Had to work out a ton of stuff to make the ebook for Leif & Thorn Volume 1…so I figured it was worth writing it up and sharing.
Related: there is an ebook for Leif & Thorn Volume 1!
Not only that: now through Christmas, buy it using this link, or enter the code “roses” at checkout, for 20% off!
So, about the bookification. For a lot of webcomic artists, this part is easy. Just drop all your pages in a folder, then click the “make this a PDF” button in the program of your choice.
That’s what I do (with a little extra finagling) for But I’m A Cat Person. All the comic files are the same size, and there’s 1 comic per printed page, so you can automate the whole thing. Easy!
With Leif & Thorn…it’s not easy.
Strips come in three basic sizes.
- Dailies are drawn on half a sketchbook page, landscape orientation
- Mid-storyline Sundays get a whole page, same orientation
- Separate bonus Sundays get a whole page in portrait orientation, just to make it clear they’re different
And since in the book they’re all turned right-side-up, I can’t even make ’em all the same resolution, or they won’t fit nicely on same-size pages.
Here’s a final 2-page spread:
The minimum for good-looking printing is 300 dpi. The vertical strip on the left is 400 dpi; the horizontal strips on the right are 475 dpi.
(There’s a risk here that readers might think “hang on, why did the text change sizes from one strip to the next?” Which is why, in most of the book, these aren’t on facing pages…)
Messing with the resolution still doesn’t make the margins quite match up. So the strategically-placed border graphic evens things out.
Now let’s talk about all the specific InDesign features that make this happen.
aka, “are you sure we aren’t talking about BICP again?”
Master Spreads, or just Masters, are design templates that you can apply to the actual pages of your project. Here’s the relevant tool panel, at the top right:
At the top, the list of masters. Each one is a full spread (right and left facing pages), but you can apply different masters to a pair of facing pages — as seen in 118-119 here.
The important thing is that, whatever page you pick, it’ll automatically apply the correct side of the master. That way you can’t accidentally stick a right-facing template (page numbers on the outer corner and everything!) on a left-facing page.
So the strategic border graphics are on the master spreads, where they can be edited and rearranged. With every page the master is applied to, they show up in exactly the same place and can’t be moved, like an untouchable background layer.
The strips, on the other hand, have to be manually placed on every page.
Which brings us to…
Here’s one of Volume 1’s actual master spreads, for pages with horizontal strips:
And here’s the one for pages with vertical strips:
All those bright lines are guides. You can switch them off when you want, and they don’t get printed or exported to PDF at all.
The magenta/purple boxes are the “safe to print within this area” guide. Those show up by default on all pages, with the same settings for the whole document, and can be adjusted based on what you expect from your printer.
And the cyan lines — those are manually-created guides. You click-and-drag from the rulers at the top/left of the document to pull them out, and you can set their exact positions with the same tool panel that positions anything else in InDesign.
When you drag any other object around on the page, it’ll automatically snap to the guides.
(…unless you switch that option off. Everything is switch-offable in InDesign.)
Here’s a result!
The guides were precisely-positioned, with Actual Math rather than eyeballing it, so the strips will be evenly-spaced down the page. (The images get snapped to the lines at the top of the strips — the ones at the bottom are just to help me visualize.)
Double-height Sunday strips (left) can be snapped to whichever guide is at the top of their spot, ignoring the guides in the middle. They’ll line up nicely.
On the other hand, bonus art (right) is supposed to have a sketchier, more-informal feel. So you’ll see it isn’t in perfect alignment with the strip it faces.
You can also see that none of the images are perfectly-centered on the page. That’s a hedge against anything getting printed too close to the center. (Wouldn’t want anyone to have to break the book’s spine just to read it all…) The border graphics, then, are centered above where the strips are, not above the center of the paper.
Now, there’s only one element left on the masters that I haven’t gotten into:
3. Page numbers!
On the master, there’s a text box with “Insert Auto Page Number” slipped in.
It adjusts to whatever page it’s applied to. Make a last-minute decision to add 2 more pages of intro content at the beginning? All the numbers afterward will shift by 2. Nice and easy.
Make a decision to add more intro content, but you want it to be the kind of foreward/prologue that doesn’t add to numbers before the book “really” starts? Decide where that Real Start is, right-click that page, and choose “Numbering & Section Options.”
If you’ve ordered the ebook already, and you open the PDF, you’ll find Acrobat Reader counts this as page 7 — preceded by the cover, the map, the table of contents, and so on.
But in the numbers, it’s page 3. Because I said so.
These bits of text aren’t just styled by the master spread, though. Which makes for a handy segue into….
4. Text Styles
A whole other part of InDesign where you create templates and apply them to elements. (It’s a long list.)
