Why must creating an eBook be so mysterious?

“Something to read and enough coffee” originally uploaded to flickr by bibliothekarin

Happy Movember book folks!

We hope you are all having a wonderful autumn season so far. Fall always makes us think about books (although I think about books everyday, since I work in publishing). I think it has to do with the warmer layers, pumpkin spice lattes and mint mochas, and snuggling up by the fire, not to mention that it gets dark by 4 pm. Curling up with a good book just fits right in with all that.

Since books have been on the brain more than usual, I have been doing a lot of eBook work over here at the Playfort. Seems there is a lot of information on tips and tricks for creating ebooks on the interweb. By Googling the subject I was able to find a bunch of good (and not so good) info for creating eBooks using Adobe InDesign. I even managed to turn our current titles into eBooks without any prior knowledge.

The problem arose when I found out that eBooks must meet certain criterion to be considered valid by retailers and others that distribute eBooks, and if they don’t these retailers would not go near them with a ten-foot pole.  And my eBooks did not pass EPUB Check. Of course once I found that out I went searching for information about how to get them to pass EPUB Check, and I couldn’t really find anything concrete. Why must creating an eBook be so mysterious?

Then we found out about eBOUND Canada, a not-for-profit focused on helping Canadian publishers advance their digital engagement. And they don’t discriminate. Even though we are a very small Canadian publisher, they offered us the same level of help and access as they give their larger members. So we signed up to be a member and I instantly had access to tutorials that showed me EXACTLY how to convert my books into EPUBs and how to get them to pass EPUB Check. Because of that I was able to turn five of our titles into validated EPUB format eBooks and should be able to convert them to MOBI (for Amazon’s Kindle eReader platform) pretty easily. So if you are a Canadian publisher struggling with how to turn your print books into digital eBooks, I suggest you become a member of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) and eBOUND Canada. They are very helpful and offer great discounts on publishing services to their members. There is a cost to membership, depending on your annual revenue. But if you will use their services, it’s worth it.

If you are an author looking to self-publish, you may have better luck paying a company to create your eBook for you. I managed to find a listing of companies that do this work, although I know there are many others. This is a very new industry, and there isn’t really a master list of where to find these professionals. You should do a bit of research on the companies you are considering paying for this service, as they do not all offer the same services, and you want to make sure they are a good fit with you. Also, with most publishers turning their backlist into eBooks right now, a lot of these companies may be backlogged with work, and I cannot guarantee that they will have the time to take on your project.

I am glad that we have found some great help with ACP and eBOUND Canada, and that our eBooks will soon be available with many online retailers, including Amazon, Apple, and OverDrive (libraries). But my work is not done, so I better get back to it!

Violet 🙂

Are you trying to create an eBook and having trouble? Let me know in the comments and I will try to steer you in the right direction.

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Beyond the Cover: author reading on social justice

This past Saturday, at 7:30 pm, we (Midway Press, a division of Playfort Publishing) hosted an author reading at the SAGA Public Art Gallery in Salmon Arm, BC. Three authors each read from his or her latest published work. Although the story lines and contexts were different, each had a theme of social justice. The event, therefore, carried that exact theme: Social justice.

Three old friends (and authors) decided to get together to discuss a topic that each had recently written about: Social justice. Each spoke about a different aspect, with different stories: Don Sawyer about youth growing up in less than ideal situations, whether it be three native siblings taken from their mother and the reserve and put into separate foster homes, or a young boy witnessing his father die in a horrific car accident, or a teen girl being raped by her church minister in his young adult fiction book Running; Tom Wayman about the Afghan war and its absence and presence in Canadians’ everyday lives as citizens of a nation at war in his collection of poems Dirty Snow; and Carmen Rodriguez about three generations in a family affected by the 1973 military coup in Chile, and their flight to Canada as political refugees in her fictional take on true events in Retribution. Although each book is about something entirely different on the surface, they each speak to how social injustice affects everyone, whether or not they are even aware of it.

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Despite the dark (and I’m sure some of you are thinking depressing) overtones of the topic, each author injected humour into his or her book and the reading, along with something we all can relate to: Hope. It is truly amazing what human beings can overcome when given hope.

The discussion afterwards was lively and fascinating, with a range of points from educational matters in post-secondary institutions, such as leadership and politics, to communication barriers in this new technological world.

