|So, You Want to Start a Zine?|
long as you're printing less than 200 copies, photocopying is
the cheapest way to go. Some copiers can even achieve offset
quality, but most can't, so be sure you know what you're getting
if you leave it at the copy shop. If you're printing more than
200 copies, offset printing is not usually any more expensive
than photocopying. Newsprint will be even cheaper. Offset gives
you the best reproduction, but even here quality varies wildly
from printer to printer. You should always ask to see samples
of a printer's work.
You also should ask how the
printer will bind and cut your zine, what kinds of paper stocks
he or she can print on, and how soon he or she can deliver. Higher
overhead usually make printer's prices in big cities much higher.
Finding a printer in another state can mean big savings, but
don't forget to factor in the cost of shipping. Prices per copy
also drop quickly when you start printing in the thousands of
copies. The more you print, the cheaper it gets.
zines: It's a good idea to send your zine to as many other
publications who review zines as you can afford.
Review zines and zines that
are similar in theme to yours also are good places to find publications
that you might want to trade with. Trading is a great way to
get zines, but be warned, a lot of zines have stopped accepting
trades because they were getting too many shitty zines in return.
How many times must I say it? Don't muck up the water with a
half-assed, pointless publication! If you want to create something
but have no talent and are lazy, join a rock band; the odds of
success are much better.
in rare cases, your average photocopied, 20- to 40-page, digest-sized
zine has few distribution options beyond trading with other zines,
putting ads in other zines, and self-distributing the zine to
stores that will take them on consignment. Few magazine distributors
are willing to go through the time and paperwork involved for
zines if only because they usually only cost a buck or two. It's
not worth it for the minuscule amount of money they make.
Exceptions are usually made
for zines that have found a fascinating subject that no other
magazine covers and are exceptionally well written. Once you
have offset printing and attractive covers (especially with color
printing), your chances of getting one of a small press distributor
to take you increase greatly. Unfortunately, there are only a
few of them, such as Desert Moon and Tower Records.
A few book publishers and
distributors like Last Gasp carry a small selection of zines
as well, and some zine editors run small distros that might have
20 or 30 titles. Large distributors may order hundreds of copies,
but they will also want at least a 50 percent discount and in
most cases not return your unsold copies. Instead you will receive
an affidavit reporting how many copies were sold and returned.
Getting payment can take from two to six months average.
For distribution resources
and advice, see the "Distribution" section of this
site's Zine Resource Guide.
are a few stores like Quimby's in Chicago and Atomic Books in
Baltimore that have made it their mission to carry a wide selection
of zines and comix. Occasionally they will buy them outright,
but primarily they are taken on consignment, meaning they will
pay you for the copies they've sold and return the ones they
haven't. Usually they pay 60 percent of the cover price and return
whole copies. When dealing with stores, you may find it necessary
to follow up on how your zine is doing, and when you can expect
Give 'Em Away: The
other distribution option is to leave stacks of your zine at
stores and restaurants. The advantages are that you don't have
to deal with collecting money and your chances of selling advertising
are greatly increased. Advertisers may figure they can at least
be sure people will see your publication and, possibly, their
ad. Of course, unless you have money to throw away or are able
to scam free printing, giving your publication away makes it
all the more incumbent to sell advertising, an occupation that's
only slightly smellier than cleaning sewers.
It Free: It's no coincidence that a large number of zine
publishers work in copy shops or know someone who does. Especially
now that most copy shops have all the desktop publishing tools
you need. Employee discounts can be incredibly liberal depending
on how closely the boss keeps track of things. Many office jobs
also provide access to excellent photocopying machines, so you
might consider temping.
Selling It: Another
thing to look for when you're checking out other zines on the
newsstand and in review zines is pricing. Nothing will kill your
sales faster than being overpriced. Conversely, the lower your
cover price, the more likely consumers will buy your wares. If
you're selling copies through mail order, you only need to account
for how much your zine cost you to produce and its mailing cost,
but if you're selling it through distributors and stores, you
have to expect to collect about half the cover price. It is extremely
rare for a publication to make back even its costs solely from
ads takes more time and energy than zine production, and it requires
a motivated person who likes to kiss butt. Unfortunately, record
labels are the only major buyers of ads in zines, which is why
so many publishers print at least a few music reviews. Reviews
are the primary way that zines can attract advertisers. For instance,
video distributors usually place their ads in zines with film
reviews and coverage.
If your publication is locally
oriented, and especially if it is distributed free, you have
a better chance of getting retailers, restaurants and other businesses
to buy space. Of course, the greater your distribution, the more
you can charge for ads. Bartering and trading for ads is always
more appealing to potential advertisers, and it can be just as
profitable. I've heard of some publishers who have so much restaurant
credit from ads, they never have to buy a meal. Bon appetit.
Steven Svymbersky is the former owner of Quimby's.