Category Archives: Publisher

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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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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Interview with author Don Sawyer (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of our interview with author Don Sawyer. Read part 1 here.

PF:  What was your first publication?
DS:
  Very first? A poem called Chuckie that appeared in The Fiddlehead in the winter of 1977. I still have the cheque: $5. They’ve been trying to figure out why their books don’t balance for 34 years.  My first book was Tomorrow Is School and I Am Sick to the Heart Thinking About It, a non-fiction account of our first teaching experiences in a Newfoundland outport.  That book is also available through you.  Uh, Playfort.

PF:  Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.
DS:
  It’s difficult to tease out any one incident. I have lived in Newfoundland outports and small BC native communities. I have given workshops in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. I have taught on reserves and at universities. I have managed CIDA projects in West Africa. I have canoed the Fraser River and climbed in the Selkirks. My wife and I took our honeymoon travelling from Windsor to Vancouver by train. I have seen suicides on reserves and on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. I’ve seen my kids grow up in a multicultural society that has equipped them to work effectively in extraordinarily demanding cultural and social milieus. I’ve written a book for kids about Confederation, and I’ve worked with Secwepemc elders while writing a book about Shuswap communities for elementary grades. All of these are uniquely Canadian. And all of them affect who I am and what I write.

PF:  What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
DS:
  When Tomorrow Is School was published by Douglas and McIntyre, the first review (in the Vancouver Sun) panned it. I was devastated. Scotty McIntyre took me aside and told me two things: 1) If you accept the good reviews, you have to accept the bad ones. Better to not pay much attention to either, and 2) Writing a book is as close as a man can come to having a baby. After months of labour, you finally produce the manuscript. After careful and loving editing, it toddles out the door. Then it’s on its own. You’ve done your best and now you have to let it go.

PF:    What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?
DS:
  The usual: be persistent. I’ve never been able to nail down the exact figure, but legend has it that John Grisham’s first novel A Time to Kill was rejected more than 40 times. (Which means that 40 editors have now either jumped from high buildings or been fired.) Editors, for the most part, are not particularly good at picking stuff to publish. That’s why they rely on established writers. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. (Oh, and have a really good piece of writing.) One other note: I’ve been published by big houses and small ones. My best sales have come with the smaller publishers. Like Playfort. They often take more time marketing your books, and they also may have specific niches (e.g. aboriginal schools) where they have established themselves.  So I hope you take the hint and market the crap out of my books.

PF:  Tell us about some other recent writing projects.
DS:
  I wrote two books for Highgate Press, Playfort’s Quickread imprint, that are very interesting. But then you know that.

PF:  That’s not the point.  The readers don’t.
DS:  Oh, right.  So anyway, they are novels for adult readers with low reading skills. I wrote three of these for the BC Ministry of Education several years ago, and they have proved very popular with ESL and adult education students, as well as in alternate high school programs. The two I finished last year are mysteries. The first is Hurricane on Grimm’s Island and the second Saving Farley’s Bog. The trick with these is to write a fully adult novel at a grade 3 reading level that is engaging and entertaining. (Sound easy? Try it sometime.)
And then I got involved with you a couple of years ago on the lunchbag project.  Can I say that?

PF:  Let’s keep it impersonal.
DS:
  (Sigh).  OK, I got involved with Louise Wallace, the Playfort publisher, when we worked together on a labour of love, The Lunch Bag Chronicles. For years I drew pictures attached to jokes on my daughters’ lunch bags. They liked them so much, they brought them home, and eventually I had collected over 1,000 bags. We picked out a sample of these, combined them with a bit of narrative, and brought them out in book form about a year and a half ago. It’s a beautiful book, and it was a real pleasure to work with such a creative, collaborative team.

PF:  You say Playfort is collaborative.  How is that different from your experience with other publishers?
DS:
  The Playfort collective is a family of committed, talented people with expertise in every aspect of writing and publishing. There’s Harry, one of the most experienced editors in Canada. You’ve accepted manuscripts from best-selling authors such as Melanie Jackson. Otto, one of the most fantastic graphic artists anywhere.  And you too, Louise.

PF:  Uh-uh.  Impersonal.
DS:
  Right. Well anyway, Louise, the publisher, comes up with remarkably creative marketing ideas. Then there’s Violet, our office manager, who anchors us with her hard work and quiet competence. And Christina, our brilliant 14-year-old young adult editor. What a team. What that means is that we bring all of the expertise necessary to take a book from creation to publication together under virtually one roof.  We can be responsive and efficient.  For example, I just sat down with Violet to do the final edit of Running.  We had the whole thing done in a little over an hour. In most houses that would take months via email and with all the delays involved. As a writer I am involved in every aspect of the book’s production, from layout design and cover to marketing and promotion. I don’t feel like an outsider wondering what mysterious machinations are churning away in the bowels of the publisher’s office – or when it might finally spit out my finished book. We all work together and know the realities and constraints – as well as the possibilities – of operating a small publishing house in Canada. It’s fun.

Playfort Publishing would like to thank Don Sawyer for taking the time to answer our questions. His newest title, Running, is in the works right now and is expected to go to the printers in a few days.

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Interview with author Don Sawyer (Part 1)

We recently had the privilege to interview Don Sawyer about his new young adult title, Running, which is coming out soon. Here is part one of that interview, we hope you enjoy it!