The authors signed and sold their books, each at a discount from the list price – even we got our hands on autographed books from Tom and Carmen!

We would like to thank Don Sawyer, Tom Wayman, and Carmen Rodriguez for allowing us to be a part of this enlightening event, as well as all the people who showed up, listened intently, asked questions and gave comments, and bought books from these authors. We couldn’t have done it without all of you!

The PFP team

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How can we make your life easier?

photo is 3133347219_4c16658dd5_m by ky_olsen on Flickr

Hello world!

We recently started to create some super-fun surveys on Survey Monkey, and we just finished one up for all those book folks who order for their libraries or organizations. When we started out with the surveys our goal was to figure out how people order books for their organizations and what frustrations arise with the whole process. How do you order books? Do you find it frustrating to source books? Or is the issue with how you receive the title information from publishers and distributers? Well, we don’t know. But we want to know.

Do you have an opinion on book sourcing and ordering? Tell us what it is! We will listen. 🙂

Click here to take survey

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Fathers: family, love, and laughter – even when you’re away

The Lunch Bag Chronicles by Don Sawyer

One of the most difficult parts of being a parent who worked for periods overseas was the sadness I felt at leaving my two daughters behind in British Columbia.  Thankfully, they had (and have) a wonderful mother who would point to the moon at night and tell them that I was looking at the same moon way over in Africa, and then she would get out maps and talk about the countries I was in.  At night, they would count off the nights until I returned home.

Much of my work in Africa took place more than 25 years ago when my kids were small (Farish is turning 30 and Melissa is 36), and it was heart wrenching for all of us when I would get into the car and head to airport to fly to Ghana or The Gambia.  I loved my work, but I missed my daughters terribly, and I worried about losing touch with them when I was gone for weeks at a time.

Even when home, I had begun the practice of drawing and writing lunch bags for my kids to take to school.  Most were jokes, a picture drawn on one side with a question, the punch line on the back:

What do married snakes do after they’ve had a fight?

Hiss and make up!

Or (ghosts generally only appeared around Halloween)

Why did they put the ghost in jail?

Because he was haunting without a license!

But sometime the bags reflected events in the girls’ lives.  When Farish was going skating with her class, I drew a picture of her slipping with this helpful suggestion:

Have fun skating

But here’s some advice

Try to keep your bum

Off of the ice

And the day after Melissa was elected president of her elementary school, I sent this message to school with her:

We’re happy you won

And you’ll be good everyone says

But how long do we have to

Keep calling you prez?

I made the bags after the kids were in bed, and the process of finding or making up a joke just right for Melissa or Farish, edit it for the lunch bag format, come up with an illustration and colour it with the set of pencils the girls gave me for Father’s Day became a nightly ritual while they were in their mid-elementary years.  I was no illustrator, but I had a lot of fun drawing the pictures to go along with the jokes.  And I always got a smile out of it, thinking about the girls opening their lunch, laughing (or groaning!) at the joke and sharing them with their friends.

It took time, but the practice to me was a kind of meditation on my daughters: their interests, personality, sense of humour and the events that filled their days.  The whole process made me think about who they were, and how their lives were unfolding.

But things got more complicated when I was about to head over to Africa for a month or so (I was the director of my college’s International Development Centre and managed a number of development projects in West Africa).  By this time the lunch bags had become a fixture in the kids’ lives, so much so that they brought each one home after school and saved them in cardboard apple boxes (eventually we accumulated over 1,000 bags). So there was no way they were going to put up without bags for the duration of my trip.  That meant frantic lunch bag production, 20 or 25 at a time to be doled out while I was gone.

And they became a link between us as each bag reminded them that I was thinking of them and made them feel I was not really so far away.

Often the bags I drew and wrote for the day I left included messages about my upcoming trip:

Why did the little chocolate chip cookie cry?

And when I got back, I would sometimes make references to the places I’d been – and African jungle animals would often prowl the bags for a while:

What steps should you take if you are attacked by a lion?

After The Lunch Bag Chronicles (Playfort Publishing, 2010) was published, I discovered that there is a whole network of fathers who illustrate their kids’ lunch bags (who knew?), and I have had the privilege to share the book (and hundreds of bags that didn’t make it in – I figure I’m good for about 10 sequels) with kids and parents at readings and in classrooms.  From parents, I have heard over and over the ways they stayed in touch with their kids while at school – notes in their kids’ lunch boxes, photocopied poems taped to bags, bits of fatherly and motherly advice tucked in with a sandwich.

