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As I look through the zines section of Etsy I find myself getting frustrated whenever I see a zine that costs more than $2 or $3 and is not full color, or printed and bound in a unique way, or fifty pages or thicker, or otherwise distinguishable from zines that cost less.

My frustration is probably an unreasonable reaction, since it's not right for me to expect anyone else to place the same value on their own work that I place on mine. I didn't get into zines to make money, so I price based on the cost of materials and printing, usually with enough of a profit margin that I can print a few more copies of one of my mini-zines, for instance, with the money I make from selling one. Again, that's just my schema--I'm not at all saying that everyone should do it this way.

And I've sent out far more zines in trade than I've ever sold. If I see someone with a zine on Etsy or elsewhere that I really want but costs way too much for me to buy outright, I'll often ask if they do trade, and send them several of my own zines for one of theirs. I basically make zines so I can read zines.

But I am curious to see what others in the community consider when pricing their zines. Are you content-oriented or materials-oriented, or do you look at the finished product and say "This is worth $X"? Do you charge more for a brand new zine and then drop the price later? Do you do a short print run of a super fancy version of an issue (special cover and binding, full color, and/or bonus material) at a premium and then a bare-bones black & white one for cheap? Do you consider an art/illustration zine worth more than a text-heavy one (which tends to be a common perception in my very un-scientific survey of Etsy), or vise versa? Speak up! 

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I think zines need to go up a little bit. And I'm saying that as someone who's just decided to raise the price from $1-2 to $2-3, so I'm still on the low end. I'm finding more, especially on Etsy, that are $8-10. In some cases that because of color printing, letterpress, or customizing, which seems perfectly fair, but in other cases I'm surpised. Now maybe the description doesn't do it justice, and it's well worth the $6 they're asking for, I just can't always tell. The price of supplies and postage is going up, so it's only fair for the finished product to cost more. The bottom line is to charge what you're comfortable with so that you'll be satisfied and continue to make more.   --Margarat

Bert & Holly put out Ab for a dollar an issue.  It's typically 4 sheets folded in half, digest, but packed with info.  Dwelling Portably is similar and it seems almost without even really trying, I've kept a positive subscription balance for years.  I'm surprised but grateful for how cheap they've kept it, and how much they put into it for the price.

My latest Junk Zine is 5 sheets (10 pages) with a full color cover done up my cheap (but admittedly, often frustrating) Brother personal copier ($59).  One issue is about about 94 cents to print & mail.  (I did a couple pages on my ditto machine, which brought it down a little.)  And it was a short print run too. I don't think I've ever gone over $3 for a zine, even when it costs more to print & mail.  I mostly trade anyway, and send out a lot of complimentary issues.  I'm not worried about the money.  There are huge fringe benefits that compensate for the monetary loss.

Back in the 90's there was a term called "SASE zine", short zines sent out for just a SASE.  Many zines were way under a dollar.  Chris Boarts sold her Slug & Lettuce super-cheap, even by mail, for under a dollar for years.

I'm not putting down expensively produced zines, but I've always been into zines for the exchange of ideas and creativity, and part of the fun was the "cheap thrills".  It was more common in those days to do a lot as cheaply as possibly and pass on the savings---and there was a lot of creativity in those zines too.

Although this cheap, networking-focused "sub-scene" seems to be rarer, it still exists.  But I expect you'd have to start looking more off-line than on Etsy. Check out an issue of Maximum Rock-N-Roll.

But also, it does seem to be more of an intellectual nerd male sub-culture, or maybe punk, than riot grrrl. I guess it depends on what your'e looking for in the zine scene.


All my zines prices are based on what it cost to print them and then add a little extra ( like .25 - .50 cents ) to cover any printing hikes that may occur (like when my favorite copy shop suddenly went out of business and I had to resort to using kinko's for awhile, which at the double the price, cost me a lot more to print zines. Luckily I found a new cheaper copy shop that keeps my zine prices down.) I also charge less for selling in person than thru the mail. I prefer to trade with most people so there is no money involved and that seems to work out the best. I have been making zines since 1992 and have never made ANY profit. All extra cash I have received went right back into making more zines, or covering postage or trades.

I don't think that $3 for a decent sized zine sent thru the mail is too much, i don't care about color covers, or cardstock covers or how its bound, I care about content. If I get a zine that I love it, price is probably not an issue (as long as it is reasonable, I'm not paying $8-10 for a zine that is smaller than what i make and someone charging that much because they made a color cover.) But like Chris said above, it's up to the consumer what they are willing to pay, you may charge $3 and to some that's a bargain, to others that's a rip-off. You can't please everyone, i just try to be fair in my pricing/trading. 