Paragraph style can affect everything about the text — font, size, hyphenation, indents, you name it. Then if (to take a totally hypothetical example) you print a test page and decide most of the text looks ridiculously large, you just tweak that style, and it’ll fix every paragraph in the whole document that uses it.
Character style is a subset of paragraph style…and I don’t know how to explain this one without a practical demonstration.
Here’s a screenshot with tool panels, showing the styles I’ve defined in Volume 1:
A couple of the paragraph styles use the standard Sønska-language font (it’s Ale and Wenches BB, if you want your own copy). The black text in this screencap is “basic text small,” and the italic blue is “italic blue.”
…look, it’s important to keep these things self-explanatory.
Trouble is, this font doesn’t have a lot of accented characters. Which is tough when you’re writing a language full of ø’s.
So for those letters, I apply a character style that changes the font. You can see it in Astrid Rødlund’s name toward the top left, and the mention of Sønheim toward the bottom right.
Same character style! Different font sizes, different colors, different levels of italicization (a word I did not expect spellcheck to recognize, huh). All those settings are fixed by the different underlying paragraph styles. The character style doesn’t override anything except the specific features it defines.
Now, InDesign has other tools and functions that I leaned on while producing the print-ready file. But I think that’s about everything that went into the ebook. Which brings us to:
5. Export Settings
First thing I tried was InDesign’s default ebook-quality export preset. A test, pages 1-10 only, just to get a feel for it.
…it was not a good feel.
The other screencaps in this post are kinda jaggy because it’s a quick-n-dirty rendering. Enough detail that you can see what you’re doing to work on the file; not so detailed that it sucks up your computer’s entire memory card.
The PDF, though, was just…like this.
Soft transparent gradients flattened into weird black borders. Nice hi-res art compressed into a blotchy mess of JPG artifacts. Yikes.
Took a few tries and retries, but I finally came out with this:
…and then I could breathe easy again.
That’s a preset where the images get downsampled with maximum quality preservation, and never to less than 200 dpi. (The versions you see here on the website are 72 dpi — but they’re PNGs, which are a lot crisper even at smaller sizes.)
Apparently you have to switch the compatibility settings to Acrobat 4 to get the transparencies to come out nice. Not sure why that is, but hey, at least it worked.
And now there’s an ebook!
One more time: pick up Volume 1 on Gumroad here.
I know it’s not Cyber Monday anymore, but don’t worry, the discount is staying until December 25.
You can also preorder the paperback on Gumroad — but there’s no coupon code for that yet, and there will be some kind of Launch Week Special once it’s actually printed. Keep an eye on the website for that announcement! Or sign up for the mailing list. Or follow the artist on Patreon. Word will get around.
There’s a new poll under the comments section, and it’s not in rotation with any of the previous ones — so I figured I’d better put those in a post where you can see the results.
First, some general statistics about reading habits:
Next, a poll about pins, which I just might come back to once Volume 1 is printed:
Finally, the Kale poll!
This is closed as of November 7, so nobody gets to change their vote based on the current storyline. Maybe I’ll run a new version in a couple months to see if things have changed….
- 5 46%, 46 votes46 votes 46%46 votes - 46% of all votes
- 4 (average amount of sympathy, equally valid arguments on both sides) 25%, 25 votes25 votes 25%25 votes - 25% of all votes
- 6 16%, 16 votes16 votes 16%16 votes - 16% of all votes
- 3 7%, 7 votes7 votes 7%7 votes - 7% of all votes
- 2 3%, 3 votes3 votes 3%3 votes - 3% of all votes
- 7 (all the sympathy, pure innocent cinnamon roll, did nothing wrong) 2%, 2 votes2 votes 2%2 votes - 2% of all votes
- 1 (no sympathy, irredeemable, lock him up and throw away the key) 0%, 0 votes0 votes0 votes - 0% of all votes
This is the post where I credit people who backed Leif & Thorn Volume 1! Browse the list, click some links, shower them with appreciation.
Only backer at this level was…my parents! They’re half a vampire each, I guess.
Secret Order of Monster Hunters
Knights of Ceannis
Liz the Lucky
Lenora Rose Patrick
Lori & Maurice Forrester
ETA: Campaign is over! And we gave 110%! I mean literally, the final take is 110% of the goal.
There will be a generic “reserve a copy of the book” button around here soonish, for people who missed the Kickstarter but want the paperback. Watch this space.
Look at this beautiful book. Who wouldn’t want to get their hands on that?
I’m too tired to come up with a witty closing statement here. I just promise it’s gonna be a fun, funny, pretty book, and you will enjoy having it on your shelves.
The tag set for this year’s Yuletide, the small-fandom fic exchange, is out!
To help you start planning your requests ahead of time, I’ve compiled all the options for webcomics and their characters. Pick from your long-time favorites, or take the opportunity to fall in love with something new!
