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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! 

Tags: content, cost, etsy, materials

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I got it for a friend and can't remember all the details, but they were larger than average cards with a color palette similar to Rider-Waite (lots of pale blue) and a slightly different suit schema--staves were feathers, as I recall. It was a collaborative effort between several artists, so every card looked slightly different. 

I also picked up a few mini packs of the 8-Bit Tarot, which was still a work in progress at the time. I still have those; they're super cool!

One of these days I'll make my own set. I read from a Medieval Scapini deck right now, which is quite pretty, but I'd like a deck that's plain black & white with no logos in the corners. 

I sell my zine for $2 plus shipping, and it costs me about $1.50 to copy it. I've seen some outrageous zine prices, like $10 + shipping for a ten page zine that had no expensive embellishments besides a cardstock cover that was screen printed or something.
If that means federal caps on toner prices so all copies are a penny per side, I'm all for it! More government involvement! ;^)
For me it's a bit of both. I make a lit/art zine. There's comix and stuff, and that takes two seconds. Then I'll have short stories and poems and that'll take you longer to read it. I based it on how much it cost to make one, how much do other zines sell for at this size, number of pages, and time it takes to read the zine. I make a full size zine, the latest issues are in excess of thirty pages, and I charge four to five bucks for it. Though sometimes I wonder if that's fair. I mean people uninformed about zines are willing to pay me that. But even at five bucks I'm nowhere close to making a profit, and I'm making a little less to break even. It's expensive, because I print it myself. Like most of you, what little money makes its way back to me, I use to make more zines.

Pricing is tough. I sell vinyl records and other ephemera, so it's hard to resist doing the math on each zine's production cost versus how much return you get. When it comes to zines, I'm happy to break even, but it's a conflict even to charge break-even prices (2-3 bux)---I'd love to charge only a buck! What I think is good to make up for it is to toss in some kind of value-added thing--I plan a plastic bag zine package with a CDR for some future issues--which SEEMS to be a good incentive to buy as long as the CDR is at least interesting for ten minutes.

Of course, it doesn't have to be media...a mini-poster or a limited edition hand-drawn extra for X number of zines could also be cool. Found/upcycled extras...I remember Steve Albini from the Chicago band Big Black in the 80s would send out promo copies of the band's new vinyl with razor blades, condom packets, found ephemera...just to mess with people.

That's a great idea!

Joe Wallace said:

Pricing is tough. I sell vinyl records and other ephemera, so it's hard to resist doing the math on each zine's production cost versus how much return you get. When it comes to zines, I'm happy to break even, but it's a conflict even to charge break-even prices (2-3 bux)---I'd love to charge only a buck! What I think is good to make up for it is to toss in some kind of value-added thing--I plan a plastic bag zine package with a CDR for some future issues--which SEEMS to be a good incentive to buy as long as the CDR is at least interesting for ten minutes.

Of course, it doesn't have to be media...a mini-poster or a limited edition hand-drawn extra for X number of zines could also be cool. Found/upcycled extras...I remember Steve Albini from the Chicago band Big Black in the 80s would send out promo copies of the band's new vinyl with razor blades, condom packets, found ephemera...just to mess with people.

I've been doing that too--anything from mini-trading cards to artist collecter cards I drew.  They get added as a free 'extra'.  Makes people happy to get more than expected value.

I'm coming in late but... I price all my zines at either $2 or $3. though printing costs are usually not quite half that much, I give away sometimes a third of them as freebies, and many languish on the dusty back shelves of various stores around Australia in the hope that somehow, someday, someone may come and buy them.  I haven't ever sat down and worked out the sums properly (I should) but I break even most months, sometimes with a bit to spare.

I settled upon these prices because they were simple - $2 for small zines, $3 for larger ones.

It's interesting to get this feedback though, because when you make a zine and finally hold it in your hands, you really do think, what the hell is this worth? What price can I give it that is going to reflect that?

How many pages are your larger zines?

 

Some of my big ones are 10 pages (folded in half) printed double sided with a card stock cover, it costs $2 to print each. I staple them myself so don't have to pay for that, but still, it gets expensive.

It does make you wonder about the prices other people pay for printing though - my zines are on average 30 pages, and the $3 adequately covers the printing costs. You can get 50 page magazines for $10 and 100 page books for $20 - they're more expensive but you have to assume that they're able to cut costs because they're using commercial printers and are able to factor in bulk printing costs. But doing the maths they turn out more expensive, per page. Weird. Our not-so-competitive commercial publishing industry... does make you wonder when the next zine will break out into the mainstream.

I try to price my zines close to the cost of copies, possibly with a small hike in price to cover shipping supplies and any extra materials (vellum, pins, etc.) used in making the individual zines. My most expensive zines are $2.50 and $3, and they're the larger/longer ones.

 

I know this isn't a new thread, but going back to Hannah's original post, I still struggle with the prices I find on Etsy on a regular basis. I'm not sure what's led to some people holding onto what seems to be the classic zinester ethic of ignoring the profit margin, and not others. Maybe some people just aren't even aware that ethic exists? I get charging extra for letterpress, color, etc. but there's a huge discrepancy in pricing just for black & white, paper copies of similar sizes. If you sort by price on Etsy it's kind of mind-boggling. (To be fair, I think there's also some misunderstanding of how to charge for shipping on Etsy, so sometimes that puts me off.)

 

I've noticed that zine distros seem to be a lot more reliable/"expected" with their pricing by the way, but some people appear to only sell on Etsy at this point. Obviously I think about this a little too much, but it does drive me to try to keep my own prices low, even when I can't find a cheap copier.

I think the difference is this 'ethic'.   Not everyone making zines is doing it for the same reason or the way that it's been done in the past, not everyone even KNEW there was a zine community out there (I know I didn't know about it, I just did my own thing).  Hence not everyone does their zine to just break even - it may not be their goal to follow what the old school zines did in the past.

 

I feel a lot of people price things the way they do when they make arts and crafts.  They figure the price it cost to do it, cover their time at minimum wage, and add extra to accomodate a small profit margin which allows them to buy MORE materials (photocopy costs and paper, or ink cartridges which, let's face it, can run $30-$50 a pop depending on which printer you have).  Not everyone can use a photocopier 'at work' for freebies. 

 

Do I see this as a problem?  No.   Everyone is free to charge what they feel comfortable with, and if someone wants their work they will buy it.  As with anything produced by creative people, things change / environments change / times change / and people will adjust accordingly.  Yes, it may miss a few sales or it may cause a zine to not sell at all, but then again they would not be consistently priced on Etsy at that if they didn't move what they had created.

 

I do cartooning, I HAVE a profit margin I have to make to get my items produced and sold (I'm poor).  My paper oriented things have been priced up and down to find the best price point - I have cut out paper dolls, fingerpuppets and my booklets - and I set the price at what sold best to a wide range of people who visited my booth at events.  My stuffed toys are priced the same way (and believe me, when cotton fabric took the jump to $12,99 a YARD this month I'm relooking at what I charge on those very closely!).  I drop $150 a month at the fabric store for fabric alone, my stuffing costs are $250 a pop for bulk three times a year, as I'm unemployed the crafts are what is paying the bills right now.  I can not afford to be pricing things rock bottom, though I started out that way.

 

I figure there's room for both the original zinesters prices, and for the next phase of zinemakers who don't think breaking even is viable for them.  As always, it'll be the customer who will show if it's viable or not.  (Oh, I do have freebie zines, I include them with every order I send out).  

 

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