Month: September 2021 (page 1 of 2)

Spotlight on: S.M. Beiko

Spotlight on: S.M. Beiko

Unseen Engineering:

Yes, A Human Typeset That, and Other Epiphanies About Book Design

With the advent of Print on Demand publishing, a model used by Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingram’s Lightning Source, it seems that it’s easier than ever to ‘make’ a book. You just type the story up, upload a file, and hit PRINT, and after that hundred-thousand dollar machine goes whirring through the printing, cutting, and binding process, voila. A book! You’re a publisher!

But, as you may have guessed by this article’s title, it’s not that cut-and-dry. There’s way more in-betweening than you may have thought.

First of all, that manuscript you typed up in your word processor? The way it looks in Word isn’t how it’s going to look as a printed book. It’s not a matter of dragging that Word file into some software that then spits out your pristine PDF complete with headers, folios, chapter titling, drop caps, linked table of contents, glossary, and whatever other front-and-back matter you’re putting in there.

Uh oh, you thought that a computer typeset that 1000-age fantasy tome you devoured over the holidays?

Well, sort of. But also no; a human did all that, using a their meat-brain, with an assist from some computer software they trained in. That human probably put in 10 – 30 hours into not only doing the technical acrobatics that makes a word document into a book—but also to design it to look extravagant, or minimalist, or fresh, or subversive, or downright whacky.

Still don’t believe me? Well, luckily I have 8 years of book layout experience, so let me take you on the thrilling ride to what is involved in, well, making a book!

*Please note that this is interiors only, not book cover and packaging…though the two go hand-in-hand, cover design is another whole blog entry!

When designing a book, there are many questions you have to ask. Usually first, what type of book is it? Is it a prose fiction novel, which is mostly text? Or a non-fiction book that will have a lot of referential material like footnotes, a table of contents, plus images? Or will it be a graphic novel, which is only image-based, but requires those images to meet certain printing standards, or it will also contain text blocks, or magazine-style columns?

Once you know what kind of book it is, you adjust your design standards. What are the book’s dimensions? What typeface will you use—and what size of font, or leading (space between the lines)? How big will your pages’ gutters, margins, and header-footers be, to accommodate folios (page numbers) and liner-header (AUTHOR NAME + BOOK TITLE)? Once you’ve decided on the above, how will your master pages be set up? And does the publisher or client have a certain look they want, or one they want to remain universal across their books?

And on and on. And, guess what! Usually while you’re undergoing this process, things might change. But that’s okay, because you can just update your style scripts.

Geez Sam, I hear you moan, you’re throwing a lot of words around that I don’t understand. Well, they’re things I didn’t understand, either, when I was doing my Book Publishing post-grad at Humber College. I also never imagined that the bulk of my freelance work would be in book design and print preparation, but the reality is that it’s a key field for graphic designers, and while I had working hobby-knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, I was about to crash headlong into working with its austere sister, Adobe InDesign, the top means of typesetting print media for web and offset printing.

I’ve used a lot of big words and made book layout seem complex, but these days it’s not. It’s rather more efficient than the original method of taking individual lead letters and lining them up by hand, which is how printing presses used to do it! This is where the word typesetting comes from (and leading!)

But now with the magic of software, it comes down to learning the systems, managing streamlined script shortcuts, and ‘bringing out the soul’ of that original word document with carefully-chosen digital design elements so you don’t have to wait several painstaking months for your plates to be manufactured. Thanks, technology.

But you do have to have some training or working knowledge. Half-assing design leads to printing errors, as well as not understanding the different between CMYK colour formatting and RGB. My point is that, like anything else, training and knowledge equal a solid final product. Think of book layout as a delicate inner structure dictating the surface features. If that inner structure is missing a few keystones, the whole thing can fall apart!

All I’m saying is, the next time you pick up a book, think about the time it not only took to write it, but the care that the designer and typesetter put into taking it from the digital world to something tangible. It’s now an object that not only allows you to get lost in the prose, but celebrates those words with a keen eye that even a computer can’t just summarily spit out, no matter how much technology changes.

