Jul 292010

Last year I organized a project where we gutted an ’80s era arcade cabinet and filled it full of indie games. Jph Wacheski, the chief retrofitter, wrote the article below for people wanting to do the same in the most recent Broken Pencil.

Lots of people are making their own games these days — point-and-click tools like Scratch and GameMaker are making it more accessible for non-programmers, and it’s easy to get your game out there via the internet. But wouldn’t it be even cooler to get you and your friends’ games out there on an old-school arcade cabinet?

The old cabinets are generally made to play one specific game, but you can re-fit it with a PC and a display and wire up the existing controls to make playing new games possible. Many people have been doing this to run emulators of the classic games — MAME cabinets can run hundreds of old games on a single cabinet. The Hand Eye Society, Toronto’s videogame culture collective, wanted to do a similar thing, but with locally made games. They debuted the Torontron, which plays six hand-crafted games by Toronto indies, at the last Canzine. Jph, who did the retrofitting, takes us through the steps he took.

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Jul 152009

We’ve just launched the mini-site for Sword of My Mouth, making the first two issues (and commentary from me and Shannon) available for subscribers and people who’ve pre-ordered the graphic novel. It’s the first third (48 pages) of the book so far, and we’ll be adding a chapter every other month until we launch the complete graphic novel edition at next year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival. UPDATE: The Globe and Mail just ran an article about our publishing experiment.

One of the things we did differently with this book was research, and so I’ll take this opportunity to write a bit about that. Continue reading »

Mar 112009

One of the coolest thing about the comics world is that it doesn’t dismiss self-publishers the way the lit world does. Maybe because it’s a less pretentious field, or a newer one, or that drawing talent is more quickly discerned at a glance. Certainly it helps that one of the more prominent awards and grants, the Xeric, is open only to self-publishers.

Comic artist and former No Media Kings intern stef lenk received a Xeric grant for her illustrated booklets TeaTime 1 and 2. Whether you’ve got a project that you’re submitting to the next Xeric deadline at the end of this month, or if you’re just interested in hearing about the nuts and bolts of comics publishing from printing to promotion, you’ll find stef’s opinions and experiences in the article below food for thought. UPDATE: Canadian comic self-publishers will want to check out this Gene Day Award.
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Oct 032008

I did a talk at Word on the Street last week tailored to a general, writing-interested Toronto audience. Ramón Pérez did live sketches that illustrated the talk, which were amazing considering the scant minutes each was allowed and the not-terribly-visual subject matter.

Other than actually writing, the most important thing to do as a writer is get your writing out to readers. You get feedback from readers, connect with fellow writers who share your sensibility, & you get a sense of closure that allows you to move on to your next project.

Some people think that getting published by a traditional book publisher is the only way to get your writing out to readers. There’s a real bottleneck here — even though there’s some benefit to the publishers in this circumstance, I would argue that writers don’t benefit from it, readers don’t benefit from it, and neither does our writing culture. This perception of the editor-gatekeepers just creates a tense and risk-averse climate.

So, I’m going to detour around the bottleneck and focus on the diversity of methods writers can use to get their writing out there. The ten things I list are often considered different mediums and require collaboration and/or different skillsets, but writing can be central to them. Continue reading »

Apr 282008

emilyandlisa-thumb.jpgLocus is a collaboration between two small independent publishers in Melbourne, aduki independent press and Vignette Press, run by Emily and Lisa. They got together to run market stalls (and now also a blog) because they knew doing it with a friend would be more enjoyable than going it alone. They were kind enough to share their advice on selling indie books and zines.

Doing market stalls probably won’t make you rich or sell a truckload of books. Our best market day ever made about $750, mostly we make a lot less than that. Beer money, really. But even if you don’t sell a lot you’re still spreading the word and marketing your product, which is important in the long run. We learned what kind of markets work for our particular books and what sorts of places just don’t. The only way you can figure this out for yourself is by getting out there and trying different markets. Here’s some tips for running a successful market stall. Continue reading »

Jan 212008

Ravenous for a book deal.I published my graphic novel Therefore Repent! in Canada in August, and IDW (who put out 30 Days of Night) just released it in the US last week. I just got a copy of their edition and it looks great: they used a slightly thicker paper stock and a slightly lighter ink, but it’s otherwise pretty much identical to the Canadian edition. Even though I’m best known for writing articles on do-it-yourself publishing, I’ve learnt a lot in publishing with other folks too. So today I’m going to answer one of the questions I get asked the most:

“How did you get a book deal?”

