DIY micropublishing

I’ve only ever made two 24 page mini-comics, but that’s a good start, and I love doing it. I used to make homemade colouring and puzzle books as presents when I was a kid, so I suppose I was onto something all those years ago.

I’d been wanting to make a mini-comic for a long time, but the thing that made me do it was the San Diego Comic Convention last summer. I wanted to have something to give away to the comic writers I was hoping to meet and buy stuff from. When I went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Mr. Mini-Comic Number Two was born. I thought it would be nice to be able to say, “Can I give you a copy of my mini-comic?” instead of just, “Hi, I like your comic.” It helped a bit, but I still need to work on my real-life social networking skills.

So far, I’ve played things safe with cardstock, computer paper, screen-printing, and staples. I’ve seen some very nice books done in accordion style, or stitched and Gocco-printed, with sleeves, incorporating anything from fancy paper, cardboard, wood, bark, Mylar, to old board game boxes. If you can draw on it, you can use it. Know any good origami moves? Go to town! Can you cross-stitch in glorious 8-Bit? Then you may be my hero. Buddy’s got a button machine? Butter him up, brother.

The most important thing, though, is to plan your project carefully. Winging these things usually leads to frustration, so make a little model of your book, number every page, and then when you take it apart to make copies so you can see which pages will have to be next to each other.

Then comes the most difficult part: Draw! Write! Then make a cover that is both eye catching and not boring. For inspiration, be sure to read plenty of other mini comics, artist books, and zines, and Google ‘making mini-comics.’

Once you’ve finished creating, scan, photocopy, resize, cut & paste or use image editing software to reformat your pages. Then reproduce them via printer or photocopier. Get some pals to help you collate or bind your books, but be sure to use good, heavy-duty staples if you go that route. If you are so inclined, it’s cool to make inserts, coupons, stickers and buttons to slip inside.

Finally, you have to promote, distribute, and network. Share your work with friends, galleries, libraries, comic shops, conventions and coffee shops so others can see what you’ve done. Budget for some trades and give-aways. (The standard for pricing is $1 per 10 pages.)

My Best Tips So Far:
• Draw bigger than you normally would, that if you shrink it all down people will be able to see your work. For example, if you are going to make a comic that well end up ¼ the size of an 8.5×11 piece of paper, write your words four times as big.

• Give yourself lots of time and plan for errors at the photocopy place. Start with a manageable amount of copies for your first run (25-50); you can always get more printed later. Don’t overwhelm yourself either; start with a small number of pages (<24).

• And, like pretty much any other art form, make sure you’re doing it for fun.

Links To Get You Going:
Your Comics Will Love You Back by Alec Longstreth. This was a lecture he gave at the Center for Cartoon Studies (2008). I met Alec briefly at TCAF and he traded comics with me! He also has a huge beard.

This is a good illustrated demo of how to construct minicomics, but I don’t know who the author actually is.

Liz Baille makes tonnes of comics and you can subscribe to her Minicomic of the Month Club, which is awesome because you get real mail.

Illustration by Tara Fleming