Whether 5,000 or five miles away, school is a time when our kids learn healthy life lessons and develop values and attitudes that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.  Knowing that their parents care about them and think about them enough to brighten their school day with a joke, note, or picture connecting them to their homes and parents is a reminder of how special they are and the importance of family, love, and laughter.

Don Sawyer

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Summer reading for teens

No Way Out by Melanie Jackson

Hey there,

Our very first YA mystery title was written by Melanie Jackson, who lives in Vancouver, BC. It is a clever and suspenseful novel written for kids aged 11-15 who may be reluctant readers, and at a lower reading level.

The story centres around Sam Jellicoe, a 15-year-old boy from Vancouver who has to spend the summer in Winnipeg with his mother and her flashy new husband, Alvin. To escape the prairie heat Sam goes to a department store. When the power goes out, chaos ensues. A gunman takes Sam and several other people hostage. Sam must draw on his wits and acting skills, and above all, keep his cool.

NO Way Out is a great story to keep young adults reading when out of school, with its easy vocabulary and short chapters. Just in time for summer break!

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Letter from the Publisher

Hello,

My name is Louise Wallace and I am the publisher at a small Canadian house called Playfort Publishing. We publish Canadian content by Canadian authors and specialize in quick-read titles for reluctant readers. Some of our books have already found homes in Canadian libraries, literacy groups, and college ESL programs. We hope that Canadian content is needed in your community and believe that we have some great options that you will enjoy.

To view our catalogue, click here. If you are interested in receiving information from us regarding our current and future titles, please contact us at sales<at>playfortpublishing<dot>com or visit our website. There you will find reviews, free chapters to read, links to buy our books, and information about each of us here at Playfort Publishing.

We really are a friendly bunch, which is why our motto is “Friendly Fiction for All”. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. We love to be social 🙂 We also would love it if you passed on our information to anyone you think would be interested in high interest fiction titles at a lower reading level. And let us know what you think!

Have a great day!

Louise Wallace, MPub

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Message for May

Hurricane on Grimm's Island

Don Sawyer’s Hurricane on Grimm’s Island

Hello,

I hope May is going well for you. Just wanted to let you know about our adult fiction title for reluctant readers, or anyone who is interested in a quick read story to compliment their busy lifestyle.

Don Sawyer’s Hurricane on Grimm’s Island is one of our most popular titles to date. It’s a mystery about Stitch Robinson, a Toronto private investigator on vacation in the Bahamas. After a storm washes up a body on the beach, it’s back to work to find the culprit. Don writes in an easy-to-read format and his stories are current and engaging.

Click here to get the scoop on Hurricane on Grimm’s Island. Feel free to pass it along and also to contact us at Playfort Publishing with any questions or comments.

Have a great day!

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It’s been awhile

Hello there,

I know it’s been awhile since we’ve posted anything, which is not good blogger etiquette. Sorry. We have had a lot going on around here lately, with an ongoing office renovation, year-end (bookkeeping), handling the other side of our business, and planning for the future. Unfortunately, this blog has been neglected. I am trying to make sure we all make time to put our daily dramas onto paper for your entertainment. Deep breath. Ok. Here we go.

I have been trying to generate some book sales. We have the product. We need the sales. To be honest, this is not my forte. I am not really a salesperson. This is exactly why, even with my knowledge and love of the industry, I could not hack it as a cosmetician. This is why I went to school to be an administrative assistant. I love to organize and create systems, I am good at seeing patterns, spelling and grammar errors jump off the page for me, I can balance a budget, I love spreadsheets and office supplies. I fear rejection. However, since I am the only employee here, someone’s got to do it, right?

No Way Out by Melanie Jackson

So I did a little research and found a bulk email program that would work well for us and started culminating a very large database of public libraries in Canada. I started to contact librarians and have actually gotten some interest. I am really focusing on this right now. Hopefully it helps our cause.

I also spent some time turning No Way Out into an eBook, creating flyers to send out to our librarians and other folks, and spending some more time on our current catalogue. I just have to put all of these things together in the right way and hopefully it turns out.

