grab an agent.

These are 5 of the techniques I use for my clients. I've ghost written over 100 query letters for clients successfully. 100% of them have received at least 10 top agents that have requested to read their manuscript or book proposal. In other words, use these techniques -- they work. There are over 60 different examples here: http://tinyurl.com/25t2mkj

You don't need to use all of them, just choose one.


1) Start with a question that makes them ponder?
2) Talk about a dramatic moment in your personal life that connects with the book you've written
3) Tell them immediately about your platform
4) Compliment them on a specific recent sale
5) Tell them who referred you

Use one of the 5 suggestions above and you'll be one step closer to landing an agent.

If you would like to see an example of query letters that worked, visit: http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com

Jeff Rivera is the founder of http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com. He and his works have been featured or mentioned in Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, Mediabistro, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer, NPR and many other media outlets.

Special series: You Know Your Query Letter Sucks When...

Over the next few weeks, we'll be featuring a series of articles by author Jeff Rivera, founder of HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com, that gives valuable information to authors considering sending queries to agents or publishers. If you're a new writer or aspiring author, you should read these posts and follow Jeff's advice. If you're a seasoned author, it may not hurt to brush up on your query skills.

Tip: When Jeff says "agent", substitute "publisher". Then query us the right way.


First impressions are so important to a literary agent, especially when they receive hundreds of query letters a day. They're on auto-pilot and can click delete faster than you can blink an eye.

You've got to grab them and you've got to be cautious not to give them any reason to click delete.

I still can't believe I have to even mention this because to most, it seems so obvious but you'd be surprised how many query letters I see that have this fatal mistake:

"Dear Agent" or worse yet, "To whom it may concern ..."

Um, hello! Would you be interested in reading a letter that didn't address you by your name? It's bad enough to get those spam emails using our full legal name, but how much worse when they say, "Dear Friend" or something even more impersonal.

Literary agents (and publishers) are people first, and agents (or publishers) second. Treat them like a human being and they'll treat you like a human being.

Yes, they know you're querying other agents. They're not stupid, but they don't want to hear about it. It's kind of like when you're first dating someone. You know you're not exclusive yet but you don't want to hear them talk about the passionate hot steamy sex they had with someone else the night before. No, and the same goes for an agent. They want to be treated as special.

If you can make your query letter as personalized as possible, starting with using their name (not "Dear Agent") you'll be that much closer to landing an agent.

If you would like to see an example of query letters that worked, visit: http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com

Jeff Rivera is the founder of http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com. He and his works have been featured or mentioned in Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, Mediabistro, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer, NPR and many other media outlets.

How to get noticed by Imajin Books: Be the Visible Man/Woman-Writer

Since one of our goals at Imajin Books is to find writers who are well prepared to market their works, there are a few things a writer can do before querying us to get our attention, and one of those key things is: BE VISIBLE. Don't be the Invisible Man/Woman-Writer!

If we can't find you online, how will your readers find you? What? You thought you could wait until your book was published before setting up a website, blog, social networks etc? Really? Do you realize it takes some time for your website/blog to be indexed in search engines in order to be found when people search for you?

You are INVISIBLE if...
  • You have no website.
  • You have no blog.
  • You have no Twitter account.
  • You aren't tweeting on your Twitter account.
  • You have no Facebook or MySpace page.
  • If you type your writer name into any search bar and your links don't show up on the first page.
You are transparent (partially visible) if...
  • You have a website but haven't updated it in a year.
  • You have a blog but only post once a month, if that.
  • You have a Twitter account and your last post was over a month ago.
  • You have Facebook and/or Myspace pages but they're only for family.
  • You search for your name in a search engine bar and only a couple of links show up on the first, second or third page.
You are VISIBLE if...
  • You have a website and you update it once a month or as needed.
  • You have a blog (either separate or integrated into your site) and you post once a week or more on average.
  • You have a Twitter account and tweet at least once a week, plus connect with others.
  • You have separate Facebook and/or MySpace pages for your writer side and use these mainly for marketing/promoting and writing related endeavors.
  • You search for your name and links to everything about you are the majority listed on the first three pages, plus you have links ten pages deep.
If you query us and you aren't visible, why should we wait? Fact is, if you query us and you don't at least have a blog that you post to regularly, we either won't consider your submission or we'll put you at the bottom of the pile. Trust me, that's NOT where you want to be.

