In case you missed Part 1, where I discuss print-on-demand services, check it out:
Part 2: Printing ‘at home’
One of the coolest things about printing your own comics now is that photocopiers have gotten about 10 million times better than they were even 8-10 years ago. Even at a local kinkos (or whatever they call them now), you generally are going to find full featured B/W and Color copiers, capable of about any task you can dream up. I often use these big stores, but with this in mind: They will not help you unless you demand it. They could care less what you need or how the machines work. If you want something cleaned or a new toner put in the printer, demand it. They’ll do it.
Of course, this is only part of the process. If you are planning to use commercial photocopy/printing places and do your own assembly & binding, I recommend doing a few things to bring more life to your project:
1. Buy your own paper: A nice paper stock that fits your project will goes miles to improving the overall look/quality of your final product. I LOVE paper. I can spend hours in a papershop looking at, touching, and smelling (yeah I know) paper. It’s not easy to find stores with a lot of paper variety or paper sizes, but they do exist. Just look for ‘office supply outlet stores’ or ‘paper wholesale’ in your fine city. Here in Chicago, I used to go to xpedx before it closed. And of course there is always paper source. Really look at the tooth of the paper, the way it folds, the color. It’s as much a part of the finished piece as the drawings!
2. Buy your own stapler: You can use big staplers at the kinkos type places, but it’s much easier to do this at home at your convenience, especially since you’ll probably do the majority of your collating and folding at home. I prefer the A-frame/booklet style, but many of my self-made comics folks love the long-neck staplers. I’ll also mention that staplers are one of those things that ‘you get what you pay for’. So plan to spend 20-40 bucks on your stapler.
3. Get a bone folder: Dude… bone folders are the coolest things. Mine is almost like a security blanket. I just like carrying it around an holding it. Weird I know (hey, I smell paper). These little guys will save your fingers, speed up the process, and give your books a much cleaner fold.
4. Get a guillotine cutter: Or find access to a mechanical industrial paper cutter. Cutters are kinda expensive, so if you can use one somewhere else, you can avoid buying one. I’m currently able to use both a regular guillotine and and industrial cutter at my place of work (lucky me!). If you are getting one, I recommend something large enough to cut at least 15″ paper.
For my Simon comics, each piece/book is usually a different size, number of pages, paper type, binding, etc. I find this to be one of the coolest and most fun things about self publishing. I love that I can make books of the same ‘series’ a large variety of forms. Publishers don’t really do that (unless you’re Chris Ware).
For these books, I generally go down to the fedex/kinkos/ups/local print shop and do all the printing. I bring my own paper. Sometimes you can get them to give you a discount if you ask (since you are providing my own paper). Generally, my stuff is B/W so the cost is not CRAZY. But it’s not cheap either. I always keep track of the price to print each book, as I’ll use that when determining price later.
I do all the collating, binding, folding, (and some) cutting at home. I enjoy this part of the process. It’s very zen. Also, when I sell a Simon book to someone, I know they are getting something special. Something personal. It’s one of the purest forms of communication in art that you can participate in. You are putting a precious object into someone’s hands and (hopefully) that item will become a precious object to them as well.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting some rock stars in regards to ‘at-home’ self-publishing. Here are a couple creators you can’t go wrong with:
Kenan is blowing my mind with his latest comic Last Train to Old Town. This is a great artist hitting his stride and making something beautiful. Get on board! Lucky for us, Kenan is making printed copies of Last Train, and he puts most of us to shame with the utter quality of his constructions. For a real master class, check out his blog.
Marnie’s In the Sounds and Seas just won a Xeric Grant (I think this might be the last xeric). Try to get a hand-made copy if you can, as they show a real care in their construction and accentuate her beautiful artwork. Everything I’ve seen her exhibit is top notch and you can see more of her process on her website.
Here is some other stuff I’ve been looking at lately:
I love these ornamental letters
an amazing ‘cover’ of a Moebius drawing by this gentleman
and one from Joseph Noel Paton
Happy holidays to you all! I hope you have safe and fun times with your loved ones!
It’s opened up a lot out there. This is good and bad. The good is that the entry into printing up your own stuff in a professional manner is easier than ever. The bad is that there are a lot of places/methods to choose from. I’m not going to give you an overview of all the print on demand places (there are tons of great articles on that topic which are easy to find). I’m going to tell you what my method and experience has been.
Printing your own stuff is not exactly Publishing in the true sense. Basically, if you go the route of printing and distributing your own work (whether by choice or by necessity), you are your own publisher. You’ll be making all the calls, paying all the bills, and doing all the advertising. ADVANTAGE: Total CONTROL
DISADVANTAGE: Money, connections, public awareness
Everything’s a give and take. For the last 10 years, I’ve been producing, printing, and distributing my own work. It’s hard. I don’t make any money doing this. But at the moment it’s my only real option. I’ve had the chance to experience both ‘at home’ printing and used a couple Print On Demand services.