We are also waiting to hear back from the Canada Council for the Arts about our grant submission. This time last year we already had our answer (which was a no). I am personally getting quite antsy. Everyday I take a walk up to the post office with fingers crossed. Nothing. The things we could accomplish with a grant. I find myself daydreaming about it the way I sometimes imagine how I would divvy up my lottery winnings. I am just trying to stay positive and utilize the force of The Secret. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

Well, I better get back to work. These emails aren’t going to write themselves.

Talk to you later,

Violet

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Family Literacy Week

Happy Family Literacy Week everyone!

We have been celebrating all week long with our local literacy group, Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society (LASS). They have put a lot of work and effort into creating programs and events for our community to take part in for “Unplug and Play“. We specifically sponsored “Random Acts of Reading”, where local celebrities read books aloud to different community groups in various locations all week long. Here are a few pictures from our “Random Acts of Reading”. This is how we celebrate Family Literacy Week in the Shuswap:

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Thank you to everyone who sponsored an event, took part in an event, and/or attended an event for Family Literacy Week in Salmon Arm. You have all helped to increase awareness of literacy needs in our community. We at Playfort Publishing are very pleased to have been a part of it!

Thanks everyone!

The PFP team

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A New Year’s epiphany

Happy 2012 to you! I am just finishing up my first week back at Headquarters after the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, and it has been a week filled with hard work, accomplishment, occasional distractions, exciting plans for the future, and a plumbing incident—uh oh!

Yeah, as I was cleaning up the office on the last Friday before Christmas—trying to get it cleaned up enough that when we all returned it wouldn’t smell or anything—I was just finishing up cleaning the bathroom and went to wash out the sink and it wouldn’t drain. I tried everything; it was clogged. I told Lou before she left, but there wasn’t much I could do about it at the last minute on the Friday before holidays. So I packed up my gear and headed to the in-laws’ for a long weekend filled with eggnog, ninja-bread cookies (basically gingerbread ninjas), and Pictionary tournaments. When I returned this Tuesday the sink was still clogged up. We tried again to unclog it using boiling water, baking soda and vinegar, and finally a plunger, all to no avail. It was time to call in the pros. When the plumber took apart the pipes under the sink, the entire thing came off the wall! The sink was supposed to be securely attached to the wall, but turns out the only thing holding that porcelain sink up was the drain pipe! At any point that sink could’ve dropped and it would have done a lot of damage. So those Popsicle sticks and bottle cap that ended up clogging the drain were actually a blessing in disguise! Now we have a new sink (it’s actually a laundry tub sink).

I definitely needed the time away to relax. I have been so stressed for the past year (since just before I graduated from college) and having anxiety attacks monthly. I have been making myself sick worrying about every little thing, even if I had no control over it. Did I choose the right college course? Will I find a practicum placement? Will I get the job of my dreams? Then, after I graduated and accomplished those things, I stressed about other things. Will I be able to pay back my debts? Will I actually be able to do this job? Can I justify my working here and make the company enough money that I don’t get fired? Will I mess up so bad at work that I lose the company everything and they go bankrupt and I never get another job ever again? It was a vicious cycle. I was tormenting myself. I was worrying so much that it was making it harder to concentrate on everything, making it more likely that I would mess up.

As I was doing some year-end bookkeeping between Christmas and New Year’s from home and becoming increasingly stressed because it wasn’t going as smoothly as I would have liked, I had an epiphany. I realized that the entire fate of the company does not rest on my shoulders. And if I can’t figure out something in the bookkeeping I could ask our Accountant to figure it out for me (that is what he gets the big bucks for after all). And that worrying about the “what-ifs” was not going to get me closer to my goals or stop the company from going bankrupt (just to clarify, we aren’t going bankrupt). The only things that I have any control over are my actions and my reactions. All I can do is my job to the best of my ability and let others handle the rest.

Once I realized that, I relaxed and was actually able to get some real work done. Instead of running around in circles, staring at all the disorganized paperwork and my long, long list of things yet to be accomplished and stressing out to the point that I didn’t even want to go into work (which is totally lame because I love my job), I took a chill pill (not really) and stopped putting so much pressure on myself. After all, I am only one person, and although I am really super awesome if I do say so myself, the entire fate of the universe does not rest on my shoulders.

My New Year’s resolution is to stop stressing myself out. Here’s to a stress-reduced 2012!

Violet

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