Note: These are alphabetized by English-language title. That’s not always how they’re sorted on AO3, so ctrl+F if you hae trouble finding anything.
† this comic is at least partly behind a paywall.
♥ this is a personal favorite!
Webcomic fandoms in Yuletide 2018:
• Breaks (Webcomic) (4)
Harvey Hunt, Irena, Cortland Hunt, Ian Tanner
• The Center For Otherworld Science (Webcomic) (4)
Blue, Danika “Dani” Jones, Dr. Jennifer “Jen” Kim, Dr. Maggie “Mags” Ng
• Cheese in the Trap
Characters nominated: Baek In Ha, Baek In Ho, Hong Seol, Yu Jeong
† The Devil’s Temptation (Webcomic) (3)
Alek, Hyun Lee, Ivan Mariani
• Dumbing of Age (4)
Amber O’Malley, Dina Saruyama, Joyce Brown, Sal Walkerton
♥ Empowered (4)
Thugboy, Elissa Megan Powers | Empowered, Ninjette, Sistah Spooky
• Girl Genius (Webcomic) (4)
Agatha Heterodyne, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, Klaus Wulfenbach, Tarvek Sturmvoraus
♥ Gunnerkrigg Court (4)
Antimony Carver, Jones, Katerina Donlan, Reynardine
• Hark! A Vagrant (0)
[no characters nominated]
• Heartstopper (Webcomic) (2)
Charles “Charlie” Spring, Nicholas “Nick” Nelson
• Hemlock (Webcomic) (3)
Simo, Lumi, Sindri
• The Hole the Fox Did Make (Webcomic) (3)
Cheryl, Regan, Whispering Woman
• How To Be A Werewolf (Webcomic) (4)
Elias Ross, Malaya Dysangco Walters, Marisa Salcedo, Vincent Dysangco Walters
† Killing Stalking (Webcomic) (3)
Oh Sangwoo, Yang Seungbae, Yoon Bum
• Lackadaisy (Webcomic) (8)
Atlas May, Elsa Bastion, Ivy Pepper, Mitzi May, Mordecai Heller, Nico Savoy, Serafine Savoy, Viktor Vasko
♥ Lady of the Shard (Webcomic) (4)
Acolyte, All-Goddess, Old God, Radiant Goddess
♥ The Last Halloween (Webcomic) (4)
Mona, Robert, Slugger, Splitter
♥ Leif & Thorn (Webcomic) (8)
Lady Stanczia, Lord Imri, Agent Delphinium, Kale, Leif of Sønheim, Matatuhi Kaihanga, Patotara Kaihanga, Thorn Estragon
• Lessa (Webcomic) (3)
Ares, Lucy Berger, Ryan Anderson
• Looking for Group (Webcomic) (4)
Bunny, Sooba, Cale’Anon Vatay, Richard
† Moonlight Garden
Characters nominated: Lee Dohwa, Suh Hyewon, Yoosun
• Motherlover (Webcomic) (4)
Alexis Koenig, Imogen Dawson, Jacqueline, Jonathan Dawson
♥ Narbonic (3)
Dave Davenport (Victorian Era), Dr. Pim, Helen Narbon (Victorian Era)
† Nimona (Webcomic) (3)
Ambrosius Goldenloin, Ballister Blackheart, Nimona
• Nothing Special (Webcomic) (4)
Calliope “Callie” Benson, Declan, Lasser, Radish
• Novae (Webcomic) (2)
Raziol Qamar, Sulvain
• Oglaf (Webcomic) (4)
Cumsprite, Ivan, Sandoval, Vanka
♥ The Order of the Stick (9)
Sigdi Thundershield, Zhou Bo, Belkar Bitterleaf, Elan, Haley Starshine, Hinjo, Lien, Therkla, Vaarsuvius
† Pandora’s Choice (manhwa)
Christopher Blais, Jeremy Durand, Pandora Blais, Victor Durand
• Paper Roses (Webcomic) (2)
• Paranatural (Webcomic) (0)
[no characters nominated]
† The Perfect Relationship (Webcomic) (2)
Shin Hyukjoon, Shin Minjae
• Questionable Content (Webcomic) (4)
Shame Orb, Yelling Bird, Bubbles, Faye Whitaker
• Raruurien (Webcomic) (4)
Raed, Rashad Ibn Raed, Rien Al Ashab, Ruu
• A Redtail’s Dream (Webcomic) (2)
Hannu Viitanen, Samuli Tiira
† Sign (Webcomic) (4)
Go Yohan, Kang Soohwa, Oh Byung, Oh Gyoon
♥ Sleepless Domain (Webcomic) (4)
Anemone, Kokoro | Heartful Punch, Sylvia Skylark | Alchemical Air, Undine Wells | Alchemical Water
• Small Trolls (Webcomic) (2)
Jáhko Hammarström, Veeti Harmonsuo
• Spill Zone (Webcomic) (3)
Addison Merrick, Lexa Merrick, Vespertine
♥ Stand Still Stay Silent (7)
Emil Västerström, Lalli Hotakainen, Mikkel Madsen, Onni Hotakainen, Reynir Árnason, Sigrun Eide, Tuuri Hotakainen
♥ Trying Human (4)
EBE1, Phillis Lennox, Rose Williams, Hue
• Unhinged (Webcomic) (4)
Box, Derek, Erika, Paul Robinson
• Warehouse (Webcomic) (2)
Jung Sungho, Kim Dohyun
• Wilde Life (Webcomic) (4)
Darcy Flores, Eliza Proctor, Oscar Wilde, Clifford Norman
• A wolf goes for a walk in the woods and meets a dog for the first time (Comic) (3)
Dog (walk in the woods), Narrator (walk in the woods), Wolf (walk in the woods)
• Year in Hereafter (Webcomic) (2)
Veeti Harmonsuo, Jaakko Ilmarinen
If you notice any missing or incorrect information, comment and let me know!
