John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

Self publishing

Last year I wrote/drew a story for my nephew. I deliberately did it in the style of a children's book (e.g. Mr Men), so that I could print it out with a picture and a couple of lines of text per page. It was 14 pages long, so when I added a title page and moved the "moral" to the back that was 16 pages. Having it as a multiple of 4 is convenient, because I could then use 4 pieces of A4 paper to print it (making each page A5 size).

I first heard about DTP (Desktop Publishing) software back in my undergrad days, but I never quite got my head around it. A typical description said: "This is really useful if you're preparing a newsletter and you want to have columns of text." However, I rarely need to produce newsletters and I can use Word to put text into columns, so I didn't see the point. Putting this little booklet together, it starts to make more sense.

I used MS Publisher for this, mainly because it comes bundled with Microsoft Office, but I'm sure that other software (e.g. Adobe InDesign) would work equally well. I created a new document based on the "booklet" template, and set the page size to be "1/2 A4 (14.8 x 21cm)", then I added blank pages in multiples of 4. After that, I set up each page in reading order. Printing order is quite different, since the 4 pieces of paper would contain pages (1-2-15-16, 3-4-13-14, 5-6-11-12, 7-8-9-10). It makes life easier if I can delegate that to the computer and just focus on the logical flow of the story, and I assume that this would be even more significant with a longer book(let).

I printed out the pages double-sided; I still get confused when it asks me about flipping on the short edge or the long edge, but in this case flipping on the short edge is correct and the printer software did a decent job of showing me how to re-insert the paper so that I wouldn't wind up with upside-down pictures.

Once I'd printed out the pages, I folded them in half. Some people recommend bone folders, possibly in conjunction with a set square. Other people use a metal ruler and a cutting mat. I don't have any of those items, so I just folded the pages with my fingers. This is quite a small booklet, but if I was folding several pages together then there would be a "riffle effect" (I don't know what the proper term is), i.e. the inner pages would stick out further than the outer pages. That looks a bit messy, so people normally trim the edges of the pages to align them. This is why comics have "the bleed", i.e. blank space or background art around the edge of the page that can safely be chopped off without affecting the story.

My next job was to staple the pages together, and here I hit a snag. 10 years ago (during my MSc), I bought a new stapler, then I had to face the challenge of Doom to get it out of the plastic packaging. That stapler can handle lots of pages at once, but it won't reach the middle of an A4 page:

Old stapler

The red bit is where the staples come out. I tried doubling the paper up, hoping that I could curve it around between the red bit and the hinge without creasing it, but that didn't work very well. Another option is to open the stapler wide (so that the hinge is almost at a 180° angle), punch the staples through the paper into an eraser, then remove the eraser and bend the staples flat with your fingers, but that seemed like a lot of hassle. So, enter the new stapler:

New stapler

This is the Ryman Long Reach Stapler, and happily it came in a cardboard box so it was easy to unpack without the aid of power tools. This has a maximum reach of 300mm, i.e. slightly longer than a page of A4, so it's fine for my purposes.

I showed the open booklet for clarity, but I actually want the staples to go from the outside in, i.e. I need to turn the booklet upside down before I staple it:

Back of booklet

There's a ruler along the side of the stapler, and some preset labels.


In this case, I want A4, even though the individual pages are A5. I think the idea is to put the paper against the sliding thing, which rests in one of the indentations. Unfortunately, there's a bit of wiggle room there. I practiced on some scrap paper, and I found that the best option is to push the slidy bit as far towards the middle of the paper as possible without knocking it out of the dent. That's a bit fiddly, so I wouldn't enjoy doing this in bulk (e.g. if I was making a batch of mini-comics). Still, I think it came out ok:

Stapled booklet

One other binding option is to sew the pages together, and I've seen people doing that with orders of service (e.g. at weddings). Based on past experience, I suspect that this would end up with me bleeding all over the paper, but it may be useful for people with better aim. tobycraig has helpfully provided some instructions for this.

On a more general note, I've now started a second blog: Kirkian Comics. There's not much there yet, but feel free to keep an eye on the RSS feed for my future scribblings. I'm using WordPress with Comic Easel (which has sort of superceded ComicPress), and I still need to figure out how the control panel works so that I can remove all the placeholder junk. Hopefully this will be a good option in the long run, if I can take advantage of its flexibility.
Tags: comics

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