We Make Zines

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Maybe for some it's not, but for me it is. That's why the last print zine I did was about a year ago. You add that problem with the fact that very few if any people are willing to buy my zines, and the expense goes through the stratosphere. I have to conclude that the only way to afford producing print zines is to either become extremely wealthy or only produce a zine once a year or so. Or perhaps I can produce the kind of zines that the zine public wants. But if I did that, I would no longer be expressing myself freely. Plus that's too much like the mainstream press where you're also not allowed to express yourself freely. I guess that's what happens when you live here on spaceship Earth: The biggest ship of fools in the universe! A planet populated by the human race: The ultimate mainfestion of evolution gone mad! Just had to bring that up.

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When it comes to the audience problem, I'm more concerned with having a consistent audience than a large audience. If, for example, if I had a consistent audience of 20 people, I would consider that good. But if I have no audience at all -- which seems to be the case now -- I would consider that a waste.

One of the problems I have with promotion is the fact that I suck at persuasion. I suck at it so much that I couldn't persuade Ann Coulter to vote Rebuplican. Of course I can ask someone more persuasive than I am to help, but that doesn't work because I can't persuade them to help me.

In short, I guess I'll just stick with the one-print-zine-a-year plan, and do most of my zine work on the Internet -- unless a better option can be found.
Yul Tolbert said:
One of the problems I have with promotion is the fact that I suck at persuasion. I suck at it so much that I couldn't persuade Ann Coulter to vote Rebuplican.

Ha ha ha. A thought, maybe you need to work with someone else to promote your zine for you.
I think you need to be more pro-active. If you make something and you want to sell it, then you can't simply talk about 'expressing yourself freely', as that probably means you're making stuff no-one's interested in even if, in principle, they support low-fi publications. There are plenty of ways to get people interested in your work; first, get over yourself and learn to promote; second, as everyone else has said, get ads or input from someone else. Third; scam :P
It's not like I don't promote. In fact, I've been promoting my brains out for years. So obviously I'm either not doing it right or not doing it enough. One thing that might help me is free publicity. (Duh!) I have found ways to publicize my stuff for free, but it's not to the extent I'd like.
All i've ever seen from you is on this site... and just complaining that no one wants to read your zine. It doesn't exactly want to make me read it either.

That's not promotion. If you aren't confident in your zine how do you expect to get it out there?

Yul Tolbert said:
It's not like I don't promote. In fact, I've been promoting my brains out for years. So obviously I'm either not doing it right or not doing it enough. One thing that might help me is free publicity. (Duh!) I have found ways to publicize my stuff for free, but it's not to the extent I'd like.
for once, i agree with dan. scams still exist...they're just harder to find. & yes, postage costs have gone up & postal regulations have changed, but there are ways to work around that. if you absolutely cannot find a copy scam, use the bulk discount option available at almost every copy shop. running a distro, i always have zinesters telling me that they are having trouble scraping together the funds to make twenty copies of their zines for me. & of course it's expensive if you are running off 200 copies, paying full-price for them, going back the next week & running off another 200 copies...most shops offer significant discounts once you make more than 500 or 1000 photocopies. on, let's say, a standard-sized 24-page zine...that's about 85 copies of your zine. the UPS store, a national chain (that can still be scammed without too much difficulty, using the ol' swap-out-one-counter-for-another trick), charges only three cents a copy for more than 1000 copies. so that's like $32 (including tax) for 85 copies of your zine. sell 'em for a buck a pop & you've made your money back on both copying & postage. sell 'em for the increasingly-standard $2 & you have a down payment on your next zine, or some extra funds to buy a new stapler, typewriter ribbon, whatever. it's really not that difficult. flat-rate postage envelopes are still reasonably-priced. you can stuff like thirty 24-page half-sized zines into one & mail it across the country for less than $5 (like to a distro or whatever). yeah, it's an expenditure of time to be at a copy shop long enough to make 1000+ copies--my best time in nearly twenty years of making zines is an hour & a half. but it's worth it for the money you save.

& yeah, whining on a messageboard about how you don't have a loyal readership of twenty people willing to pay for your zine is not the way to build a readership. i usually give away copies of my zines to friends who have been reading my zines for a long time (or just people who liked my shit enough to write me a nice letter or whatever), & i sell the rest through my distro or the occasional advertising post on LJ or some other zine forum, & i break even. it definitely helps to write an awesome zine about topics that resonate with a decent chunk of the zine-reading audience, but the we make zines site is a perfect example of the diversity of preference & opinion among zine readers & writers. if, in the midst of all these different people, you are only selling a handful of zines...well, make your peace with that & foster good relationships with that handful of readers. if you're holding out for widepsread popularity & adulation, zines are probably the wrong medium for you anyway.
get your zine a myspace page. friend request everyone with the word "zine" in their name and then trade. people will start reading it that way. myspace is a good way to build up readers. i've talked to people from there that are on here and i didn't even realize that.

you have to make your zine sound like the best thing in the entire world. send it to distros. write blogs about it. ask people about their zine and get good feedback from successful zines. my friend osa always answers my questions and she's great. all the ladies on here are a HUGE help to me. love them.

lastly, if you are just going to complain, just stop making a zine for awhile and do something else. everyone has offered you a LOT of feedback and you just have to make a choice now.
Anyone care to share with us any of these great copy scams? Or at least tell us where we can find out about them? Like Nicoleintrovert said, I don't have access to a Xerox machine at work and once Staples stopped using the honor system I was pretty well fucked as far as scams go. Though I do admit I've never been great at being sneaky so there could be obvious scams I'm overlooking.

