What I Think of Mini-Comics

Dang, mini-comics…Does anybody still make them?

I just finished a new one, CRIME WORLD #3, it turned out all right I guess. It’s the first one I’ve done in a while, and as I was finishing it up the memories came flooding back to me. Making mini-comics is a drag!

Here’s some tips from me, to you new pople who are thinking about making mini-comic books:

1. Do a good job. At least the best job you can. Consider that it’s a junky, throw-away product, sure, but if it looks lousy you will just have to throw them away yourself in a couple years instead of letting paying customers throw them away. Good job tips for mini-comics: draw the artwork at final printed size; don’t do fine-line drawings that won’t show up; don’t be ambitious, be economical; practice your lettering.

2. Don’t print very many. That’s because there are only 250 mini-comics buying consumers in the U.S.A. and only five of them have ever heard of you. If you spend your life savings doing a big print run of mini-comics you will regret it. Only print 40 at a time and see how you feel. Even if you’re stealing your copies from Kinko’s don’t do a ton of them.

3. Don’t do color xerox. It’s unbelievably expensive. And that color toner? It’s microscopic plastic particles practically guaranteed to turn to poison gas in a few years and help destroy humanity.

4. Make your mini-comic 5.5×8.5. I can’t help but stand by this advice even though everyone really gushes over the screwball weirdly trimmed mini-comics. A piece of paper folded in half, that’s perfect. A lot of xerox machines can automatically saddle stitch the books, so you don’t have to waste your life manually assembling mini comics that you will eventually just have to throw in the trash (see rule #1).

5. If you’re unsure of your abilities, put it online. Aren’t you glad all those crummy looking comics you see online didn’t waste the paper it would take to print 300 landfill-bound copies? That could be you.

6. Staple then fold. If you are unlucky and have to assemble your mini-comics by hand, staple them and then use a ruler to help you fold them, they will come out much better than the folded-first / off-center-staples pieces of junk that everybody else does. I lay my ruler in the middle of the comic, butted up against the staples, hold it down on the table and fold over the other half of the comic. I don’t know if that makes sense, maybe I’ll make a diagram. Since you’re only doing 40 copies this will take like 15 minutes.

7. Make a PDF. Don’t print from hardcopy master artwork, it will look like garbage. And you will also lose it. Put your comic together with a computer or scan that “master” art to a file and hold onto it. You can take that thing anywhere and get more copies printed.

8. Sell a digital version. Everybody should start doing this and stop acting like the world’s going to end. I have a lot to say about making and selling ebooks but probably nobody is listening. Maybe another blogpost about it later?

9. Be nice, be a good friend. Be humble because you’re not famous and you never will be.

That’s all I can think of right now. Feel free to try to post a comment and tell me I’m full of it.

I don’t know when you’ll be able to buy Crime World #3. I printed some and will have them at the L.A. Zinefest on February 19th. They’ll probably show up on the Sparkplug website. I’ve got an ebook store in the works as well, it might be operational next week even, we’ll see what I get done.

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm in Blog. Follow responses to this post with the comments feed. You can leave a comment or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses

  1. Elijah says:

    I also, just printed up a new mini for the first time in a long time. It was a drag for me too. I think it might be easier if you d o it more often. Many of your tips are helpful to me because I do it in the most stupid, labor intensive way possible. I think stapling first is malarky though.

  2. Jeff LeVine says:

    wow, I never thought of doing it like your #6, but that makes a lot of sense. If I ever self-publish another mini-comic again, which I don’t think I will (because, as you say, it’s too much of a drag), I’d definitely try to do my folding and stapling like that. I always just folded first, then stapled – though it mostly came out okay for me because I was careful (and tossed copies that were too off).

  3. Great stuff. Probably the first thing about minicomics I’ve ever totally agreed with.
    7 x 8 1/2 is also a good size. Just steal some 8 1/2 by 14 paper. Fold it etc. But yeah, the most important thing is don’t trim them. Just don’t. I’ve done it so many times and it is such a waste of time. Make them fit the paper. People that are trimming are killing themselves for nothing. I do a mock up thumbnail book at print size before I even start drawing. When you are good enough to have someone else publish it, then you start thinking about odd sizes. Oh okay, make a small book at least once. Learn the hard way.
    And always staple first. If you staple first you almost can’t fold it wrong.

