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LESSONS LEARNED #17

By Chris Gumprich. (Originally posted August 15, 2005)

When I printed my first minicomic, Recriminations, I made some beginner mistakes, problems which could have been avoided had I paid attention. However, the thing about making mistakes is the lessons that they teach, if you know where to look. With my second mini, Ace Fedora, ready to go, I was determined to do everything right. Or at least as close as possible.

I knew that my inexperience caused me problems during the initial production, but now I knew what questions needed to be asked. In fact, one of the reasons that I approached the artist on Ace Fedora was because he had experience with minis, and would be willing to give advice when asked. And boy, did I ask.

So what lessons were learned? Let's take a look.

Last time: The comic was printed via a photocopier on standard weight paper.

This time: I spent a little more money on heavier, whiter paper for the interiors, and coloured stock for the covers.

Last time: I did all of the layout by my own inexperienced hand, using such tools as a scalpel and glue. The result were pages that looked like an art class collage.

This time: All the layout was done on computer, resulting in perfectly smooth originals.

Last time: In order to get the digital-based artwork onto paper, I shrunk them to the appropriate size and printed them to my inkjet printer.

This time: See above - everything was done on computer.

Last time: I took the layout pages to Staples to get them photocopied and assembled - and I had to deal with any mistakes they made.

This time: I did all of the work myself, printing and assembling in one marathon session. Because I was involved in every step of the process, any mistakes were caught before completion.

Well, almost.

Having had experience attempting to print two-sided pages on a one-sided laser printer, I spent some time with pencil and paper ensuring that I knew which pages would print where. The comic was eight pages (plus cover), therefore each would require two sheets of white, one sheet of blue. One sheet would contain pages eight and one (in that order) on one side, with two and seven on the reverse. The other sheet would be laid out in a similar fashion. I went over the plan carefully. There would be no mistakes. The test run went smooth - three copies. I assembled them with my brand-spanking new long arm stapler, folded them carefully, and read through them. Perfect.

Time to start the presses. I loaded the first page in the designer, hit "Print," and let fly one hundred copies. The printer started, and I left the room to get something to drink.

I went to the kitchen, got a beer out of the fridge, and heard a funny noise coming from the office - kind of a "flappita flappita floonge." I raced back to the office to see that the printed pages had somehow managed to get caught in the in-tray, sending completed pages back through for another go - and destroying several clean sheets in the process. Another lesson was learned: don't leave the room when the pages are printing.

A quick clean up (and trip to the recycling bin) and I reprinted the first few pages. No problems there, so I carefully flipped the printed sheets over, and started the print job for the reverse - one page at a time. I checked the page to make sure that everything was printing right side up. Satisfied, I sent another ninety-nine copies to the print queue.

Thirty copies later, the toner cartridge ran dry.

All right. Another setback. No problem - I cancelled the print job (only losing four or five sheets in total - remember what I said about paying attention?), went and bought a new toner cartridge, and resumed printing.

Soon, the printing was complete. One hundred pages each of cover sheet and two interior sheets. I arranged the piles in order for the assembly line, and my Lovely Assistant (a.k.a. Darling Wife) and I began the arduous task of assembling, stacking, and stapling.

"Uh, Chris?"

"Yeah?"

"I think you printed the covers upside down."

"No I didn't. You must be holding it upside down."

"No, I'm not. See?" She handed me the cover page. Sure enough, the inside covers had been printed upside down.

One trip to the recycling bin and two hours later, I finally had one hundred perfect copies of Ace Fedora: Private Eye assembled and ready to go. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming - I had done it. I had pulled myself up out of a deep depression, gotten back in the saddle, and put my nose right to the grindstone - and I had one hundred perfect copies of my latest minicomic ready for sale.

My Lovely Assistant picked up the top copy, frowning. "How much do you plan to sell these for," she asked.

"A dollar, same as the last one."

She paused. I hate it when she does that.

"Don't you think you should have put the price on it somewhere?"

Chris Gumprich writes comics and other stuff. His self-publishing credits include the full-sized EVENING SHIFT (released 2004) and two mini-comics, RECRIMINATIONS and ACE FEDORA, with a new mini scheduled for release later this year. A new column appears every Monday at the Isotope Virtual Lounge.