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How do you make your zine fest display look nice?

Hey everybody. I've been doing more zine fests and craft fairs recently, and I have a few coming up soon. I'd appreciate hearing about what you all have done to display your zines and books. I always just lay the zines flat in stacks, and that looks just fine of course, but it would be nice to mix it up a bit. People who sell crafty wares always seem to have such creative displays, and then I feel like my table looks sort of limp and sad by comparison. I don't feel it makes much sense for me to buy commercial display racks and stuff, but there must be something I can make or repurpose. Can anyone help?

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I use a tablecloth when I'm tabling, and I keep my zines in neat little stacks with typewritten descriptions below each issue. I have a small stand that holds up the most recent issue, and one with a stack of fliers. I also have a plastic frame with the name of my zine bold letters, and details on the 'theme' of each title. Having descriptions with each zine definitely boosts sale, starts conversations, and I get a lot of people telling me they wish they'd thought of doing that or that more tablers had done so. The frames and stands are from the dollarstore, and the tablecloths are from Salvation Army, so no big investment is needed.
As a regular visitor to zine fests/comic conventions/small press expos: I always really appreciate it when zines seem to invite being picked up and looked at. Some simple stacks can actually be better for that than nicer racks, where it feels like picking something up is going to mess up the display. Clear signs and prices are very much appreciated too.
Thanks folks! I think what I've been lacking is good signs describing what I'm selling, and prices. I like your idea to type up little descriptions of each zine, Amber and Maranda. I'll do that for the craft fair I'm going to next week. I already employ a tablecloth and a smile. :) I know what you mean, Dan, I feel shy about picking things up when they're all neatly arranged on a rack or something too. I guess I was just experiencing craft envy - some of those tables look so fancy.
I have a 70s tablecloth with hearts on, and some plastic flower garlands from a costume shop (the sort they sell for hawaiian themed parties) to drape round the edge. I also bring loads of cakes. Bringing cakes is pretty common in the UK, but Alex Wrekk found it funny and charming when she came to visit for the London Zine Symposium, so I guess not so common in the US, maybe it's because zine fairs here bear a strong resemblance to a village or school fête, something you don't have the same in the US.

(I just had a hunt on flickr, but I don't actually have any clear pictures of the stall at any event)
Cakes! How sweet. You mean like ... little ones, like cupcakes? Of course you must mean that, it would be outrageous to have a table full of great big birthday cakes! What a nice idea that is. I should bring some little treats, maybe candies. Thanks Emma. Mmmmm maybe one day I'll get to the London Zine Symposium. I'd love it. Make a world tour of zine fests.
brittle diabetics shouldn't snack on even vegan cakes. if i learned anything from stacey mcgill, i learned that. people who hate vegan pastries (me) shouldn't either.

actually, at the portland zine symposium, they had to ask people not to have plates of pastries & snacks available because it's a violation of the host space's food safety policy. there was a similar issue at the last boston zine fair, i believe. definitely it became a huge issue at the last boston skillshare, with the free lunch that was served by volunteers without safeserv certification or ingredients posted, etc. sometimes food is more complicated than you would think.

to answer the question, i put everything on a hand-painted, hand-sewn tablecloth with the distro name on it, but i have way too much stuff to do anything more intricate than that. it would save me a lot of work if i had space for little signs describing what each zine is about, but when i am tabling 150 zines at a time, my main concern is getting them to actually fit on the table.
Yes- cupcakes with decorations, I've got a great recipe for vegan ones with vegan buttercream icing I got off Isy Morgenmuffel that I use. It's pretty typical to bring cakes to fair type events here, so venues are generally ok about it. No idea about the US, I don't live there (I'm not even sure I can get in, until I get my next passport!)
Yeah my cakes are definitely NOT diabetic friendly, they are very heavy on the sugar. But the fact the icing is bright pink with sprinkles on top or panda faces probably alerts people to that!
Oh, a good idea I saw today- get an attractive office letter rack, and put zines in that.

Emma Jane Falconer said:
Yeah my cakes are definitely NOT diabetic friendly, they are very heavy on the sugar. But the fact the icing is bright pink with sprinkles on top or panda faces probably alerts people to that!
Oh, yes, a letter rack, that's a good idea. I like those ringed wire ones too, the ones that look like a Slinky on its side. I think I'll try to get my hands on one of them. I went to an artists' book fair this afternoon and saw a table arrangement that I thought was clever. A woman had taken a piece of printed fabric and sewn clear plastic down the front and attached little pockets of the same plastic, into which she inserted some of the postcards and tiny books she had for sale. She draped her fabric piece over a shoebox standing on its small side, with the books on display down the front. I tried to get a feel, as I looked around at the tables, for what seemed friendly what looked too intimidating to touch. This fabric-pocket thingie was inviting because the books stuck out enough at the top that I felt it was okay to pull them out and look.

Ciara, yes, I saw your table at the Boston Zine Fair last year. With all your things laid out one next to the other it looked attractive and, like, plentiful. I think this is the thing - lone zinesters have fewer things than distros and I want to find a way to make my table look full and lively, not sparse.

Anyway, I've got the gears turning. Thanks zine pals.
I actually sell crafts at craft fairs. I find that for me, with all the stuff I have for sale, the little pile of zines don't hold anyone's attention. I sell better at straight up zine fests. I feel like when people are looking at my clocks (that I make. newyorkclocks.etsy.com) and the customer's eyes go to the zines, I have to say something obvious like, 'and those are not clocks. they are little books'. ha.

anyhow, a couple of those easle stands will help. I haven't done it yet but personally I have always wanted to display my zines in a few of those cake stands, with the glass case. maybe have some free cupcakes at your table? oh I see someone else suggested that already. I second it.

hey katie, when is the next ZIne fair that is not far away from me in NYC? pss: a few of us are going to come out to Wooden Shoe probably at the end of January maybe you want to come and read that night? don't have a date yet. but if we are making the trip anyhow, have a second place we could read while there that weekend?
oooh, thanks, katie! it's so nice to get positive feedback about my distro tables. it's true that a lot of zinesters that are just tabling their own stuff have really gorgeous displays & sometimes i feel jealous that, as a distro, i just have too much stuff to do anything really stylized. i definitely enjoy looking at tables that have beautified themselves & the idea of little descriptions for the zines is a good one. but with like 150 items in the distro catalogue, there's jut no way for me to do it myself. makes me wish i would have tried harder to make my tables pretty back when i was just doing my own zines.

though i will say, even more important than a pretty table, is having zines that people want to buy. sometimes i read the best zines, but they're so awful-looking from the outside. it's always interesting to me to see what sells at a zine fair. it's usually very different than what sells through the distro online catalogue. when people order online, they are basing their decisions on the descriptions i write, & when i am falling all over myself because a zine blew me away, people can tell & they order it like crazy. but sometimes those zines aren't so appealing when you're just looking at it on a table at a zine fest, surrounded by dozens of other zines that are prettier. i'd never advocate for style over substance (substance FTW!), but a little style never hurts.


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