Besides, most of these scams depend more on apathetic employees than anything else. I'm pretty sure they notice you spending hours at a machine and carrying out boxes of copies while only paying $5.
I'm not sure if I want to be opening up another can of worms...and I hope this doesn't sound like a sermon or a challenge to the "scam ethic" dominant in the zine community...and I guess I'm opening myself up to being called a "goodie goodie", a "straight arrow" and a "right-wing corporation lover"...

But for me, ethically, "scamming" (i.e. stealing copies) is not on option...as a libertarian, a Buddhist, and an individual who doesn't like to dehumanize people (which stealing from them does), even "corporations". And in my final analysis, corporations, are, ultimately "people". Not necessarily la creme de la creme, but still people. I take my ethics seriously. Again, I'm not issuing a challenge, just putting in my 2 cents worth "for the record".

I do very little promotion, other than sending my zines out for review. I always send to Zine World. No offense to Davida who does a wonderful job, but I haven't been sending to Xerography Debt since I learned their reviews are selective. That's not a sin. I can understand why they'd only want to review "good" zines, and I'm grateful for some good reviews in and orders from XD, but ideally I prefer to send my work only to zines that try to review every zine they get, on egalitarian principles.

I do about a 100 copies, sometimes only 80, about once a year, and it takes me years to exhaust that supply. I've also been making about 60 copies of my 2-6 page apa-zines, that I mail out sporadically. I get some letters that are interesting, appreciative, informative, and thoughtful. I've met a lot of great zine friends. I also get trades. For me, that's plenty. I don't think I could handle too much more than I already have. Writing a zine is a slow, deliberate process, and I feel, the end product is more complete, more carefully worded and crafted, than forum messages (though they have their value too). Just the fact that I've made something that exists in physical space, in someone's home, or in some quiet old library somewhere, gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I make my zines for zine lovers, and I get satisfaction that a few people, even only a few, are happy to get and enjoy them.

I recently came across a full page ad in a Big Mail publication for offset printing. Here are some figures 100 double-side copies: $9 (4.5 cents per side, much better than Staples and 8/9 cents). 250 double-side: $15.75 (3.1 cents per side). 250 11 x 17 double-sided: 31.50. Prices INCLUDE shipping. E-Mail: ThriftyP@CenturyTel.net

I have not tried this, but it looks promising.

WARNING: Back in the mid-nineties I got some mail order printing from a company with similar terms. They're work was cheap and of good quality. But the last time it seemed like they were taking a long time to send my copies back. I called them and the woman who answered told me that the printer had "taken them home for review". I was puzzled. Why? What did she mean? She answered coldly and tersely, "We're a Christian company and your material was morally offensive". I was stunned. Okay, then please just send back my masters. You have no right to take them home and hold them. Fortunately they did promptly return them. Moral---Even printers with good quality and prices MAY have religious or ideological beliefs that may make them cause trouble for you.
If you attend a university, they usually give you a hefty amount of pages in your "print quota." for computer printers. I printed one of my zines while the quota server was down, basically getting +100 copies for free!
James N. Dawson said:
But for me, ethically, "scamming" (i.e. stealing copies) is not on option...as a libertarian, a Buddhist, and an individual who doesn't like to dehumanize people (which stealing from them does), even "corporations".

I'm not sure how you can justify your position by libertarianism. I have strong libertarian leanings... individual rights trump corporate and government rights in my world. I hate it when people compare corporations to people, they are more like government than people. I can definitely understand how your ethics keep you from scamming, more power to you for sticking by your belief system. I'm just saying there is a long history in zining of scamming to publish your zine that seems to be a little lost in the newest generation of zinesters. I'm gonna start a scam thread to share tips!
I dunno if anyone's suggested this - didn't read it all because I generally don't like being on forums on public computers - but you definitely should search around for a local print shop or local print chain at the most, rather than those big corporate chains. A local copying place I found does copies (on 8.5" x 11" paper; half-size zine) for $0.11 total for double-sided self-serve as opposed to something like $0.10 per side ($0.20 total) at FedEx Kinko's. Now, for one sheet it's not a whole lot of difference, but if you use 4 sheets of paper for a 16-page zine and print 50 copies to start, you just saved $18 ($22 total at the local shop, as opposed to $40). And then you can use that extra money to make some flyers for your zine (-cough- ...contact me about this... =P)


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