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Aug 212007

cons-thumb.jpgJust coming down from the high of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival where we not only found an excited audience for our new graphic novel (we sold 90 copies in two days!) but I got to sit beside my favourite comic maker at the convention, Carla Speed McNeil — who, incidentally, I first heard about through the first TCAF when we were on a self-publishing panel together. I did a quick 20 minute interview with her and we talked about why she creates anachronistic science fiction societies, how she gets around the fact that her work is complex and hard to promote, and the development of her sin-eating aboriginal bad-boy.

Download the MP3 here.

Keep reading to hear about the other amazing cons I went to this summer, as well as some tips for enjoying them! Continue reading »

Jul 312007

Ariel Gore gets the word out thereI’ve always prided myself on the fact that the DIY publishing articles on this site have a certain lack of, shall we say, bullshit. And normally, a book called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead would smell a little funky to me. However, Ariel Gore, Hip Mama mag creator and indie culture maven wrote this book, and like all her books (I’m particularly fond of her memoir Atlas of the Human Heart) it is excellent. As well as sharing her own considerable experience, she interviews folks like Ursula K. Le Guin, Dave Eggers, and even me, and manages to pack more wisdom and practical advice than I’ve ever seen in a book of its ilk. (It had an extremely high nods-per-minute ratio.) She even gets the folks she interviews to give “assignments” at the end, making it a writing class unto itself. Plus it’s extremely readable — I intended to skim to find something to excerpt but I found myself sucked in and reading most of it. Below is one of my favourite sections in the book. Continue reading »

Oct 192006

Click to zoom.Benny had told me we could use a paint-roller extension as a boom pole, but I figured I was going to have to tape on my shotgun mike somehow. Much to my delight this was not the case. The day before the third Infest Wisely shoot, when I got my $15 Home Hardware Extension Pole (8′, #4538-682) back home I noticed there was a small hole in the removable black tapered tip. My Rode VideoMic has a shock mount that connects to a shoe mount for use on a camera, but I saw that the shoe mount was screwed in. I removed the screw and threaded it through the tapered tip of the paint roller and it actually fit!

The next day, we did an eight hour shoot and it was rock solid and sounded sweet — when I was perched on a rusted-out catwalk high above an abandoned factory floor, I was glad I didn’t also have to worry about the mike falling off.

Of course this is almost ridiculously specific to Rode VideoMic owners living in Canada, but it’s too neat a trick to keep to myself. For some more generally useful DIY Sound tips from my sound guru Carma, keep reading!
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May 192006

Willy vs. Mass ProductionSilkscreening is such a great happy medium — nestled comfortably half-way between hand-drawn and mass production, more colourful than photocopying and with an aesthetic all its own. Artist Shannon Gerard broke out her silkscreening gear to make cool shirts and posters for her upcoming comic launch, and despite being crazy busy has shared her skills in this funny and detailed tutorial. Read on to learn how to print your own posters, shirts, or whatever you fancy printing on, and how the Virgin Mary and Spiderman join forces to help her out.
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Mar 142006

By Hamish MacDonald

Blood, sweat and glue.UPDATE:Hamish has started a DIY Book podcast!

Back in 2000, I wrote an article for this website about how to produce your own book. Things have changed considerably since then, both in the technology available to individuals and in the services available in the marketplace. It’s all good news for us independent publishers.

The original article was called “DIY Book Production.” Aside from being a clunky term, you now have more power than that: You can be your own press. I now produce my own books at home from start to finish, and in this article will explain what I’ve had to learn and acquire in order to do that.

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Feb 162006

Warehouses always make me think of the Ark of the Covenant.Distribution is one of the toughest nuts to crack when it comes to publishing. There’s a few reasons for this, one of which is that it’s boring. It’s hard to get excited about receivables, warehousing, and invoices. But good distribution has made it possible for me to make a living off my books.

When I started thinking about No Media Kings six years ago I thought through doing distribution on my own. I would have to write letters to all the bookstores in Canada, and ship out the orders myself. Assuming that they took it seriously enough to order, and I shipped out the books, they sold, and I followed up with an invoice, I then hit a snag. My invoice would naturally float to the bottom of the pile: those from distributors representing a number of books and publishers would get paid first. They had the leverage of not shipping out any more of their books (and a collection agency), while all I had was the threat of not sending out any more Jim Munroe books. So I discovered the strength-in-numbers value to being with a distributor.

