Saturday, March 30, 2013

Creating Zines and Mini-comics

Zines are a very unique way to gain exposure as an artist. First of all, what’s a zine?

Zine Definition
A zine is typically a booklet that contains information that the creator of the zine wants to share. That may sound really broad, but zines can be about any topic and can come in any size or binding style. Typically a zine is homemade—printed off of a home printer or copy machine, but they can come from a professional printer as well. They usually have limited runs, so if a zine has only 50 copies made and you get one of those copies, you’re in rare company. 
Also a zine can be about anything. It could be a collection of artwork, or if your zine is full of comics, it becomes a “mini-comic” zine.
The thing I like most about the zine is that the purpose of creating one isn’t about making money. It’s about making a reputation and sharing your ideas with the public. So the price of the zine ranges from free to just covering the printing cost. Some zines sell advertisement space within their publication to pay for the printing and keep it free for the readers.
As a graphic novel creator, I want to share my work with as many people as I can. So I’ve decided to make a free zine. This is how I’m doing it:
Step One: Choosing a Comic
My zine is going to be a short comic that I did. I have a comic entitled Couture that has only been published digitally, and I have no plans of publishing it widely in print. It’s only 32 pages, so I feel like doing it by itself in print wouldn’t be worth it. If it was in a collection of other comics, that would be fine. Anyways, this is the comic I chose for my zine.
Step Two: Deciding on Construction
I decided to do a simple half-fold book. I’m just taking a 8.5x11 sheet and folding it in half. The cover will be made of light weight cover stock. Some mini-comics are much smaller. Pick whatever size is appropriate for your comic.
Step Three: Formatting
I formatted my comic using Microsoft Publisher, but there are many other kinds of publishing software out there that will allow you to do the same thing. In Publisher 2007, I clicked on the Blank Page Sizes option, scrolled down to Booklets, and then selected which the option that I wanted to format my zine in. After that, it was simply inserting pictures.
One tip I have about formatting: When placing your pictures, place each picture at least .5 inches from the center binding so when you put it together, your art won’t get lost in the middle.
Step Four: Printing and Assembling
I printed my zine with the printer I have at home.

After printing it, you will need the following tools to assemble your book:
Glue: Glue is essential. You can probably assemble it just using glue alone. The type of glue I chose has a pen tip, so I can accurately apply the glue and not make a mess.
Stapler: I used a stapler that is specifically designed for stapling booklets. I decided to staple all of my pages together and then glue on the cover for a finished look.
Paper cutter: Depending on the size of your zine, you may need a paper cutter. I didn’t have to use one since my comic has a half-fold design.
I really love the end result.

It’s very neat, although it doesn’t have the mass manufactured perfection of a book from a printer. But I think the fact that it’s not completely perfect makes it feel more personal. I made it myself with my own hands. It’s a piece of art.
And an added touch:
In the back cover I added instructions for recycling this book in case the reader doesn’t want to keep it anymore. In this book, it says “Share it with a friend.” In other copies I print I’ll probably put “Share it with a stranger,” or something like that.
Step Five: Distribution
I’m still in the process of assembling my zines (I’m doing a run of 25-50 to start. I may do a few more later…), so I have not distributed them yet. But here are a few places where I’m thinking about making this zine available:
The Library. My local library actually has a manga and anime group for teenagers. So I’m thinking about asking them if it’s okay for me put out some of my zines, so that group members and others can take them if they want to.
Local Bookstores: Local independent bookstores like to promote local writers. And as long as my zine is of no cost to them, I don’t think that having it available there would be a problem. Also the independent bookstore where I live has a lot of comics and manga, so I will be able to reach my target audience.
I also have another plan of giving away my zine to people who buy the art prints I create. I’m working on a collection of prints right now, so when that’s done, I can include my comic as a bonus.
There are so many methods of distribution, the possibilities are endless. It’s like this: Artist alley is no longer only at the convention. It’s everywhere.
I’ll update with how distribution goes when I get there, but right now, I’m having a lot of fun crafting my books. In the future I may even make some art books this way.
And if you’re interested in getting a free copy, just to see what it’s like, email me and I’ll send you one.
Additional Reading
Whatcha Mean What’s a Zine? The art of making zines and mini-comics by Mark Todd and Ester Pearl Watson