Good news: Leif & Thorn is accepting guest strips again!
I didn’t get enough to fill a week in March, but I did get a few…and those will definitely be posted at the end of October. It’ll be a nice breather after the ends of the Volume I Kickstarter and the six-month (!!) Leachtric storyline.
I’d love to stretch out that break by adding a few more strips to the ones I’ve been saving. So if you have a great Leif & Thorn bonus idea, now’s the time!
Submissions will be open until September 30.
You can use any AU, explore any era, include any headcanons.
When you submit the strip, include whatever name you want to be credited by. And, if you like, a link to your gallery/blog/fanfiction account/webcomic/Etsy store.
Format: PNG, GIF, or JPG
Size: up to 825×825 pixels
Rating: up to PG-13 (basically, match the tone of the strip)
Characters: whoever you want!
If you didn’t catch it in today’s strip, or even if you did, here’s a whole post about Leif & Thorn Volume 1!
It’s 180 pages. It’s oversized. It’s full color. It’s already drawn!
…it’s not already printed. This is Only A Model.
Which is why I’m raising the funds to do a print run on Kickstarter. Back this project, and you can get your very own copy of Leif & Thorn Volume 1, plus all kinds of other cool rewards. You can get wallpapers. You can get postcards. You can get custom art. You can get yourself drawn into the strip!
(Not in this book. In a future book.)
I kept the budget modest, so if we get funded, I get to print a short run of books. And if we get OVER-funded, I get to print a LONG run of books.
Visit the campaign page to learn more, and get involved by sharing, following, and backing!
First, the favor: Anyone have a recent version of Photoshop (at least CS4, ideally later) who would be willing to make some Leif & Thorn graphics for me?
I have the art, I have the template…but the template has Smart Objects, and all I have is CS2, which is not smart enough.
Shoot me an email (sailorptah at yahoo dot com) with “Photoshop Graphics help offer” in the subject line, and I’ll send you the source art to put together!
Next, a question about pins. In the form of a poll, because the people, they love polls.
Pick as many answers as you want. I pre-populated it with a scattershot subset of characters, but you can also add your own:
In the process of planning the Leif & Thorn Volume 1 Kickstarter, I’m starting an email list for announcements and updates. Because as much as it helps to be on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and so on…the first thing most people check in the morning is their email.
Obviously things will get posted on the website too — but maybe you don’t check the site every day. Or maybe you want the latest Leif & Thorn (and But I’m A Cat Person) news delivered straight to your inbox with no delay.
Well, this is for you!
I don’t actually like cold-sending emails, so I can promise you won’t get spammed with random trivia. Just the big updates, like book releases and Kickstarter kickoffs.
If you scroll down to read the comments on any strip, you might notice there’s now a polling widget underneath!
It randomly cycles through all our active polls. Right now that means (a) the shipping poll from the previous post and (b) the two you can find right here.
Shoutout to the Comic Tea Party indie-comic reader-habits survey, which got me thinking about all the cool data I might want to track.
First off, a simple question of numbers:
Second, a question for Leif & Thorn fans, showcasing DemocracyPoll‘s “if the answer isn’t there already, you can add it yourself” feature:
This particular poll widget allows the website admin to mess with almost anything through the back end. So if any user abuses this to add a troll answer, it can be deleted.
(The admin also has the power to rewrite answers or change point totals completely. For me, the actual reader data here is too valuable to mess with…but if I ever try to prove Leif & Thorn has high traffic by showing you a poll that got 30,000 votes overnight, you’ll know I’ve gone to the dark side.)