Typesetting is engineering. Skyscrapers don’t pop out of no where, and book design, for all its complexities, really is a labour of art—and of love.

Samantha Mary (S.M.) Beiko currently works in the Canadian publishing industry as a freelance editor, graphic designer, and consultant. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Awards for Best First Book, as well as the 2014 Aurora Award. Her next series, The Realms of Ancient, began with Scion of the Fox (ECW Press, 2017) and the sequels to follow are Children of the Bloodlands (2018) and The Brilliant Dark (2019). She is the co-editor of Gothic Tales of Haunted Love (Bedside Press, 2018), and her short fiction has been anthologized in Gush: Menstrual Manifestos of Our Times (Frontenac House, 2018) and Parallel Prairies: Stories (Enfield & Wizenty, 2018).


Gothic Tales of Haunted Love – Best Canadian Comics, CBC Books

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love – Best Canadian Comics, CBC Books

Thank you to CBC for naming Gothic Tales of Haunted Love one of the best Canadian comics of 2018!

From CBC Books:

“Inspired by 1970s gothic romance comics, this anthology collects 22 new original stories from creators like David A. Robertson, Scott Chantler, S.M. Beiko, Hope Nicholson and more. Love and horror go hand-in-hand in these comics, as heroes and heroines contend with spirits, monsters and other devilish beings in their otherworldly quests for romance.”

Read the full list of 2018 winners here!

Work for a Million Kickstarter on The Hollywood Reporter!

Work for a Million Kickstarter on The Hollywood Reporter!

We are pleased to announce that Work for a Million, our new original graphic novel by Amanda Deibert, Selena Goulding and Ed Dukeshire, is now live on Kickstarter until February 15, 2019!

The Hollywood Reporter ran a feature that discusses the genesis of the project, and its importance to crime fiction history, LGBT fiction history, and the feminist movement in Canada.

Spotlight on: Amanda Deibert

Spotlight on: Amanda Deibert

Amanda Deibert

is a respected scriptwriter and comics writer,

and will be adapting the Work for a Million 

graphic novel with Selena Goulding,

to be published in January 2020, currently now on Kickstarter. 

Below,  she discusses her thoughts on the adaptation.

When Hope Nicholson asked me if I would be interested in adapting “Work For a Million” into a Graphic Novel, I was beyond thrilled! She sent the book and I devoured it in one night. It hits all my sweet spots: noir, mystery, action, and lez be honest… I am always excited about representation within my LGBTQIA++ community. The constant goal is to write something that you would want to read, and this is certainly that for me. It didn’t hurt that Hope also showed me some of the gorgeous pin up art that had been done of the main characters and they made my heart sing… in much the same sultry timber that I imagine the character of Sonia’s voice.

The book had a wealth of great material to work with: an intriguing plot, a deliciously complex and competent main character and lots of action and suspense.  Reading the novel is a slow burn, with a lot of build up that eventually paid off in an elaborate and exciting way. This is fantastic for a novel, but for a graphic novel, I wanted to change up the pacing a bit. The most important thing to me was and is to honor the work that Eve did as an author. This is her story and her characters and I feel privileged to be able to work with them.  Honoring the author of the original material would be important to me in any situation, but in this case in particular, it feels special. Eve wrote this book when there weren’t many lesbian books available and certainly not any that were just straight up (pun intended) detective novels. This is not a salacious book; it’s a book where a savvy detective with a noir penchant for helping dames happens to be a woman. It was wildly progressive for it’s time, and honestly, we still don’t have enough of this today. I love everything about that. So for me, it is about making sure that I capture the essence of the book, the inner world of the characters, and the intrigue of the plot in a graphic novel form.  A lot of this has to do with translating that nuance into visuals so that Selena can work her storytelling magic in her beautiful illustration. For example, instead of Helen thinking about her affinity for beautiful women, I decided to kick the book off with her gently departing from a one-night stand so that you, the reader, quickly and easily understand she’s a ladies’ lady. It also meant cutting down and combining characters so it’s easier to keep track of this shorter, faster paced version of the story.

