Publishing A Doujinshi, Part Two

April 15th, 2004

Part 2

Terms from yesterday’s discussion are in italics, new terms are bold. In case you care. ^_^

I’m going to have to assume that you already have a story or comic that you want to publish, because I can’t get into the mechanics of how to draw a comic here. For one thing, I’m not an artist, and for another, there are many guides on how to do that already, scattered about the Internet and in print. I won’t presume to try and teach you how to create a panel scheme or do toning or anything like that.

I’ll be making one more assumption, too – that you, like me, will be building this doujinshi digitally. Japanese companies are used to working from hard copy, they have many more industries that include hand-drawn illustrations. Here in the U.S., however, almost all our magazine and newspaper art is done digitally and all but the grassiest grassroots publications use a computer program for layout. I actually write from time to time for a newsletter that is laid out by hand, photocopied and hand stapled, but the mailing list is about 200 people, so it’s not surprising…. and the editor for that newsletter is moving towards digital layout, now that he has a computer that doesn’t bite. ;-)

Again, if you’re doing a copy book, then you really *don’t* need expensive equipment – laying out the pages by hand and making a master with white layout tape and your illustrations will be plenty fine. Then you can make copies of the master and staple them. Viola! Instant doujinshi!

If you’re planning on doing something a little fancier, you can still prepare hard copy masters and take them to a copy center for copying and binding. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to buy, learn and clutter your hard drive with graphics programs, and the copy machines at the copy center are probably better than the ones you have at home or school.

But, if you plan on making a perfect bound doujinshi and you don’t have an industrial printer and paper cutting machine in your basement (I’m not saying you don’t…I’m just sayin’ *if*…) then you’ll be laying this out on a computer, probably with a graphics program and some version of publishing software. You’ll also need a reasonably memory-rich computer, with good processing speed and a decent scanner that can handle higher DPIs (dots per square inch – we’ll get to that in a sec) than the usual web graphics.

I used Photoshop 7 as my graphics program. I’m not graphically inclined – in fact, I’m pretty much graphically retarded, but I have very little trouble manipulating text or graphics on this program. When you buy a copy of any of ALC Publishing’s Yuri manga, you’ll see the results – clear text on backgrounds that aren’t visibly manipulated. (It’s not easy when you do a translation, because sometimes you have to cut and paste *teeny tiny* pieces of background to cover kanji, then type in English over it, often with lines and other art in the middle of it all. Next time you buy a translated manga, look for a page with text over a screentone and if you look carefully, you’ll see what I mean!)

I work with my graphics files in layers – and I save them in layers. Yes, it makes for much bigger files, but corrections take 1/10 the time when you only have to retype a single word, or add punctuation to a layer, rather than re-white out a word balloon and retype it all…or worse, redo an entire toned background.

This is one of the advantages of building the page digitally, too, rather than toning and lettering by hand, then scanning it all in as one image.

Regardless, you’ll need a good scanner to convert the hard copy into a digital file. Your scanner should be able to handle at *least* 300 DPI (and if it doesn’t, then it’s horribly outdated and old and you need to replace it anyway.)

DPI stand for Dots Per Inch, and it’s a measure of print quality. Most average web graphics are 72 DPI, but most print graphics are 400, 600, and even 1200 for color photographic-quality print magazines. So you’ll definitely need to have a decent scanner. Do NOT attempt to publish in less than 300 DPI – small text will appear spotty and hard to read, backgrounds will be fuzzy. Unless you don’t care if your book looks professional or not.

ALC’s latest translated Yuri manga, WORKS, was done at 400 DPI and I think it came out pretty clear. More than that and the files are just monstrously unweildy in size, even for my brand spankin’ new computer with lots of extra HD and RAM.

If you are doing digital layout, you’ll need publishing software, too. I’ve used Adobe Pagemaker, which was pretty easy to learn initially, and Quark, which was *not* easy to learn. I published the first volume of Yuri Monogatari on a free trial version of Pagemaker, in fact. LOL When I went to set up Rica ‘tte Kanji!? I used the version of Quark they had at work and if Frank, the graphics guy, hadn’t been there to help, I would have killed myself.  However, the new version of Quark, 6.0, is much, much easier to understand. Not exactly for beginners, but I didn’t want to kill myself this time….

Lastly, you’re going to need some kind of program to make your Quark file or whatever into a PDF. Mostly everyone in the world uses Adobe Distiller. The PDF is what you’ll be giving the printer, which means no changes can be made to the pages by the printer. This means you’d better damn well have those layered files around, so you can make a change, save it into a new version, redistill it and hand a new PDF to the printer!

To sum up you’ll need:

Good, memory-rich computer
Scanner that can handle high DPI
Graphics program
Publishing Program
Program to convert to PDF

And finally, we’re off. Next time, we talk about actually putting together the doujinshi.

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