Lost Girls Publishing: Project Summary

Peter Pan Project Summary
What we Learned in Neverland



Lost Girls is a new non-profit publisher located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Our mission is to spark in young adults an interest in classic works of literature by directly involving them in the creative development process and showcasing their work to the community. Our aim is to encourage our city’s future artists to cultivate high-profile portfolio pieces and gain exposure in an environment they’ll likely pursue a career. To show our appreciation for the arts we donate a percentage of book profits towards funding the very college and university arts programs our student contributors are enrolled in.


Our team developed print and ePub formats of Peter Pan using the Elizabeth Castro Adobe InDesign method, which entails formatting the manuscript in InDesign then exporting the book file (along with style sheet attributes) as an ePub file for CSS customization. To promote our publication we developed a strategic marketing plan and a website.


The step-by-step process involved pasting then flowing the manuscript text file into InDesign, and creating 19 separate InDesign files—each using the same margin settings and master page—one per chapter, a table of contents, and a cover design. Those 19 files were then amalgamated into the book format option available on InDesign. A master style sheet was developed outlining distinct character and paragraph styles including the chapter number, name, first paragraph, general body and footnote, and implemented to the first chapter, which was designated as the style sheet. Once the first chapter was formatted to our liking, we synchronized each chapter file with the first chapter, creating a cohesive style within the chapters. The table of contents and the cover were not formatted with the same styles, but were designed using the same typefaces and guidelines.

After the book design was finalized, the book file was exported as an ePub file from InDesign, then dropped into its own folder in the Documents section of the Mac that would be doing the html customization.  From there it was accessed with the Mac Terminal, and unzipped into its component .html files, which were initially edited with TextWrangler and then migrated to Sigil.  The InDesign style sheet required editing (most notably the removal of coding redundancies), as did elements in each individual chapter.  Final formatting of the book’s appearance and illustrations was done in Sigil, at which point the ePub file was re-zipped and uploaded to Readium on Google Chrome for proofing and final viewing.

Critical Points & Decisions
We encountered a few critical points in the technical process, with the majority of issues being stylistic as a result of CSS customization nuances. Regarding the technical process, the major InDesign milestone in book development was learning, in the beginning stages, how to efficiently flow text and develop a style sheet in order to reduce production time and ensure consistency. In terms of ePub accomplishments, it was not until the fourth export of the book file that the process was finally functional, and only so because Sigil was introduced, which enabled us to properly zip the book files and delete redundancies in the style sheet – without this discovery we would have kept repeating the ePub process to no success.

The stylistics issues we encountered were when formatting the ePub, and, in hindsight, should have been fleshed out prior to ePub production by considering the technology on which the ePub would be viewed. Often what in theory we believed to work did not in practice, and we had to regroup and try different tactics in order to develop an aesthetically pleasing and reader-friendly ePub.

Our original interface for the ePub included a leaf tile background that resonated with our Peter Pan theme. We soon realized a textured background wouldn’t be sustained in the ePub format, as it would only appear in HTML, so we deleted it, opting for a plain background.

Typeface was also an issue. The specialized Janda Stylish Script used in the print version had to be replaced by a standard serif font (Minion Pro) in the ePub for reader accessibility, and to ensure it did not show up as random code on computers, which lack this font family. The book cover posed another design issue – after designing an intricate cover we learned that the ePub version would be viewed at approximately 70 pixels so images with fine detail lose their resolution. We decided to redesign the cover using a less detailed image of a Neverland map.

The treatment of footnotes, which the book had an abundance of, also differed in the ePub. We designed 83 individual jpgs for each definition, and posted the images in the multimedia folder on our WordPress site, originally intending for the definitions in the xHTML file to link to the corresponding URL for an aesthetically pleasing ePub reading experience. Once we learned that the footnotes could be imported with minimal formatting we decided to move them to the end of the ePub chapter (when readers click on the hyperlinked word it will bring them to the definition page) hence no jpgs were required despite several hours of design time developing them. This decision was also made after realizing that linking the footnotes to our website would limit the readership as only those reading the ePub on a tablet with web access would be able to open the link.

Although not related to our technological process, much thought and decision also went into the marketing component of our book. We established our house as a non-profit publisher with a grassroots mission to spark in young readers an interest in classic works of literature, directly involving them in the creative development process and showcasing their work to the community. We claimed that students illustrated an image for each chapter, designed various cover images and created promotional print materials, which affected our selection of illustrations for the book. We had to ensure each image was reflective of chapter content, and were all of varying artistic styles in order to support our claim that different students drew pictures.

Workflow Pros
Despite the two-technology process, the development and production of both formats was as straight forward as Castro suggests in her book (our go-to resource): EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other ereaders. Formatting the book using an industry standard in design software made for a user-friendly and practical experience; and, while the CSS coding involved in ePub development was less intuitive, it allowed us to manipulate the ePub post InDesign export.

Editing the ePub file with CSS allowed for a greater degree of precision when it came to exporting the files, meaning a higher level of customization to fit the display medium.  The advantages TextWrangler had when it came to editing the .html files included the fact that TextWrangler has a very handy feature that allows the worker to see which files have and have not been saved.  The migration to Sigil, however, allowed for the ePub file to be worked on as a whole without needing to unzip it, which – we realized a little belatedly – TextWrangler could not do.

Workflow Cons
InDesign was developed for document publication, and as such the software is so capable and offers excessive information and options, making it difficult for a novice book designer to sort through and pull the few functions required to create a book.
Meanwhile, the one drawback of the ePub process is text-editing CSS. The sheer amount of editing required to make a clean, efficient stylesheet out of a default InDesign export is extremely time consuming.

In Summary
Elizabeth Castro’s InDesign method for ePub development entails the use of intuitive software that makes for quick and easy layout of pages, followed by a CSS customization that enables precise manipulation of information to fit digital platforms. Castro’s method provides the flexibility of being able to work on both platforms (InDesign and CSS) simultaneously, meaning the print book does not have to be finalized in layout before it is exported as an ePub and CSS customization begins. As long as text is flowed and a style sheet exists, the ePub file can be developed while the book is fine tuned in layout, allowing for a more efficient process and the potential to launch the ebook version prior to the print version, which is a growing trend in book publishing.




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