Young entrepreneurs write and publish electronically

August 31, 2011 | Young Voices
Aaron Epp | Special to Young Voices

Three Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) alumni have launched an independent digital press and are currently selling their first electronic book (e-book). The youth adventure novel entitled Owen Grey and the Changeling tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who is kidnapped and taken to a fairy land, where he is forced to be a rich man’s servant. He must navigate mysterious rooms and goblin prisoners in order to escape.

Stephan Wiebe, 29, a middle school art teacher who lives in Calgary, Alta., wrote Owen Grey and the Changeling with his brother Reg, 30, who graduated from CMU in 2002 and is studying for a Ph.D. degree in English literature. They were inspired to write a youth adventure novel after talking about their shared love of the Harry Potter series, as well as the adventure stories they grew up reading as children, stories like Treasure Island and The Black Stallion.

“The general themes revolve around the creation of community, the importance of family and the challenges of making the right decision when it’s much easier to make the wrong one,” says Krista Wiebe, the brothers’ sister-in-law, who edited the book.

The three started their publishing company, Parka Books, in January. It aims to be on the cutting edge of storytelling by using the digital medium to sell books that might not otherwise see the light of day.

“My first love will always be [physical] books, because I love reading and I love holding a book,” says Krista, 26, a freelance editor who graduated from CMU in 2007 with a degree in English literature. “But there’s something so neat about what’s taking place right now with this new technology and how we can use it to our advantage.”

Krista says that one of the benefits of publishing books electronically is the ease with which Parka Books can get its publications to readers. “Using Twitter and Facebook and posting a link . . . we can get [people] directly to the Amazon bookstore [] and they can buy their e-book and it can be directly imported to their Kindle in a matter of minutes,” she says.

Parka Books will soon launch versions for the Kobo e-book reader and iBooks, the e-book application from Apple. A second book, written and illustrated by Stephan, will also be available soon.

Stephan says that another benefit to the digital medium is that it keeps costs low, so they will be able to pay authors more for their work. Instead of only receiving 10 percent from the sale of their book, which they might get from a regular book publisher, the author will be paid significantly more if they publish with Parka Books, he says.

“Looking into the publishing world and seeing the author get [only] 5 to 10 percent of what their book sells for, when they’re the one who’s created something the reader connects with,” doesn’t seem fair, says Stephan. “They don’t connect with the publisher or the agent [who] should be helping the creator, the author or the illustrator get their work out to the public. They should be helping, not putting up roadblocks and then taking all the credit or making the author feel like they’re beholden to this company.”

The idea for Parka Books came to them when they didn’t have any luck finding a publisher for Owen Grey. Stephan credits learning that one doesn’t need to follow the prescribed system to the time he spent studying at CMU. “My time at CMU influenced where I am, and my philosophies,” he says. “I met a lot of creative people who were trying [different] things and willing to experiment with ideas.”

Reg, Stephan and Krista are looking forward to working with other authors and publishing more books in the future. “Publishing is such a tricky business and if your manuscript doesn’t fit into familiar niches, it often gets discarded,” Krista says. “We want to take these books that are being rejected from big publishing houses and really work with the authors and get them out to people. We want to get their work the recognition it deserves and find a readership for them.”

Writers can make submissions via .

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.