JF Garrard

Trust your instinct and don’t overthink. If things fail, it’s not the end of the world!


JF Garrard is the founder of Dark Helix Press, Marketing Strategist for Ricepaper Magazine and an Assistant Editor for Amazing Stories Magazine. She is an editor and writer of speculative fiction (Trump Utopia or Dystopia Anthology, The Undead Sorceress) and non-fiction (The Literary Elephant). Her latest short stories will be appearing in the upcoming Iguana Books’ Blood is Thicker: An Anthology of Twisted Family Traditions and Renaissance Press’ We Shall Be Monsters: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Two Centuries On.

Her education background includes a Nuclear Medicine degree from the University of Toronto, MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University and she is working on a Creative Writing certificate at Ryerson University. Her contributions regarding diversity, business and healthcare topics have been published in Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Monster.com, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, MochiMag, My Corporation, Indie Pubchat, Authors Helping Authors, among others.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Dark Helix Press was started after I wrote an East meets West vampire book (The Undead Sorceress) and couldn’t find a publisher willing to invest in a book with diverse ideas. Many mythologies are based on European stories and publishers thought that introducing Asian ideas would make the book difficult to sell from a marketing perspective. I ran a Kickstarter for the book, raised a few thousand dollars and opened Dark Helix Press, a publishing company which helps promote writers that are “different” or deemed too risky for traditional publishers to work with.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

When I wake up I think about what I need to do for today and the top three things I need to accomplish. My to do lists are very long and prioritizing is very important. Every day is different, but typically I need to take care of my child first by bringing them to school. Once they are gone, I can then start work by checking emails, going over story submissions, editing manuscripts, updating social media accounts and calling up editors to see where they are at with their work. I work with a lot of partners to collaborate on different projects, so I have meetings over the phone or in person with them. If I have to work over dinner, I’ll invite people to eat with me while we talk. Sometimes my child is there if I can’t find a babysitter. To make the day productive I do the most important tasks in the morning since I’m a day person, then lesser tasks at night. My husband works at a start up, so we usually talk at night about near and future goals. We are both workaholics which helps as we try to help each other balance work and childcare duties.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I plan, research and do. I get excited about many creative ideas and recognize that I can’t do everything myself even if I wanted to. When we decided to do an anthology about Trump (Trump: Uptopia or Dystopia), we were overwhelmed by submissions. This project involved over thirty selected writers and multiple editors (people came and went). To coordinate, we used spreadsheets to keep track of progress and different software for editing as well as graphics work. Having a good team dedicated to the project is most important. Smaller projects I can do myself, such as making a one minute film, but for larger stuff, the team will make or break the experience. At the end of the day, by putting in the hard work, things will work out, no matter how complicated the project is!

What’s one trend that excites you?

High quality self-publishing! Self-publishing has a bad reputation since in the beginning many people just wrote what they wanted and never bothered to hire editors. As millions of self-published books are being published every year, authors are recognizing that investing in an editor is investing in themselves because readers yearn for both brilliant ideas and high writing quality. This is disrupting the publishing industry and things are still changing rapidly. In the past if someone wrote something, they may have never gotten published as publishing is such a gamble. Nine in ten books never make money. Sometimes writing is just about making art and not about the money, so its great people have an option just to create via self-publishing.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

A willingness to learn all the time. This means taking risks and trying new things outside my comfort zone.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Trust your instinct and don’t overthink. If things fail, it’s not the end of the world!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Background music in video games (Final Fantasy, Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda) are the best thing to listen to! They make you feel like you are going on an adventure!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Think of how much things cost before spending money. For example, there are a lot of free or trial software options, you don’t always have to buy expensive software. Frugalness will help your cash flow in the long run!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Collaborate with everyone for new opportunities. I often speak at conferences, give away Dark Helix books for draws for various events, volunteer to do public speaking, co-publish books and work with authors to create free magazines to give out to attract readers. We are quite open to different ways of attracting different readers industry with thin profit margins. Although our mandate is to make art versus money, we still need money to operate. To earn money, we need to market ourselves all the time and collaborations help us with brand building.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Prior to Dark Helix Press, I had a handmade jewelry business which catered to Japanese anime fans and cosplayers. I was fairly successful, but shut it down as cheaper, manufactured jewelry came onto the market and I couldn’t compete on pricing. The biggest lesson was to change my mindset, that the failure was a lesson and not that big of a deal. I also learned not to listen to certain people in my life who are just negative, with the attitude that “you’ve failed before trying.”

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Interactive books with narration, background music, animation and sound effects. People have less attention span to read these days and just want to watch things happen. An interactive book would provide more information about the characters and a deeper story for those willing to read.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

New work clothes from Uniqlo that do not require ironing. Clothes that look professional and do not require much care helps me save time in the long run.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

For social media, we use Hootsuite to help schedule our posts over the course of 2 weeks. This means we can take care of all social media activity in an hour and not worry about it for a little while. I have two brands to take care of, my author “JF Garrard” brand and Dark Helix Press brand. Hootsuite lets me schedule things for both accounts at the same time.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?: Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life’s Difficulties” by Ajahn Brahm. Being a leader and living a complicated life leads to a lot of frustration and anger at times. This book was recommended to me by a travelling monk and it contains many stories which helps us change our perspective on situations, making us realize that thing aren’t so bad after all!

What is your favorite quote?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi. This is a bit of a misquote, full quote is: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Key learnings:

  • Prioritize things you have to do in the morning and work on them during your best time in the day
  • Don’t be afraid of failure, they provide the best lessons
  • Be frugal with money, the first few years will be tough
  • Collaborate with people and be open to new opportunities
  • There is no magic wand to success, work hard and don’t give up!