a place for zinesters - writers and readers
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!
I definitely agree that there's room for everyone and every pricing scheme. And to be fair, there are certain zinesters whose work I will buy no matter what the price (so far anyway) because I know they'll produce awesome quality work. And that makes me super happy.
I almost feel like it comes down to terminology. Maybe some of the pricier, more involved pieces being sold as zines might benefit from more explicit names? It kind of reminds me of what happened with ATCs and ACEOs (I won't get into it, but for anyone not familiar, http://artcardist.com/http:/artcardist.com/blogs/atc-vs-aceo-round-ii). Anyway, I wouldn't begrudge any artist the right to categorize their work as they wish, but it might alleviate some people's expectations of price (and even things like content and style, although I like to imagine there's no limit there).
For the record, I don't steal copies at work... maybe just because I'm an auditor, and it would give me a weird complex.
By the way Elaine your work sounds awesome, do you sell or display it online anywhere? I'd love to check it out.
My website is way out of date, is being redone from the ground up, but you can see the paper dolls and the tarot deck over here --
The cartoons are going to have their own website.
I try to watch for the 'get 20 free copies' codes for Office Depot and the $10 off $20 purchase at the print shop for Office Max, to defray costs.
I normally print up about 170 to 180 for about $150.00 plus shipping. I'll charge 2 dollars and with that is a full 8.5 by 11 size zine, stapled to look like a book or magazine and it's normally 24 pages front and back with covers. Mostly writing but some pages have more pictures than others.
I don't normally ask for submissions from others but this time I had a dude do a review. I'm probably going to send him 10 issues for him to do what he wants.
I also give out shit loads. Every time someone buys a record or whenever I send a package to friends overseas or Christmas time.
This is a really interesting topic. I agree that the $1 or trade model is a little outdated (think 90's economy, certainly inflation has raised the cost of copies and postage since then). I price my zine at about double the cost of printing. Here's why: I prefer for my primary method of getting my zines out there to be trade and through distros.
If distros can pay me the cost of printing, and make that for themselves, I think that's fair, and usually prefer distro credit anyway. And I'll trade with just about any other perzine writer. I'm always interested in other perspectives/stories/styles, so that seems like a beneficial exchange for both parties.
However, most of my zines have been fairly long, standard sized zine, and over the past few months, I've been playing around with mini-zine formats. I really like how accessible and inexpensive they are, and I'm looking forward to putting out a little collection of mini-zines. I think that's a pretty fun, cheap alternative, and it gives me the option to find new, cool, creative ways to package them all together.
I'm at a place where I want to do more creative stuff with my personal zine. In the past, it's been a really good outlet for me to deal with really hard emotional stuff. But I'm at a different place in my life now, and I'm really excited to do a zine for fun, to experiment with printing and binding and things like that. So, I guess we'll see.
I am in the uk and my latest poetry zine is 30 p and I have an a4 for £1 I think thats 60 cents and $1 but if I have to post them its double.
I decide my price based on how much it costs to print and if there are any hand-done elements. As others have mentioned, prices for printing and postage keep going up. For the most part I do shipping separately, so for my black-and-white photocopied zine Potentially Heartwrenching Distractions I charge $2. I Have a Song for You and Further Distractions are $3, because they have thick (and more expensive) cardstock covers and hand-done elements (painting, printing, etc.) The graphic short story I made with Frey Anya Everything Good and Beautiful is $5, because it cost a shitload of money to print it.
It's also worth mentioning that Etsy charges fees that can really add up, depending on what the payment method is and how expensive your item, so a lot of zinesters I know add an extra dollar for their zines on Etsy. At the moment, my Etsy prices are the same as my regular prices, but if I ever add their direct payment option to my site I will have to raise them to compensate for credit card fees.
As others have said, I'm not trying to make money, but I also can't afford to make zines at a loss (or go into debt). In my opinion, having a goal of breaking even is what makes a zine a zine. If you're charging $14 for something that costs $2 to print, that's a self-published book, or a chapbook, or... I don't know, call it what you want, but if you're charging standard retail prices (cost of goods x 8 is the formula most publishers use), and trying to turn a profit, it's not a zine.
I totally respect all forms of DIY awesomeness, and fully support people's efforts to make money off of their art, but it does irk me when the term "zine" is applied to any self-published, small press, saddle-stitched, or "indie" looking publication, so I totally get where you're coming from!
Thanks for posting this topic.
This is a struggle for me too. I priced my zines at $4 and $5 because they are 8 1/2 x 11 and between 60-75 pages. Every time I do one, it's a struggle for me to find a photo-copier who can help me break even at that price. So I finish the damn thing (usually a year-long project that I do once every four years) and I'm always faced with not being able to get it done without a loss. Last year I found a deal at Copy Max in Albuquerque but they did a very pissy job. Things were good when I was in LA and my friends there could sneak me into their office copy rooms during quiet weekends to steal some ink and copy machine. (I brought my own paper.)
Is a zine worth over $3. Good question. I surely find it hard to cut my zines down to fewer pages. Totally use the cheapest materials I can find. If I buy a fancy font, I usually eat that cost myself.
When the next zine comes out, I do experiment with the price of the old ones. Right now they're all the same. Will probably move them back. After a few years, some of my zine content gets posted on my site. So they should cost less.
I think if you can afford to sell them more competitively (cheaper), like an eBook at $2.99 (which seems to be the sweet spot), you might actually make more money in the long run, as zine sales go.
I sell my zines for 5 to 10 buck's,sometimes with a black & white cover.I figure it takes alot of time to write,draw,and print them.5 buck's isn't much money.I usually print a couple hundred or so,or have somebody print them for me and let them sell it,and give me i/2 the copies.Since so many shop's and distributor's are half assed about payment and bookkeeping,I have to charge more to make up for the freeloader's.I rarely break even.
Do you use card stock covers on them then? How many pages are in them? Just curious.