Tip: Give publishers and acquisition editors what they want, what they ask for.

How to get noticed by Imajin Books: Hook, Line & Sinker

Our goal at Imajin Books is to find original stories with unique characters and exciting plots told in the best possible way by authors who are well prepared to market their works. And there are ways that a writer can get our attention. Today we'll address the dreaded query. There is probably no single word in a writer's world that illicit such chills and terror as "query".

Use the Hook, Line & Sinker Method!


If you want us (or any publisher) to read your query, you must hook us in the first paragraph, preferably with the FIRST sentence. If you've been writing for a while, you've probably heard that the first sentence of a novel is vital in hooking a reader. So is the first sentence of your query. Acquisition editors and publishers are readers too. Your first sentence/paragraph should tell us something about the story or something about YOU, something that will make us want to know more. Something that will make us ask YOU questions.

Example of a bad hook:

I've written a fictional novel. It is about a woman searching for her mother, who gave her up at birth, and their reunion. My friends have all said it's well written, so I think you'll really like it.

Example of a good hook:

As an adopted teenager, I always wondered what it would be like to search for my birth-mother, find her and reunite with her, and in my novel A Mother's Gift, I explore such a tumultuous journey between nineteen-year-old Kaitlyn and her birth-mother Magda. Though not a memoir, I use my own longings and experiences to create an emotional journey that will touch the hearts of every reader.


An expert fisherman casts his line in hopes that he's given it just enough distance--not too little, not too much--and then he reels it in, hoping the action will attract attention of passing fish. Just as a fisherman casts a line with precision, a writer must create the query letter and cast it with precision. Writers must present their queries in ways that will make a publisher sit up and take notice. Don't forget, many of them are wading through the endless virtual slushpile. Yours HAS to stand out.

Ways to stand out: 

Use the hook; keep the query short but entertaining and cast out only enough information to gain their interest; remember that in the end it's the story that's key--not your 3 page biography; and do your homework (research) so that you know you're sending your query to the right person and the right publisher. If we're not looking for nonfiction, don't send us nonfiction.


Most publishers will ask to see a synopsis and sample, either up front or in reply to your query. Some publishers prefer the "old-style" synopsis (3-20 pages that summarize the entire main plot of the story, including main characters, main conflicts and resolution). At Imajin Books, we're looking for a synopsis written like back cover text you'd find on the back of a novel. Write a stunning synopsis/description for us and include it in your first query and you'll have a better chance at grabbing our attention. And it gives us the opportunity to see how well you've researched back cover text, how well you can write it and whether you have an instinct for marketing. Send samples to publishers only per their guidelines.

Synopsis & Sample Tips: 

Study the back cover text of popular novels in your genre and formulate your back cover text/synopsis accordingly. If the majority of books in your genre use a 4 paragraph summary on the back cover, write a 4 paragraph summary for your book. Do not plagiarize material found on other authors' books, but do imitate style, flow or organization to create your best synopsis.

Give the publisher what they ask for, nothing more, nothing less. If we ask for a 5 page sample, we want your first 5 pages. Don't send us 10 pages from the middle of your novel just because you think it's a better scene.

Finally, writers who yearn to become successful published authors must believe in their own skills and creative abilities. If a career as an author is what you want, don't let a simple thing like a "query" get in your way. You must be persistent and dedicated. If your query is not initiating replies from agents or publishers, re-write it. If your sample does not result in a request for the full manuscript, re-write it. If your novel does not get an offer of publication, edit, edit, edit. If you want to be an author, BE one! Never give up!

Dare to Dream...and Dream BIG!