  4. J Roach says:

    Comics in general are such a fetishistic pursuit. This set of tips is perfect for comic makers (rules 1 & 2 of this list particularly), but there will always be the “book as art-object” crowd. I think both camps are great when they’re great.

  5. Lois Buhalis says:

    Yup. I agree with everything, even though I actually color printed, deckled, and hand-tipped photographs into mine. And then I found I didn’t have the right kind of stapler and so I bound my little 6-page ‘zines with curly yarn. But I’m obviously crazy. I only printed 20, and I ended up giving most of them away, so maybe I’ll print another 20 at some point.

  6. Mattyoung says:

    Drawing at print size? I see what you’re getting at with #1, and it makes sense, but that also sounds like a challenge since I’d it that kinda terrifying.

    And I’ve got to go with Shannon on my preference for 7×8.5 comics. I know 5.5×8.5 is a standard size, which minicomics frustratingly lack (especially when trying to keep them on my shelf), but the wider size seems to make more sense for web-to-print conversions. Plus, I’m pretty sure comics people are the only ones who still use legal paper.

    I’d certainly like to hear what you have to say about e-copies….

  7. Kevin Huizenga says:

    I still make them! It can be a drag but so are a lot of things. Getting published is a drag too, in different ways. My brain is stuck thinking in terms of minicomics, and the thought of giving up on them and never making another is painful to me. But I know that’s just how I came up in the comics game. Anyways I’d like to hear your thoughts on selling ebooks. I’m thinking more and more of putting up .pdfs of everything now that I’ve realized how easy it is to make a .pdf, and now that so many people read .pdfs on the iWhatevers. But how do you charge for them? It’s probably easy. I haven’t looked into it yet.

  8. chris says:

    How many staples? Just one?

  9. Josh Frankel says:

    Nice post! I’ve become a fan of just making the PDF, dropping the file to the copy shop and picking them up later, already folded and stapled.

  10. Matthew Southworth says:

    Thanks for this, David. Was JUST thinking about making a mini-comic again for the first time in quite a while, and I’m taking this post as a sign that I oughta.

    I love your work–hope to see CRIME WORLD soon!


  11. Kris Black says:

    Do you sell Crime World digitally?

  12. David King says:

    Kris Black: Yeah, I’ve got a digital comics shopping cart thing almost ready to go.

    Chris: I always use two staples, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Using one staple would cost half as much.

    Kevin H.: I mean, I like having comics printed one way or another, but I want it to be easy. Getting published means that somebody else is taking on more of the work and expense of getting the stuff seen. I haven’t had any experience with that outside of the things I did with Dylan. Self-publishing mini-comics is definitely a way of avoiding being manipulated and exploited by those unscrupulous corporate indy comics publishers.

    Matt Young: I guess my suggestion to draw at print size is mainly just a way to make the production stuff easier. Like if you decide to make your comic book 5.5 x 8.5 you can just grab some letter size printed paper, cut it in half, and draw and after that there’s no need to think about reduction or scale. It won’t work for everybody, I know. It might be a good exercise for people who like to draw big (like me). It’s good to confront terrifying challenges. Also: I think lawyers still use legal size paper (ha ha)

    Lois: Making 20 copies of a zine sounds like the perfect amount.

    J. Roach: Yeah, there’s that book-as-art stuff, I guess I’m speaking more toward story-comics production. Those zines with 12 layer silkscreen covers can be beautiful.

    Shannon Smith: “Learn the hard way” is really good advice. But don’t steal.

    Jeff L.: I hope you publish something again soon, whether self- or otherwise. You should also make a couple pdfs of all those comics you used to have on your site and make them available that way. I’ll sell them on my site and give you the money if you wish.

    Elijah: Sure it’s gotta be easier to streamline a system if you make a lot. My problem is that most of that work is pointless no matter how often I make a mini-comic. I get it, though, that for a lot of people that a big part of the fun. I just want to draw comics and let the $$$ roll in and those in-between steps need to be really easy. $$$$$$$$

    Matthew S.: Yeah, do it, make it good.

    Josh F: I got the newest-ish version of Acrobat and it makes it really easy to turn an individual paged PDF into a correctly-imposed booklet file. Just the flip of a switch!

  13. tori says:

    lots of useful tips, wish I would’ve known the draw-at-print-size back when I did my previous minicomic, as you’re totally right on that Oh well, better next time!

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