It’s hard to kill your own darlings, but it can be even harder to do that in someone else’s creation. I would say the biggest struggle I have faced so far is deciding which characters to combine and losing some of the fun quirks and side stories that come with them in Eve’s novel. Overall, I think the story that we are creating does justice to the book and creates a compelling tale that captures the spirit of the adapted story while also being it’s own, new thing. There are new characters and action-packed moments that have been added and I very much hope we are creating a graphic novel that can stand on it’s own.


Amanda Deibert is an award-winning television and comic book writer.

She just finished 4th year as the writer for former Vice President Al Gore’s annual broadcast, 24 Hours of Reality, an international live broadcast highlighting the Climate Crisis. Her television credits include OWN Tonight — the first ever late night after show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, SyFy’s Live From Comic Con hosted by Zachary Levi, Take Part Live on PIVOT, The Morning After on HULU, and more. This summer she was the head writer for several pilots at CBS including the FOX limited series, Breakthrough With Dr. Steve Perry.

Amanda’s comic book writing includes the New York Times #1 Bestseller Love is Love, Teen Titans Go!, Batman and Harley Quinn, Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman ’77 for DC Comics, the multi-award winning  John Carpenter’s Tales For a HalloweenNight volumes 2, 3 and 4 among others.


How to be a comics historian in 2 easy steps – Tim Hanley

How to be a comics historian in 2 easy steps – Tim Hanley

I’ve spent the past several years of my life immersed in the histories of characters like Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, and Catwoman, along with the fascinating creators behind their many adventures, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s a pretty fun gig. The history of comic books is as bizarre as it is entertaining, and there’s never a boring day reading and writing about these heroes.

Case in point, Sally the Sleuth. I wasn’t too familiar with the character when Hope asked me if I’d be interested in writing an introduction for Bedside Press’ latest reprint collection, but after just a few minutes of cursory research, I was totally on board. A half dressed heroine whose titillating adventures led to the publication of Superman? What a weird history. Of course I was in.

Writing any piece of comic book history, be it an introduction, an article, or a book, is a process that can be boiled down to these two steps:

1. Be a historian.

2. Read comic books.

Once you’ve got those down, you’re on your way! Simple as that. But we’ll expand on each step, just to be thorough.


My background is in academic history. I’ve got two degrees in history from Dalhousie University, and my book Wonder Woman Unbound is an expanded version of my Master’s thesis, rewritten for a broader audience (i.e. I took all the boring bits out). This type of training is useful on several fronts. First, it gives you a solid base of general knowledge. The better you can understand the cultural and political context of the time period in which a comic book is published, the more you’ll get out of it.

Second, you develop specific expertise. It’s great to have a larger appreciation of 20th century North American history, but a deep knowledge of the history of the comic book industry itself is just as important.

Third, it teaches you how to research. Knowing where to find sources, how to evaluate them, and how to glean useful information from them are all important skills if you want to be accurate and efficient in your work.

All three of these proved useful with Sally the Sleuth. For instance, knowing the state of American culture in the 1930s, it was clear that her racy strip was extremely taboo for the time. And while I wasn’t an expert in the history of the pulp magazines in which she appeared, I sure was familiar with her publisher, Harry Donenfeld. He co-founded DC Comics and was an interesting, if rather sketchy, dude. This connection to DC really caught my attention, and I was able to look through some reliable databases and discover that Sally the Sleuth was Donenfeld’s first foray into comics. There’s a direct line from her successful run in the seedy world of pulps to Donenfeld later launching Superman as wholesome entertainment for kids.

Now, you don’t have to spend six years on multiple degrees to write about comic book history. That’s just the path I took. But having a good understanding of history in general, of the comic book industry in particular, and knowing how to research effectively will prove invaluable.


