Tag Archive: publishing


A guest post from OneMonkey: lettering guru, editor, publisher, salesman and all-round comics linchpin here at Ostragoth.

I get to do most of the technical part of putting our graphic novels and comics together.  Most recently I’ve finished preparing the print-ready pdf for Moon of Endine.  I was initially going to use OpenOffice for the page layout as I’d done before, but once I’d generated the pdf there were some odd visual artefacts in the pdf which I’m sure were just antialiasing rendering problems in the pdf viewer, but which I didn’t want to risk being visible in the final copy.

That’s when I remembered a dtp package I first played around with on Linux many years ago, but never had real occasion to use.  I soon had the excellent open-source desktop publishing programme Scribus installed.

I spent a couple of days learning how to use it and putting together the Moon of Endine using Mark’s artwork and Jacqueline’s script.

With the exception of one minor niggle (greyscale pngs being imported in the rgb colourspace – I thought by exporting everything to a greyscale pdf the black would be uniform, but apparently not.  The black for the text and text boxes of the comic is different from the black of the artwork, but I can live with that – it actually looks quite good in the context – I’ll know for next time to keep a closer eye out for that) everything went well.

I will be using Scribus more in future.

The wrap-round cover of The Moon of Endine, as put together by OneMonkey

He has in fact put together our cartoon mini-comic The Episodic Adventures of Bentley the Rabbit in Scribus this week.

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Available in Leeds…so far

Our new comic The Moon of Endine arrived from the printers (and rather good it looks too – thanks, Inky Little Fingers) and is already available at the Leeds branches of both Forbidden Planet and Travelling Man. As I write, it isn’t in our website shop, but just as soon as OneMonkey has some spare time (in between putting together our other new comic, which is a cartoon – quite a departure for us) it will be there, so do check back soon if you’d like a copy and don’t happen to live within shopping distance of Leeds.

And don’t forget we will be at Thought Bubble next weekend, in the Royal Armouries hall. Hope to see you there.

The latest missive from Duotrope’s Digest proclaims that March is Small Press Month, the time when everyone should go and support their favourite small press affairs, submit stories, buy books and magazines, donate money etc. A little investigation reveals that this may well be an American arrangement, but we live in a global village now, so people keep telling me. Which means this is an excellent time for you to support your favourite small press literary graphic novel publisher (that’s us) by buying a copy of Boys Don’t Cry (or one of Mark’s prints) from our excellent website, or if you’re in Leeds, Travelling Man or OK Comics (prints not available at OK Comics).

Did we draw it big enough?

So, our banner for Thought Bubble arrived.

Our new banner for Thought Bubble

OneMonkey dwarfed by the banner

A good selection of Mark’s art (and the colours came out well), but it’s huge! Thankfully it rolls up into a case, currently tucked out of the way (so I hope we don’t forget it on the day). I guess the idea was to be noticed, and I think this is going to be hard to miss.

OneMonkey has been working away steadily on the ostragoth.co.uk website, which now at least has some links (to this blog, to my writing blog, and to Mark’s art portfolio). Once we’ve officially launched our graphic novel Boys Don’t Cry at Thought Bubble in Leeds on November 20th, we should be adding the facility to buy copies online. And of course as we produce more comics, graphic novellas or other similar collaborations they’ll be available there too.

Since we’ve had interviews with the artist, and I often air my views in these posts in lieu of interviews with the writer, I thought it was about time OneMonkey (letterer, editor, model, web designer, manager) spoke. Though he claims there’s not much to say.

Recently I’ve been fiddling around with registering a website and finding a webhost, sort of thing. At the minute we just have a very simple holding page up, but one that should be fully html5 and css3 compliant. Actually I should check that.

Then I asked for less technical stuff (once a sys admin, always a… geek, I guess):

I’m using @font-face for the fonts to try and make the website look similar to the graphic novel, but interestingly it doesn’t seem to work in Internet Explorer even though I thought it had downloadable font support in Internet Explorer 5. So far the website looks OK in firefox, chrome and safari but I guess I’ll have to poke at it a bit to make it render properly in IE.

Which is still quite technical…

For people using webkit browsers (safari and chrome) the holding page should have a gentle wind-strewn petal animation as a little extra (purple petals feature in the book). Firefox users might get css animations available in firefox 4. I haven’t made this css3 animation live yet because I was thinking it might just look out of context for people who haven’t read the graphic novel.

So if we skip the programming jargon, what OneMonkey seems to be saying is that he was going for the visual style and feel of Boys Don’t Cry reflected in the Ostragoth website. Coherence, if you will. Which (possibly) brings us nicely to the lettering style. I asked how he decided on the fonts, layout etc:

I had a reasonably clear idea of how I wanted the lettering to look – and no, lettering doesn’t mean I’m a tracer, because Mark did the inking of his sketches himself (everyone will get that, won’t they?).

Chasing Amy, if you didn’t spot the reference.

The text was essentially broken up into speech and prose. The prose was going to be like broken up blocks of distressed typewriter-ish text (which is the font you see on the website). The speech had to be visually different, and I essentially chose what I thought was a nice suitable font.

