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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Mysterious Art of Printing

I got an email from a cartoonist friend asking me what I meant about balancing the pages of my book. I suppose it isn't really so important when you are handing the thing over to a publisher, as I am, but then I am a control freak (though not in the Chris Ware flying to Asia to make sure the colours are just so league ), so I'm doing it anyway. Well, not really, it's a purely practical thing and once you print out your dummy copy (I can't overemphasise how important this is it'll save you hours of heartache) you'll see why it's so necessary. For instance, you don't want a black page 3 and a white page 4, it's much easier to have a white page 3 and a white page 4, or a black page 3 and a black page 4 or a white page 3 and 4 with a centered black rectangle on each page, if you get my drift. It just saves trying to find a paper that's white on one side and black on the other.

I know such things are easier to do these days, and some of the old rules no longer apply, but we stick to them, I mean, a lot of cartoonists still draw using a dip-pen and waterproof Indian ink, which was only really necessary when a large wet tin-drum was still used for the printing process. So, I've balanced my pages to make the job of finding paper as easy as possible, and I've balanced the book as a multiple of 8, because that is how it has always been. And because I like things to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The cartoonist concerned is working on their first self-published project, so this is a good time to learn as much as they can about the process and how important dummy-books are and proper planning is. There are a number of illustrators out there from whom I learned basics and the best thing I can do is point you at their pages. Artbabe, Jessica Abel has a marvelous tutorial on her site and even though the mini I did with Dominique and Kim wasn't my first self-published project, I regularly checked Jessica's site for advice and help (it is so very easy to get confused).

Another fabulous resource is the Reproguide that you'll find free for download (scroll down to the bottom of the page), alongside some excellent books by Jordan Crane, that you should think about buying, on Red Ink's website. With advice from Ron Rege Jnr, Brian Ralph, Dave Choe, and Jordan himself, it's a must read.

You really should also check out Pam Bliss's advice and her pdf examples, available for download from Sequential Tart. I think this was the first advice I found online, and I found it very easy to follow.

More recently, I've come across this nicely illustrated piece by Coswell Productions which is excellent for anyone starting out, and even offers some advice to old farts like us.

So, to the task at hand. Again, let me emphasise, it isn't over until it's over, and now for me, for this project at least, it is over (unless I have to make any revisions that is). Here is the new, balanced, intro (if you check Euphrosene Labon's comment you'll notice I forgot to remind you of the practical use of these pages, info about copyright and publishing and previous books, etc, the usual bumf):

So, The Bee-Man is now balanced and every page is in the right place and we don't need any fancy black-on-one-side-white-on-the-other-side ultra-expensive paper. And more importantly, the first page is on the right, and again when the comic book pages proper start, that's also the case. This week the thing gets burned to disk and I'll also burn it to a back-up disc and make a second back-up and then it really will be time to get onto the next project.


Euphrosene said...

Rod - re prepping a dummy run of the book, if you haven't included them, don't forget the 'front matter'.

Check out any books you've got and you'll see there are a number of pages with the title, the ISBN, other books in the series, a dedication and so forth that plump out the book before you actually get to the content.

Will be happy to email you an e-version of my book on self-publishing.

Cheers, Euphrosene

Rod McKie said...

Hey, Euphrosene.

Yup, I'm hoping it will all fit onto the space I've made, but you're right, I should have mentioned the purpose of some of the balancing pages.

I didn't know you'd done a book on self-publishing. I'd love to see it. Self-publishing has been, with mini-comics, and will be in the coming years, a major factor in ensuring the survival of comics, Euphrosene. We could do with your expertise on this matter.

I can put some pages on the blog with a link back to you, if that's okay.

Euphrosene said...

Hi Rod - the Little Book series is meant to be print rather than electronic (they are pocket-sized, one-liners for instant access)so the layout of the e-version I have emailed to you is not that 'pretty'.

It is really a version I am happy to have to 'spread the word', so please feel free to use it here if you wish.

Cheers Euphrosene