This seems obvious, but it’s key. Read ALL of the comic books, in order if you can. Before I wrote a book on Wonder Woman, I read every Wonder Woman comic that I could get my hands on. Same with Lois. Same with Catwoman. And same with Sally the Sleuth. Hope did an amazing job tracking down her old strips, and it was no small feat. Those pulp magazines are hard to find these days.

History needs to be accurate or else there’s no point to it, and part of being accurate is being thorough. You never know what random issue might blow up your entire thesis, or take it in an exciting new direction. That’s why it’s important to try to read them all. You want to know as much information as you can.

The stronger your understanding of the character is, the stronger your analysis will be. You can tell when someone’s taken only a cursory look at a few comics, and those pieces often end up simplistic and hollow. You don’t want to come in with your argument already set and cherry pick a few panels that support it. It’s easy, but it’s pointless. Come at the comics with an open mind and see where the stories actually go.

Also, look beyond the stories. With comic books, there are ads, letter columns, and other documents that can shine an interesting light on a character. With Sally the Sleuth, I read several of the prose stories that appeared alongside her strip in Spicy Detective Stories. Everything in the magazine was salacious, but it was fascinating to see how the female characters in the prose stories were just love interests or damsels in distress while Sally had a far more active role in her own tales.

Databases are great, too. Using the Grand Comics Database or the Comic Book Database, you can track creators and see who is writing and drawing the stories. From there, you can research these creators through interviews and bios that let you delve into their approach to the characters.

Being a comic book historian can be a lot of work. Not everything you read is going to make it into a piece. In fact, most of it isn’t. That’s the job, really, distilling vast quantities of comic books and background research into something clear and easily digestible for readers. But at the end of the day, you get to spend most of your time reading comic books! It’s hard to beat that.

Tim Hanley is a comic book historian and the author of Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous HeroineInvestigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter, and The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale.


A day in the life of a small press publisher

A day in the life of a small press publisher

Hello all! I thought it might be interesting if I recorded and detailed the duties of the day, to give an indepth look at what exactly a publisher does! In all, the below timeline is an example of a typical day. Some may be slower, while others might be more focused on a specific emergency, but today was just about maintenance with a bit of growth.

My work day today lasted from 8:30am to 9:30pm.

As a small press publisher, you have to have your hands in every single aspect of the publishing industry. From the creative, to editing, to marketing and sales and promotion. Every day is different work, and inevitably there are areas that only come to your attention once it’s an emergency. In addition, you have to keep part of your brain focused on the future, and think of opportunities for advancement and growth.

Everyone’s method of organization is slightly different, in my case, I live and die by my email inbox and google calendar. When a matter is dealt with or in someone else’s hands, I archive the message. Anything remaining gets looked over each day to see if it can be worked on or dealt with. I often email tasks to myself as they cross my mind.

If you notice below a lot of the recent work has been hiring freelancers for specific tasks to free up a bit more time for me to concentrate on growing the company instead of project coordination.

Below are the tasks completed of the day, in linear order of accomplishment:

