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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Article #1 on the Small Press

Appeared in Toronto Computes, July 2002.

Todd H. C. Fischer

In the first installment of this column we introduced you to the world of zines, those self-published magazines that cover just about every topic available. Hopefully that got you muttering, “Gee, it doesn’t sound too hard. I’d like to make a [insert topic] zine myself.” You’re right, it’s not hard, and we’ll go through a step-by-step process that will leave you with a professional looking publication that you’ll be proud to show off.

Let’s pick a topic. Make it anything you want. For sake of argument, let’s say a Gillian Anderson fanzine.

The very first thing you have to decide next is layout, even before you think about what program to use. (The pro’s and con’s of various publishing programs will be covered in the next column.) Look at some existing magazines or papers, but don’t get any grandiose ideas. It’s better to start simple. Besides, simple is easier to read. Magazines like Maxim are so busy that it can cross your eyes just to look at them.

The number one thing to consider with your layout is your headers and page numbers. Will the header (your title bars) be on the side of the page? The top? Will the header be the title of the zine or of the current article? Will the page numbers be on the header, the bottom of the page, or will you use them at all? (Generally, you should.)

Next you have to decide on how to present your content. Will you use columns or simple blocks of text? This may depend on what size your publication will be. Will it be a full sized 8.5 x 11”, or will it be the half-sized 5.5 x 8.5”? Generally, columns are easier to read, especially if you are using the full-sized format. (Also keep in mind that your newsletter should be in increments of four. That is 4 pages, or 8 pages, or 12 pages, and so on. The first time I took a zine to be printed it was 18 pages long, so I had to either remove two pages or have two blank pages inserted.)

The font you use should be easy to read. Your title can be as funky as you want, but if it’s hard to read the main text your reader may not bother. I’d recommend Times New Roman or Arial. For size, 12-point is all right, but a bit big. 10-point is generally the way to go.

(Now, to backtrack a bit. Many desktop publishing programs come complete with templates ready made for you. All you have to do is select the style you like and then plug your content into the provided spaces. If this quick creation appeals to you, go for it. However, keep in mind that other people are probably using these templates as well. Your publication could end up looking a lot like some other people’s publications. Remember, originality is good. Also, templates generally have text like “Place Your Text Here” in the text boxes. Make sure you replace or delete all these space holders or someone is going to have a good laugh at your expense. I have a co-worker who used a template to print her wedding photo and written across their torsos in 20-point print is the ever-present “Place Your Text Here.” I personally suggest starting from scratch for each publication. Use the templates for ideas, but leave it at that.)

Now, plunk in your content. (I’m going to assume you’ve either written all your content yourself or have permission from the respective authors. Never steal content. You can get into serious trouble, up to and including being sued.)

I bet your newsletter looks pretty good now, but a bit bland. You need some graphics. Even clip art can liven up an otherwise boring looking publication. (Royalty free graphics collections were covered in a previous column). Photographs also work extremely well (though if you plan to photocopy your publication, photographs don’t reproduce as well as you might like). Either stick a picture at the end of your articles to take up any white space on your page, or put the picture in the center of your text and arrange the text around it. (Good graphic manipulation programs will be covered in a future column.)

Now you’re pretty much done. Add a table of contents if you so desire (generally a good idea), publication/copyright information, a cover and whatever other miscellaneous details you desire (such as author bios).

You are now done and ready to print.

(c) Todd H. C. Fischer, 1999. If interested in publishing this work, please contact the author.

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