Over the years I’ve discovered a few more things about getting your books out into the world. Let’s start with some general concepts of the book distribution business.
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Jan 192006

Alien helmet for the AYS tour by Sandy Plotnikoff.I’ve come to realize that I don’t hate advertising so much as have an allergic reaction to a high-hype-to-low-content ratio: like when the inner ear is imbalanced, when marketing TALKS LOUD and SAYS NOTHING NEW it induces what I call hype nausea. So promoting my books was initially a challenge for me. But since I wrote my first DIY Book Promo article five years ago, I’ve brought public attention to three more novels and now quite enjoy it. Here’s some of the things I think about when I craft a promotional campaign.
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Dec 212005

The Red Panda, Canada's Greatest Superhero.I first noticed the Red Panda, his hands outstretched hypnotically, on a street poster in my neighbourhood. “Adventure! has a new address…” the poster announced. I checked it out and spent the next few days listening to the adventures of Canada’s Greatest Superhero (and his sidekick, the Flying Squirrel) on my MP3 player as I walked around town. More homage than spoof, I thoroughly enjoyed these additions to a genre most assume is long dead, and emailed Gregg Taylor to tell him so. A couple of emails later, he’d graciously agreed to “give the nickel tour” of how to make radio drama, from the high-tech of podcasting to the lo-tech of vegetable-based sound effects.

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Nov 302005

by Emily Pohl-Weary

Aaaar! Ye'll want the DPI to be at least 600!Everyone has a graphic novel inside them. A picture paints a thousand words, right? It’s easy to be seduced by the old truism. But it’s not as easy to produce a 24-page comic, especially not if you’re the kind of person who wants your work to actually look good.

I publish Kiss Machine magazine, so I thought it would be simple to turn my hand to publishing my indie comic, Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate, with illustrator Willow Dawson. I didn’t realize how steep the learning curve would be.
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Nov 182005

Shave seconds off your trip!So my pal Sean is the creator of the TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide: a small booklet that helps you plan which car on the subway to get on so that when you get off, you’ll be at the exit stairwell. He got a lot of media attention for this fascinating and obsessive project and he’s very generously offered to share all the things he learned during the process of media outreach which (true to his nature) he extensively catalogued as he went along.

While media outreach is only one part of promoting a project, it’s one that a lot of people find intimidating. He’s broken down a lot of the key things in a very approachable way. Check it out and feel free to add your own tips or questions in the comments.

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Nov 022005

diygrants-thumb.jpgI’ve received five grants in the past eight years. Amounting to about $50,000, they’ve allowed me to take some time to work in different mediums and build community resources instead of focussing solely on making money through publishing books. The grant system isn’t perfect, but overall I am a big believer in it — I wrote an article a few months back on free money.

A lot of people have asked me about this over the years, and while I don’t think there’s any trick to grant writing, I do think there’re certain strategies that have helped me.
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Mar 272003

by Nicholas Johnson

Making a movie where each scene is the perfect length and contributes to the piece as a whole, leaving echoes of images that stay in the brain like aroma, is a colossal pain in the ass. I tried to make that movie once, and it was not only painful for myself but for my friends as well. I had a pool of about eight friends whom I begged mercilessly each week, trying to get at least three of them to show up to film. I thrust liquor at them to keep them patient while I futzed with my camera to assure perfect shots. Inevitably problems would arise: a wind would kick up and wobble the camera on its spindly tripod, a cloud would pass over and change the tone of the daylight, or I would fuck up the pan. I duplicated shots just to be safe, I took a thousand close-ups in case I needed them during editing, and few of the actors escaped without injury — in one case a knee injury requiring medical treatment, the result of quite unnecessary horseplay. Continue reading »

Mar 272003

by siue

I’m not going to be writing from a professional’s point of view. Most of the time I couldn’t be bothered to go about things the “right” way and am more concerned with time management and the outcome than doing something that will make me a “master” of my “craft”. I like to do animation because it’s fun, it’s a cheap way of getting what’s in my mind onto film, and I seem to be halfway decent at it. Maybe you’re wondering why you should do animation and not live action? Well, here’s two reasons — money and control! Sure you could get your friends to act for free — but will they give you want you want? Also what about special effects, costumes, sets, make-up, lighting etc., etc… Working a miniature scale is not only incredibly cheap — you can hand craft characters, movement and things exactly the way you want.

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Mar 272003

by Stacey DeWolfe

One day in early January, while reading a selection from the autobiography of famous porn star Harry Reems, I had an epiphany. Back in the seventies, Harry and his buddies were making these feature length films that they would shoot in one day on Super 8. They didn’t have much of a script, but they had the one thing that everyone was interested in…tons of sex. They called them one day wonders.

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