  • coordinated travel to ComicsPro and Vancouver Fan Expo
  • took Sally the Sleuth Kickstarter shipping to the post office
  • followed up with tracking information to funders who requested it
  • followed up on unanswered pitch (X) from Z publisher
  • contacted printer to check on the status of two reprints
  • ordered a new banner for ECCC
  • confirmed X as the editor for X project
  • answered creative who pitched R project
  • wrote letter in support of Work for a Million’s documentary grant
  • updated Quickbooks with recent transactions
  • chose a release date for the DBD release of Love Beyond
  • talked to F production company about W project
  • phoned bank to review suspicious transactions on my corporate card
  • ordered a reprint of 2019/2020 release brochures for C2E2 ALA Roundtable
  • shipped 30 copies to Gothic Tales of Haunted Love for giveaway at C2E2
  • coordinated a signing event with ALA for C2E2 with Cecil Castellucci
  • learned how to make gmail lists, and created one for Gothic Tales
  • contacted designer to make a change to the newsletter sign up forms to be printed for comicspro
  • contacted Y about new distribution opportunity
  • messaged H convention for a possible table
  • coordinated with J festival regarding travel
  • set up meetings at Comicspro with other publishers
  • phoned publisher G to discuss ideas for me to improve my workflow
  • emailed Diamond to repair vendor services access
  • emailed current printer to switch shipping directly to distributor
  • emailed potential printer to ask about lowering their per unit print costs
  • hired a creative consultant for a short story in Maiden, Mother, Crone
  • hired a designer for Maiden, Mother, Crone
  • submitted Maiden, Mother, Crone to Diamond’s October releases
  • organized and relabelled files for editor, updated the status of the project internally
  • hired copyeditor for Maiden, Mother, Crone
  • sent a PO request to Diamond for Enough Space for Everyone Else and Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time
  • sent letterer edits for Work for a Million graphic novel
  • coordinated headshot session for March
  • checked grant deadlines and eligibility for Manitoba Arts Council
  • packed display and suitcase for ComicsPro and Vancouver Fan Expo
  • organized panel for Calgary Expo
  • hired editor for T project
  • hired consultant for T project
  • finished reading 1/3 of script of T project
  • emailed business consultant about requested proposal
  • created content (this article) to increase traffic to corporate website

And there you have it. Approximately 12 hours of work boiled down to a list of duties! Of course, some of that time was spent keeping tabs on social media.

You know, in case anything industry-important happens.

Will there be more WWII Canadian Comic Reprints?

A question I receive quite often is “What is the next Canadian WWII comic that you’ll reprint”? For those who don’t know, I started off my press publishing Canadian comics lost in time from the 1940s. These included Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Brok Windsor, Polka Dot Pirate, and Wow Comics #01.

And unless something unexpected happens, those will be the last ones I do.

Why? Well, the simple reason is that the only reason I published these books in the first place is that they were completely inaccessible. That is no longer the case! Library and Archives Canada has now archived every comic in their collection (OCLC: 1007761166), which includes a full collection of every Bell Feature comic, of which they own partial copyright of, along with Nelvana Animation. While their collection is lacking in other publishers (including Maple Leaf Publishing, Anglo-American, and Superior publishing) I would imagine these collections will eventually migrate and be digitized through other institutions in the future.

But, you might wonder, how do you access them?

There are two ways that I will outline.

One, is by using the finding guide at the LAC, this is by far the easiest way, however occasionally links change, so I’ll explain the other way as well.

The finding guide is here, and the links to download the PDFs can be found in the column marked ‘link to ecopy’ after each title’s description.

The second way is to use Library and Archives’s new database, called Aurora. Look up Bell Features comics by title (ie. Dime Comics), or by clicking here.

When you get to the page for the title, you’ll want to click on the ‘View Description’ tab, and then the links to each issue download will be under ‘More Information’.

For example, see the screenshot below.

Gothic Tales of Haunted FUTURES is now live on Kickstarter!

Gothic Tales of Haunted FUTURES is now live on Kickstarter

First announced as part of our new mentorship initiative by The Hollywood Reporter, Gothic Tales of Haunted Futures by S.M. Beiko is now live on Kickstarter, to coincide with their Small Press, Big Ideas initiative.

Featuring a bevy of comic creators merging gothic romance stories with sci-fi settings, it will be fully created by S.M. Beiko, with mentorship from Bedside Press, who will also handle fulfillment and distribution for the title.


What Does a Publisher Do?

Publishers do a lot more than just help make books! In addition to working with authors, printers, marketing, and distribution, we also do a lot of work behind the scenes campaigning for copyright fairness, increased governmental funding, and share knowledge with each other.

Below is a chart created to showcase the wide breadth of work the average publisher does.