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Behind-the-scenes on making Leif & Thorn Volume 2

Behind-the-scenes on making Leif & Thorn Volume 2 published on 2 Comments on Behind-the-scenes on making Leif & Thorn Volume 2
The Volume 2 Kickstarter has passed its fundraising goal!
 
Now, if we can also pass Volume 1’s record ($3,211) before the deadline on Friday, I’ll start handing out extra prints.
 
In the meantime, as we head into the final 48 hours, I wanted to share some backstory about how this volume came together.
 
Going back to the very beginning…

2011

…okay, maybe we don’t have to go quite this far back.
 
But 2011 is when I drew the first sketches for what would eventually become the Leif & Thorn cast, and I did put those in Volume 1, so technically it counts.
 

2015-2017

I posted the first strip online in October 2015, with only vague thoughts of “print version someday maybe?”

Obviously I scanned the strips at 300 DPI, and drew them at consistent sizes to make things relatively easy for myself, but there wasn’t A Plan. I didn’t have a specific layout in mind.

The cutoff point between Volume 1 and Volume 2 happens in early 2017. At the time I wrote it, I didn’t know that’s what it would be! So there’s no easy jumping-on point for new readers, no “let’s casually reintroduce people and concepts in case you’ve forgotten since the last book.” It just…keeps rolling.

Offline, this is also the period during which I have the longest consistent Day Job in my entire work history! (It’s a temp gig, which tells you a lot about my work history.)

I do a whole lot of drawing on my lunch break. Sometimes, co-workers ask if it’s published anywhere. Sometimes they express surprise that I’m not making a living as a full-time artist! I tell them “I’m working on it.”

Late 2017

You can tell I’m thinking a little more carefully about print by the start of the storyline Level Up. (I was making these strips in November 2017, though they wouldn’t go live online until February/March 2018.) 

I’d been low-key frustrated with the font I was using for the Ceannic language for a while at this point. It didn’t come in bold, commas and periods looked the same at lower resolutions…there were issues. 

Strip from Volume 2

But since fonts are used consistently for the same languages, switching one out would be a big deal. I couldn’t do it lightly. 

Definitely didn’t want to have to stop and explain a switch in the middle of a print volume!

At last I went to Blambot, did some real scouting before picking a replacement (the one I settled on is called Mighty Zeo), and made the switch…during a storyline that is consciously a bit recappy, a bit “let’s catch you up on who everyone is and what they’re doing.”

First strip from Volume 3

I also take the opportunity to change the title font. (New one there is Green Light Bold.)

At this point, I have a vague idea that this will be “the start of Volume 2.”

I don’t actually sit down and lay anything out for “Volume 1”, though. I want to, but it’s not something I already have the hang of, and can squeeze in here and there around the edges of office hours. It would take big blocks of time to focus, learn the foundations, figure out best practices by trial and error. It would be A Project.

Early 2018

This is where the Day Job ends.

I suddenly have almost 40 more free hours every week. (Including the commute I’m no longer making.)

I say to myself, okay, this is the perfect time to start A Project.

So here’s the plan:

  • 1. Lay out the print file for the first volume of Leif & Thorn

I already know I’ll be doing it with my creaky pre-monthly-subscription release of Adobe InDesign, which I investigated briefly in grad school, and haven’t touched since.

The plan quickly evolves:

  • 1a. Figure out how to use InDesign
  • 1b.  Lay out the print file for the first volume of Leif & Thorn 

And then it sprouts all kind of other sub-steps. I read a lot of tutorials, make a lot of graphics, figure out how to add layout templates and page numbers. This world already has a map, and every cool fantasy book needs its cool fantasy map, so I make a more print-friendly version.

The map

Trivia: the strips are all higher-resolution in the book than what I originally drew on the sketchbook page. Mostly 475 dpi. It makes them smaller, but since this is print and not pixels, that just makes them sharper.

More detail on the whole process “How to make an ebook out of your webcomic“!

At some point in all this, I realize…to fit all these strips in one volume, it would have to be 350+ pages. That’s a lot of book. This is gonna have to be Volumes 1 and 2.

This is also when I realize how many weird gaps there are on the main pages. (Caused by drawing double-height Sunday strips without calculating whether the single strips would fill all the space neatly around them. Or, in the spread above, caused by the end of a storyline.)

That’s going to happen a whole lot less in Volume 3, and maybe not at all in Volume 4 (which includes the strips going live on the website right now).

I do like being able to fill those spaces with Kickstarter bonus sketches! But now I can’t help calculating how to avoid them. Guess I’ll figure out other cool early-backer rewards for future campaigns.

Mid-2018

By this point I have two finished and mostly-print-ready PDFs. I’ll be filling out the bonus features and tweaking small details right up until print time, but the bulk of the work is done.

Which is good, because I get another full-time temp gig that lasts right up until the end of my lease, and whatever free time I have left around that is used preparing to move. To a swing state. In time to be a registered voter before the 2018 midterms.

(This is a Project I’d been planning with increasing seriousness since the end of 2016, for obvious reasons.)

Late 2018

I consider running a Kickstarter for Volumes 1 & 2.

I consider running a Kickstarter for Volume 1, and then having “also Volume 2” as a stretch goal.

I ultimately decide to just run a Kickstarter for Volume 1, and use any extra over-goal funds to print more copies of Volume 1.

It’s a good decision. (See also: The Stoop-Gallants volumes 1 & 2, compared to The Stop-Gallants volume 1. (Which I’m finally getting a copy of, aww yeah.))

This is skimming over a ridiculous amount of planning and research and headaches and checklists and spreadsheets and asking for advice! I feel like all of that would have to be its own post.

Besides, it mostly revolves around Volume 1, and only relates to Volume 2 in that it involved creating a massive heap of templates and standardized procedures that I just reused for the Volume 2 campaign page en masse.

Even the milestone-bonus rewards for Volume 1 — I made those with an eye to the not-yet-illustrated Field Guide to Heartswords that was already in the back of Volume 2.

Guide to Heartswords

2019

Which brings us to the current campaign, and the last edits to the print file.
 
Volume 2 had a few still-unfilled pages, so I put up a poll (results in this post) about readers’ favorite bonus features. Helped solidify what I put in this book — and offered some really promising ideas for the next few.
 
All that’s left now is the bonus art for early backers, which I can start once the funding deadline is past. (One final plug: Check on the project here! If you can, back it! If you can’t, or if you already have, tell a friend!)
 
And then it goes off to the printer, and on to Volume 3! 
 
I haven’t started that file yet, because now that the books have actual pre-planned divisions, I kinda don’t want to cross the streams. But all the strips are fully drawn. All I’ll have to do (knock wood) is port all the InDesign templates to a new document, and then populate the thing. Third verse, same as the first. 
 
(In the even-more-distant future…Volume 4 will begin with Half Of What You See. Points if you can spot the font change this time.) 

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