Chapter 7: Behind the Scenes
at Factsheet Five
by Mike Gunderloy
from "How to Publish a Fanzine"
While I was writing
this book, I kept some notes on an issue of my own zine, Factsheet
Five. While I don't think there's such a thing as a typical
zine (and if there is, I'm sure FF isn't one), these diary
entries might give you some idea of the scope of problems that
a small publisher has to deal with. You won't have the same problems,
but this chapter should at least give you hope that all sorts
of problems are surmountable.
1, 1986: Got up early
to deliver 1200 bulk mailed copies of Factsheet Five 20 to
the post office before my first class.
December 3, 1986:
Picked up the last 500 copies of #20 from the printers, after
various and sundry delays. Paid my bill, after finding out that
it was $150 higher than the estimate. I've never had a bill come
in for less than the estimate.
December 5, 1986: Drove
out to UPS with 15 packages full of copies going off to various
distributors. Sent off 14 of them the last had a Post
Office box for an address so I had to spring for First Class
US Mail. (I've tried Book Rate for distribution copies and had
them get lost. Now I'm leery of it.)
December 9, 1986:
Got the 42 copies going to Canada into the mail. Since they need
to be put in envelopes and stamped, they take a lot longer. One
hundred and twenty five pieces of mail have come in since the
bulk mailing. Lord only knows how many of them are requests for
December 15, 1986:
Letters of comment are starting to trickle in. So far the response
is overwhelmingly favorable. I begin to remember why I do this
December 20, 1986:
Mailed off another 52 copies to foreign countries. That's the
last of the commitments that existed when I came off the presses.
It's too bad that another 50 requests have come in by now. I
figure that with the time lag between my issues, I'd better send
off samples at normal postage rates, rather than wait for the
next bulk mailing.
December 23, 1986:
Sent a $50 check to the Post Office to renew my bulk mail permit.
December 28, 1986:
By now I've settled into my normal inter-issue routine. Every
day I open the mail and record what's in it. Incoming trade copies
are noted on the master mailing list file. Incoming requests
for subscriptions are noted on the FF ledger (and later
transferred to the main budget) and set aside to be sent. Incoming
albums and tapes are added to the music file where they will
await assignment to a reviewer. Usually I spend about 45 minutes
before breakfast processing my mail.
January 1, 1987:
It appears that FF broke even last year. Amazing.
January 2, 1987:
Trying to plan out my schedule for the coming months, taking
into account both Factsheet Five and schoolwork. The goal
is to have January 20 as the deadline for submissions, finish
layout and get to the printer by January 27, and hit the mails
around February 3. Even as I write this down I know it's too
January 3, 1987:
Sent off four more tapes of review music to my main music reviewer,
who is doing time in Leavenworth. With luck, our smuggler will
get them to him in time for the next issue to carry the reviews.
January 4, 1987:
The pile of zines to be reviewed for the next issue is now up
nearly to my shoulders, literally. I sorted it alphabetically
and into miscellaneous categories (books, poetry, music, etc.).
Started reading and reviewing with the Books pile.
January 6, 1987:
My wife went off to Boston to work for a week, making this a
good time to do some music reviews. Took a day off of work, rolled
up my sleeves, and started doing some serious writing.
January 10, 1987:
By now, despite working full time this week, I have reviewed
30 albums and tapes and about 20 books. Will be starting on fanzine
reviews any moment.
January 11, 1987:
Power outage. Threw off my whole schedule (I can't write reviews
on the computer with no electricity).
January 12, 1987:
Took a stack of fanzines to school and read them on my lunch
hour. With luck, I'll find the time to review them tomorrow.
January 13, 1987:
Reviewed a few things after getting home from school, but knocked
off to get a bit of sleep.
January 14, 1987:
Still carrying a huge stack of fanzines around on my back. Now
writing reviews on the computer in my wife's office. Thank god
we've got a compatible at home. I can work on this anywhere I
can find the necessary silicon chips.
January 17, 1987: Have
reviewed about 200 zines by now. Time to take a break and file
some of them lest the Clutter take over my office. Besides, I
need a break after all this reading. I figure I'm about 1/3 of
the way through. Clearly, I won't be done with these reviews
by my deadline of January 20th but then, I haven't been on schedule
for over a year. This is typical of the small press. All I can
do is drink more coffee and try to keep working.
January 23, 1987: Woke
up in a cold sweat after a nightmare about having to review a
cassette tape index in French that was a vital part of the next
January 24, 1987:
A friend calls with some late news, worried that I'm almost done
and it won't get in. Don't worry, I tell him I'll be at least
a week late.
January 25, 1987:1
now have about $1000 set aside to print and mail this issue,
mostly money that has come in for copies of the last one and
money that I have budgeted out of my own pocket. An accountant
would no doubt be horrified. My records exist on a mix of ledger
sheets, computer files, and scraps of paper.
January 29, 1987:
At last, the fanzine reviews are done, about 600 of them. Now
it only remains to type the odds and ends that go around them.
That's good, because at the end of the third week of the school
term, I am now a week behind on homework.
January 30, 1987: I
play around with a spreadsheet for a while, deciding that 5000
subscriptions would be enough to make Factsheet Five pay
a decent salary to me. Too bad I only have about 500 now.
January 31, 1987:
At last, finished typing, by dinnertime. A quick check of the
size of the computer files suggests that I have about 80 pages
of stuff. This isn't good, since my budget calls for 64. After
dinner, I start proofreading and printing out. Four hours of
work is enough to get about the first quarter of the printed
February 1, 1987:
It's a good thing that this is Sunday, because it takes me from
7AM to 8PM to get the rest of the copy printed out. It will be
80 pages. I guess it's only money.
February 2, 1987:
Layout. I spend the whole morning fighting with a reducing xerox
machine that keeps jamming, and the whole afternoon rubber-cementing
things in place on the page. But at least the finished product
is looking pretty good to me. I get in touch with my printer
and he estimates $850. Later on he call back, explains that he
made a mistake, and it will really be $1000. Oh well.
February 3, 1987:
I get a few minutes in the middle of the day to put page numbers
on the final copy. Unfortunately, I skip page 25 and don't discover
this until page 62. I finally get time to white out the wrong
numbers and put on the right ones around midnight, and otherwise
clean up the copy.
February 4, 1987:
I finally deliver 80 pages of camera-ready copy to my printer.
He looks it over and sees no problems for the press. We talk
about delivery schedules, and he promises it by the end of next
week, which will be the 13th. Now I can rest for a while and
catch up on my homework.
February 9, 1987:
I talk to the printers on the phone. They haven't started yet.
February 11, 1987:
Another phone call. This time I talk to the production manager
instead of the salesman. They still haven't started.
February 12, 1987:
A full day of filing away the fanzines that have been reviewed
to clear the decks for the next issue. I don't finish, but by
the end of the day I only have two boxes full left to file. About
the same amount has already piled up to be reviewed for next
February 13, 1987: Another
call to the printers. At least now they've started the job, and
are busy stripping the negatives, though the press run hasn't
started yet. I am assured that they will be done by Monday afternoon.
And so it went. The February issue finally
went in the mails on Monday the 23rd and the whole process started
all over again. It's a nuisance, it takes a lot of time, and
I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Copyright 1988 Mike
Gunderloy. Posted with permission. To download "How to Publish
a Fanzine," click here. To return
to the index, click here.
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