PF:  Tell us about your latest book, which is coming out very soon, I believe.
DS:  That’s right.  Running will be out before Christmas.  It’s being published by Playfort Publishing’s young adult imprint, Midway Press.

PF:  So tell us a little about the book.
DS: Running is a fast-paced story about friendship, redemption, and the triumph of love.  Louie and Paul come from very different worlds.  Yet they have one thing in common. Tragedies have shattered their families and the boys’ lives.  To bury their hurt they run—fast and relentlessly.  A chance accident on the trails brings the two boys together, and an unlikely friendship grows.   Joined by Annie, another loner who has secrets of her own, they form a threesome that runs like the wind in the hills above their town.  But a disastrous attempt by Paul to join the school’s cross country team and an explosive encounter with their star runner turns the alliance upside down.  So then we follow the three as they try to overcome their isolation and anger, become a real team, and hatch an audacious scheme.  I think young adult readers will find it engaging, thought provoking, and a damned good read.

PF:  Playfort distributes some of your other books.
DS:  You should know.  You’re the publisher.

PF:  I was trying to appear objective in this interview.
DS:  Oh, right.  They, er, you handle both The Meanest Teacher in the World and Miss Flint Meets the Great Kweskin.  Both are at the upper elementary levels, but they are being used successfully right through middle school. The stories (seven in each book) are fairly easy to read (written at about a grade 3 level), but more importantly they’re just plain fun. They focus on the dastardly Miss Flint and how her ever-resourceful charges at Haywood Elementary get even. Kids at all levels can relate since, it seems, everyone has had a teacher like Miss Flint.  I also completed a teacher’s guide with lots of ideas for using the stories creatively in the classroom with the emphasis on having fun. I’ve delivered dozens of readings and writing workshops using the stories, and they never fail to engage and entertain kids.  Lately we have been pioneering the use of Skype to conduct readings right across the country.

PF:  Describe your ideal writing environment.
DS: I have a great office with lots of light and a comfortable chair, and I also enjoy writing outside on my deck using a laptop. The big thing is being somewhere I’m not distracted by, well, life. This February, my wife and I rented a place on an island in southern Alabama. It was a kind of winter-averse writing retreat for me. I managed to finish off Running, a book I’d been working on for months, in about three weeks. I love being involved in my community, international development work, gardening, walking Farley (our SPCA refugee Lapphund), working out, and so on. But darn, it sure gets in the way of writing.

Part two will be posted next week. Check back to find out the best advice he’s ever received as an author and the advice he has for aspiring authors-to-be!

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I confess

I confess. I’m a publisher. I admit it. It’s reckless and not without danger. But I can’t help myself. It’s something I have to do and have indeed managed to do over the last year and a half. So in the next days, weeks and hopefully months, I’ll endeavour to share all the nitty gritty details of how our stories are shared in a sometimes and sometimes not, commercially viable way.

If some day, the universe willing, our publishing house becomes the little darling of this rich and famous world, I’ll remember today. Mostly for this; the awful feeling I had when I stared in horror at what’s become of my bank account. So, on the advice of the lovely Violet who I get to work with every day,  we’ll do the one thing we know how best to do. Share our story.

Truth is, I could, in fact, would, make more money working the drive thru at the local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. Which is ironic, in a way, because people don’t really go there for the coffee. Sorry Timmy – you know it’s true. They go there to share their stories. I see them. The groups of men and women who meet and share. It’s an integral part of who they are, their common experience, with a double double on the side. Sometimes every day, or every week, before church or after yoga. Sharing makes us and keeps us human and, for that matter, humane.
But, working at Tim Horton’s is not for me. Brown is not my colour. And I couldn’t butter a bagel properly to save my life. So that’s out. And we’re back to publishing. But publishing isn’t what people think it is. The Hollywood version sees publishing as a world of privilege, where men in expensive suits discuss the literary merits of the next best seller in glass skyscrapers overlooking the best views of the world’s best cities. Or where women, in designer garb, sip cocktails at the finest establishments to discuss a character’s motivation and how it affects the denouement of the plot. Yet, in many movies, characters are often publishers or editors or authors or photographers or artists. Those glamourous people exist. But that lifestyle is a myth. Except, perhaps, for a famous few. And I bet even they get a good chuckle at their characterizations on film.
But that aside, there is no greater joy, at least for me, except for parenting (which is a whole other series of confessions) then watching an idea become a story and a story become a manuscript, a manuscript become a book, a book become a cover and ultimately, the sheer terrorizing delight of cutting open a box, the thrilling waft of fresh ink and the act of holding, for the first time, in my hands, a brand new beautiful book full of promise and hope.
This blog will be about these very steps and the delightful people I get to work with every day who make it all possible. Publishing is challenging, funny, interesting, discouraging at times, enlightening and always, always fascinating. And I know it’s a fascination that many share. So we’ll do our part to share because if nothing else, that’s the whole point of publishing, now isn’t it? We’ll use every tool we have at our disposal (and thank heavens for those); twitter, facebook, youtube, audio clips, this blog and the occasional photo of the gang at work. But don’t except to see us in suits or designer garb. And we won’t be taking you out for lunch, unless pop and pizza is your idea of a gourmet meal. We do have a decent espresso machine – it’s our pride and joy – so if you find yourself in our part of the woods, stop by for a cup and share a story or two with us. We’ll be glad you did. Maybe there’s a book in it.
See you later, I hope.
Louise
Louise Wallace, M.Pub
Publisher
Playfort Publishing
Salmon Arm, BC