I asked if the dream sequence fonts were different again, as they fit with the more grainy unreal style of the art there:

Ah no, that’s the clever thing. The speech font is actually a little distressed also, and that shows up more at larger sizes. There’s very little speech in the dream sequences.

This page is a good example:

 

A page from a dream sequence in Boys Don't Cry
A page from a dream sequence in Boys Don’t Cry

 

For anyone interested, I did the lettering in OpenOffice Writer, with the art as a page background. The 80 pages were then exported to pdf to go to the printers. OpenOffice did have problems with this to start with but the art was at a greater resolution than necessary for printing so I resized it for printing. Is that incredibly boring?

Naturally I’m too polite to comment.

My current concern is getting the proof back from the printers in time for us to make any necessary changes to the print order in time for the deadline for the Thought Bubble print run. In the meantime I’ve been organising poster prints and postcard prints (for any fans of Mark’s art). These should be available with us at Thought Bubble, or perhaps even from the website when I get that bit sorted out.

I feature quite heavily in Boys Don’t Cry, being Mark’s photo-reference model for Hunter. I’ve had my hair cut since then though. It didn’t seem weird working with all those pictures of me. Mainly I was looking at the pictures in terms of dpi, aspect ratio and layout. I keep thinking I haven’t contributed much to this…

As OneMonkey walks away humming I’m Too Sexy again, I realise his ‘not much to say’ has expanded into a fairly long post.

Ostragoth+tea+bourbons=decision-making. Yes, we can make decisions if pressed. We have business card designs, a list of Mark’s paintings to order as prints and postcards, a list of bits and pieces to buy for Thought Bubble (table cloth, paper bags etc) and a vague idea where to get them, a selling price for Boys Don’t Cry, and a tentative title for the next comic (I’m guessing we’ll change our minds on that one).

The proof copy of Boys Don’t Cry is expected through the letterbox soon, so the final printing should happen just in time for Thought Bubble. This is what the finished book (graphic novella?) will look like if you open it out (i.e. back cover, spine, front cover):

 

Cover and spine art for Boys Don't Cry

Boys Don't Cry, the cover and spine

 

Lettering can be fun

OneMonkey is now finishing up the lettering and (fingers crossed) we’re nearly done. A few tweaks to layout etc when we get together later in the week, a couple of pages of credits and other mundanities to set out, approval of the back-cover blurb (I think I might have nailed it now) from Mark, and we can get a proof printed. And then notice a dozen changes we need to make, and start the ‘finishing’ process again (I’ve done this kind of thing before, though never with anything as exciting as a graphic novel). Definitely looking less like a dream and more like reality. Fingers crossed.

How do you write a synopsis? A catchy couple of sentences to whet the appetite of a potential reader/purchaser – how hard can that be? The answer, as I’m fast discovering, is ‘very’.

With a thin comic the title and the overall look of the thing have to do the work, but when you’ve got something that’s quite thick and bound like a book, it makes sense to have some enticing words on the back. I’m the sort of person that picks up a book and goes straight to the back cover – if it doesn’t tell me what it’s about (instead throwing quotes from reviews at me, which sometimes turn out to have been taken out of context, or taken from a review of a previous novel) I put it down again.

I’ve read plenty of back-cover synopses on novels that are misleading, and a few that are factually inaccurate (Who writes them? Have they read the book first? Why not?) so I know what I’m trying to avoid. However, being so close to Boys Don’t Cry I’m almost guaranteed to emphasise aspects of the story that other people wouldn’t see as so important, and words and phrases that I choose will probably conjure up different ideas for different readers.

So, I have to write a brief, memorable (for us to quote at anyone who asks what it’s about, to save being tongue-tied and waffly), enticing, accurate summary of the plot/theme/atmosphere/style of Boys Don’t Cry, which will mean similar things to most people who read it. Simple, I don’t know why I haven’t done it already.

It’s September already?

Scary realisation this afternoon, over tea and custard creams (oh the hedonistic extremes of Ostragoth get-togethers) that November isn’t actually that far away. In fact ideally we want to be printed and done by the end of next month – how suddenly near does that sound? We have our first pre-order (yes it’s from a friend, but it still counts) and the lettering isn’t done yet. And we can’t agree on the cover art (OK we had one proper discussion a few weeks ago and it was left as a To Be Continued…). But we will get this done in time and it will be one of the most exciting moments of our lives (yes, it really will), and then, as one of us said this afternoon, we’d better get our act together a bit quicker for the next one.

Paper thickness?

Some things really bring out the scientist in OneMonkey. Questions of paper weights (or, if we’re being picky, the mass of a square metre sheet) allowed him a happy half-hour with Vernier calipers, a conversion table, and a stack of comics and books. How thick does paper have to be before it looks and feels like a book cover? How thin before it starts to seem inconsequential (by which I mean amateur, not see-through)? The three of us sat rubbing pages between our fingertips, hmm-ing and considering, ranking our preferences (if we had the cover like this comic and the pages like that book…?). Entertaining, useful, and it makes us feel like we’re progressing. Hopefully fast enough.