One thing I never do these days (which I did in the past) is put a permanent price on my zines (pay no more than $X etc.) because with printing and postage going up everyday you have to be able to adjust your prices. For me I haven't sold a zine in a long time, almost all my zines go out in trades these days, which I prefer.

This is all really interesting to read. Keep it coming!


James and Chris, I just did an unconsumer manifesto zine, and I had to come up with a way to get it to people without selling it, so I asked for SASEs. Should have known the idea has been around for a while! 

I think it makes sense for zines to be sold at a price that aims to at least cover the cost of being made. I think it's reasonable to consider free contributors and promotional copies part of the cost of putting out a zine. I think it's reasonable for someone who puts out some zines at a loss to want their other zines to help cover this loss. I think it's also reasonable for people to aim to make a bit of money back for the time it takes not just to produce the zine but also to ship and distribute it. I think doing these things, even just breaking even on a particular zine, often means pricing a zine over $2. (Particularly if that includes shipping.)

Thanks for starting this discussion! Every time I finish a new zine, there's a point at which I sit and stare at the zine in my hands and realize that I have no idea how to price it. Having taken a hiatus from making zines (back in 2002 I charged $2 for everything), it was especially mind-boggling to figure out how to price these things when I first started back again.


What do I consider when pricing a zine? How many pages, and how much that will cost to print. What kind of envelope/postage the zine will require (I try to keep the weight of the zine within the $ 0.64 postage range when mailed with a note). Any special materials or printing techniques I may have used in the production of the zine. How long it took me to put together. Any additional costs I may run into (more about that later). Basically, my goal is to break even, as much as that is possible with zines. The money I get from selling a zine is what allows me to print the next one, buy stamps, etc.


I don't know that I'd ever consider an illustrated zine "worth more" than one that isn't, but I know that if I make a zine that's heavily illustrated, handwritten, or has a really intense cut + paste layout, I'm probably going to charge a little more because I know how much time went into it. Which isn't to say that I would only pay a little more for an illustrated zine or a comic over a text-only zine. It really depends on the zine.


Etsy is a great tool for selling things if you don't want to build a website and do want to take advantage of their traffic. Of course, there's a cost associated with this, and with using Paypal. My pricing reflects this, too. It's a delicate balance of determining how much I can charge so that I can break even vs. how much is more than people will want to pay for a zine. So far, so good... I think.


This discussion also made me take a look at the Etsy listing for my most recent zine, because I realized I hadn't mentioned the fancy paper I use for the cover. This paper was kind of pricey, and ties in perfectly with the overall theme for the zine, but no one would ever know that if I hadn't mentioned it! So thanks for the prompt to think about how I'm presenting my work to potential readers.


James N. Dawson said:

I'm not worried about the money.  There are huge fringe benefits that compensate for the monetary loss.

Wow, $5 is too high?

It totally depends on production costs. A card stock cover is 18 cents here, plus 12 cents if printed double sided (my printer can't handle card stock, I try to sell these at events, a flimsy cover just does not sell where I go).  It's 8 cents a page double sided for any regular paper, so even with 25 sheets (to make a 50 page booklet) plus a cover the printing costs here for one booklet would run $2.30 per issue.  I can't use a work xerox, I'm unemployed currently.  My home printer cartridge runs out of ink fast and each black cartridge is $32. It's cheaper going to a copy place.

Elaine said:

Wow, $5 is too high?

For someone with no source of income, who sells zines in order to be able to buy zines (but mostly trades zines), yes, $5 is too high.

Best to work out a trade then.   I've been sticking with science fiction conventions, the SCA events, craft shows and online, the $5 price hasn't put anyone off at this end that I can see. Heck, the fanzines run $25 per issue at the local conventions. 

Hannah / Frothy Press said:

Elaine said:

Wow, $5 is too high?

For someone with no source of income, who sells zines in order to be able to buy zines (but mostly trades zines), yes, $5 is too high.

Yeah, I also find that I rarely get a response when I try to initiate a trade with someone who wants $5 or more for their zine. I guess they'd rather have the money. To each his own.

All that having been said, if I'm at a symposium or convention where I brought pocket cash specifically for buying zines, I am much more open to splurging on a well-crafted item. Last time I went to the PZS I picked up an amazing set of tarot cards and an awesome T-shirt in addition to a bunch of zines; they were hella expensive, but it was a special occasion. However, even in that situation, if I see a zine that's straight up black & white photocopied with nothing going on to distinguish it from the $1 to $3 zines on every other table, but its creator wants $5, I avoid it. 

What tarot deck did you get?  (Curious, I did one of my own on a budget - the Ferret Tarot) LOL.

Fandom in SF and SCA is real cheap ass, but they do buy when they're interested.  At this point in the economy I haven't seen a big 'pickup' in discretionary income yet. 


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