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The great unspoken rules of etiquette for zine distros, are there any?

This is something that has been bugging me for a while, and this thread isn't meant to be me blowing my own organ about my own distro (oo-er).

In all the years I've been putting out Beat Motel I've punted out at least 100 copies (quarter of the print run) of each issue to distros around the world, and I've never had a penny back from them. I'm not accusing anyone of any evil deeds, and I'm fully aware that things move REALLY slow in zineworld (just as we like it), but what gives? I still really want to be stocked by distros but for my last issue I sent out fewer copies as I just can't afford to keep throwing my money away. Beat Motel tends to be an 80 page zine, which isn't cheap to post!

This bitch entirely excludes distros that I trade with, in fact I try and trade as much as I can now as I feel that's a lot fairer to both parties.

With my own distro I try to NEVER owe any money to any zinesters, I always either pay up front or trade with copies of my own zine. I've really bemused some zinesters by insisting on paying them before I've even received their zines. It's partly because keeping 'sale or return' records would be a fucking nightmare, but more that I can have a clear conciousness that I'm not ripping anyone off.

So, I guess I'm more trying to start a discussion here more than I am trying to find an answer.

Your thoughts please!

Tags: beat, distro, motel, off, rip

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I always pay zinesters wholesale upfront, distro trade or distro credit. I couldn't trust myself to keep records accurate enough to work on consignment, plus it's much harder for smaller distros that don't get all that many orders a week... it would sometimes take months and months before I'd be paying zinesters. Plus being an "international" distro makes it all a tad more complicated with postage and what not.
Hmmm sounds like the same sort of issues I have doing consignments. I'm an artist. Sometimes if approached I'll let a shop have a couple of things and see how they go, but getting any money from them once the painting has sold is like wringing blood from a stone. Wish I had some answers for you, but really I don't, here's hoping another of us does ;)
I'm not sure if you can expect a distro to purchase a copy of your zine that's sent as promotion, nor could you expect them to post it back to you unless you include return-postage. (Is that what you were saying?? sending out copies to them without them confirming they'll take it?) I definitely agree with wringing blood from a stone to get money from consignments so I mostly don't work with anyone who would expect consignments for my zines... I've had them in the past and the people in the shop were so blase about the whole thing they ended up trusting me and handing over the cash. With my distro, if I'm that interested in having it on there I will always buy wholesale...
Yeah that sounds like a much easier way of doing things. I've always been the same way, I don't like the concept of credit and am useless with money, so I would much rather just pay for something upfront.

Bird in the Hand said:
I'm not sure if you can expect a distro to purchase a copy of your zine that's sent as promotion, nor could you expect them to post it back to you unless you include return-postage. (Is that what you were saying?? sending out copies to them without them confirming they'll take it?) I definitely agree with wringing blood from a stone to get money from consignments so I mostly don't work with anyone who would expect consignments for my zines... I've had them in the past and the people in the shop were so blase about the whole thing they ended up trusting me and handing over the cash. With my distro, if I'm that interested in having it on there I will always buy wholesale...
I wouldn't dream of posting wads of zines to people that weren't expecting them, that's just madness!
Andrew Culture said:
I wouldn't dream of posting wads of zines to people that weren't expecting them, that's just madness!

I think the situation is probably - and I don't run a distro myself here, but I'm taking a guess - that you've answered the question yourself by saying "sale or return would be a fucking nightmare". Sounds like these distro's are taking things on sale or return, and having a fucking nightmare... I agree distro's should pay upfront or trade unless they're very confident of being very well organised. Both sides (the distro and the creator) have a responsibility to keep track of sale-or-return items.
Ah I get you, I wasn't making accusations but in the bigger scheme of things I'm still pretty new to this zine lark, so it's good to get other thoughts and opinions.
Andrew have you chased up any of these distros to find out if they've sold copies of your zine? It's not clear from your original post whether you have or not. If not, you should. And if you don't get a clear answer then personally I'd try not to keep working with them.

Andrew Culture said:
Ah I get you, I wasn't making accusations but in the bigger scheme of things I'm still pretty new to this zine lark, so it's good to get other thoughts and opinions.
all fair points, I've been in touch with one of the distros and they've sent back a load of my back issues without any bother, which I'm actually pretty excited about as they are issues I haven't seen for a couple of years!
It's no fun having all those extra zines though I'm sure.

Andrew Culture said:
all fair points, I've been in touch with one of the distros and they've sent back a load of my back issues without any bother, which I'm actually pretty excited about as they are issues I haven't seen for a couple of years!
i run a distro & from the day i started it, i knew i didn't want to have anything to do with consignment. i don't know why anyone does it. i guess they think maybe it will be easier to handle than shelling out a ton of money for zines that might never sell? but if the distro is around long enough, believe me, the zines will sell. maybe it will take forver & a day, but someone will buy them eventually, & it's amillion times easier to just buy outright. i give people the option of money or trading for stuff in my distro catalogue, & sometimes if i am strapped for cash, i order fewer copies of a zine when someone wants to be paid money, just to tide me through the rough patch until i can afford to pay cash for all the copies i want again. long before i started my distro, when my zines were in distros, sometimes people wanted to pay me on consignment. this only happened maybe twice, but of course i never saw any money from the distros working on consignment, & when i tried to find them & get paid, they had disappeared. i'm not saying that they were sketchy terrible people hell-bent on ripping off zinesters, but if a distro can't handle the committment to paying zinesters upfront (or at least having a very straightforward & reputable consignment payment schedule--& this doesn't count for new distros that don't have a reputation yet), it seems clear to me that they are fly-by-night & it's not worth sending my zines to them.

i do agree though that the zinester has a responsibility to follow up on problems though. there have been times when an order someone got from me as lost in the mail, & it would have been pretty distressing if the orderer had just decided i'd scammed them & started trash-talking my distro all over the place. but then, this is another reason i don't like consignment: many zinesters have their zines in several different distros, & it's hard to keep track of who has how many copies of which issue & whether they've paid yet, etc etc. i used to TRY to keep track of that stuff a few years ago & couldn't manage it, even though i clearly manage the exhaustive record-keeping that goes into maintaining my own distro.
Regarding consignment:

I've had my distro for 4 1/2 years and there was a time where I was able to pay cash upfront for everything I ordered and honestly I just can't now. I do offer consignment to zinesters as well as distro credit and if I have the funds available at the time, I am more than happy to pay upfront.

When I take a zine on consignment I log the writer's info and if they want their payment through Pay Pal or a check. Then I send out a payment out the first week of each month for what sold the prior month. It can be time consuming but it works for me and I just make sure I keep my logbook updated.

We all work differently and I haven't had any issues with people ordering from my distro and being a part of my distro because of it.

Sage~

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