Part 1: Print on Demand
A hot phrase. I think it’s died down and most people have realistic expectations for these services now. I decided to print Gary with a print on demand service due to the length of each issue, binding preference, and number of copies. These factors combined to be a bit too much for me to handle printing at home. I barely have time to draw my comics (hello dayjob!) let alone print and bind longer projects. Print on demand seems to be good for folks that:
– Don’t want 1000 copies around their house
– Have a little more money to spend
– Have a project with appropriate content for print on demand formats (standard size, a lot of pages, images reproduce well on digital printers, etc).
I did a lot of research on many different options. It was apparent to me early on that there are places that want to basically be publishers/distributors for you, and other places that are happy to just print things for you. If you are using a place that does the ISBN and distribution for you, they will usually charge you more for those things or take a bigger cut of the sales prices. I arrived at two main competitors for Gary‘s printing: Ka-Blam & Lulu
I had a pretty lackluster experience with Ka-blam. I have heard they turned things around in the last year or so, but I had issues with their communication and timeliness. After initially uploading my files and requesting a job, I didn’t hear back for 2 weeks. After 15 days, I emailed them to ask what’s up. I got a response (2 days after that email) saying my files were corrupted. The files were exactly the same files used for lulu, so i’m not sure what happened. If I had known this when it happened, rather than 2 weeks later, when I reached out to them, I might have continued on with the order. So in the end, I cancelled my order and never even saw their print quality or options on my book. I figured, if this is how just getting my files uploaded goes, I don’t want to bother with actually ordering a print job!
Lulu is huge, and mostly automated. Responses and quotes were given to me promptly and made perfect sense. Getting a demo copy of my book was super easy. I literally had priced out my print job, uploaded my files, and ordered a proof copy in a couple evenings. I had my final book within 2 weeks.
As for the quality of the books…
Honestly, it’s just passable. It’s not great. I’m not embarrassed by the quality, but I wished I had more options. They don’t offer many paper options, and the cover stock default is glossy. The perfect binding is actually pretty good though. None of my Gary books have fallen apart. The biggest issue I had with them was the dot patterns I used would consistently print kinda spotty (that’s confusing), and the line quality on thinner lines was a bit jaggy.
Once I did get an entire order of books that was printed poorly. There was a huge mark across 4-5 pages of the issue from the printer roller. Lulu required I take pictures of these defects to officially file a complaint (which is reasonable). They let me talk to a person on the phone very promptly so I could describe the problem. Then they sent me new proofs from another printer. When I wasn’t satisfied with those, they had another printer send me proofs. This might seem like a hassle, but I was able to discuss this with a real person on the phone (big plus) and this all happened within 10 days of the original order. Once I got a proof I liked, they sent me a whole new batch from that printer, free of charge. And I got to keep the messed up copies! (btw… if anyone wants a severely discounted copy of Gary: Book 2, let me know).
Now, I’ve moved on from Lulu to Rink Printing. I decided to use them for all of my Gary re-prints once stock ran out. Hallelujah! I am currently singing the praises of Rink! I have had a stellar experience with them. I found Rink at their booth at C2E2 here in Chicago last year, and was very impressed with their quality and friendliness. Following the show, I reached out to them to inquire about printing my book. Within 24 hrs (!) I received 4-5 sample books showcasing the different options they could produce. I am a freak, so I had a million questions, from paper quality, to binding, to what types of printers they used. Every question was answered promptly and thoroughly by a person (not a generic email address).
I proceeded to upload my files and request a proof copy of my book. It arrived within 2 days (!) of the order. The proof copy is free if you proceed with your order (which I did). All concerns/questions I had about the proof were addressed personally by the print technician prior to the final run. Please note: I had not been charged anything at this point.
Once all was set and finalized, Rink called me to finalize payment. It was great to put a voice with the name of the print rep I had been emailing. She was fantastic (thanks Teri)! Now, The price quoted to me originally was about 50 cents cheaper per book than Lulu had been. But I expected to pay a shipping fee, especially since I had requested a specific delivery date that had to be met. Here is the best part of the whole thing: the original price quoted to me included shipping and taxes. That’s right folks, there were zero hidden fees. This made the order more than 75 cents cheaper per book than I had paid at Lulu! Teri assured me they could meet my requested due date, so no rush charges would be required. The books arrived right on time!
Rink’s quality is head & shoulders above what I got from Lulu and what I’ve seen from Ka-blam. The paper stock is nice and thick, holding the ink very well. The covers are durable, but not stiff. The binding is clean and professional. They had many options on paper stocks and cover stocks. And when I asked what sizes they could print, they just said ‘any size you want’. They stressed that they want to work with the artist to bring their vision to the final product. Since my last order, they have actually updated their online ordering system and added tons of new options, included cover coatings. I’m very excited to try these options as well.
I HIGHLY recommend Rink for print on demand. Please give them a shot if you are working on anything that seems appropriate for this avenue of printing:
That was a bit long winded. I’ll have another part to this up for the ‘print at home’ options I use. Thanks for reading!
Your moment of zen: