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Questions for Distro owners & zine makers/buyers too...

well, i know there have been other posts about this topic, but after reading through them all, and while i'm starting my own small distro thingy, i came across doubts and questions that i didn't find answers on the older posts. or maybe i read them wrong - if that's the case, just “link” me into the right direction - and i'll bug you no more!
but if anyone's got the time (and patience!) to read through this, these are my questions/doubts...

not long ago i read someone complaining that every distro carries the same “famous” zines. in my case, it's not about choosing zines because they are famous but because i like them, some are my favorite, they inspire me and i admire their makers. with this in mind, i've been sending messages and emails to various people in the zine world, but i always feel a little bit weird while doing it.
- any advices on how to “approach” a zine editor to invite to a new distro, specially a “famous” zine-maker?

- when accepting cash (real money) through “snail” mail, from costumers who don't have the option to make online payments, who is responsible if the money never shows up? this seems like a bit of a silly question, but, really, has anyone (distro owner or distro costumer) ever had to this problem?

- refunds - has that ever happened to any distro owner, someone wanting to return zines that they ordered, for whatever reason?

i have been pondering the possibility of accepting flats to copy & assemble (only stapled ones though), i have two copy-shops in my hometown and they have special prices for bulk printing, so it could be a good idea. but that raises questions:
- my biggest doubt is how to make the split percentage (specially a fair split, for both sides) between the zine-editor and the distro, since the distro will be the one having to support the costs of printing & the work of assembling the zines...
- as anyone ever worked/is currently working like this?
- what's the best option - having a good PDF file (with good enough resolution for printing), or having the “real” flats in paper? if someone would send flats through the mail, i'd be afraid they'd get wrinkled or even damaged during the trip, but then again, not everyone knows how to make a good PDF file out of their master-copy, so... it's tricky.
although, since i've worked with printers some years ago, i think it's always good to have one real copy of the zine, so that you can check for any photocopying/collating mistakes and such.

- recently, i saw an info on a distro, about them charging for free zines, where they explain that they do so because they have to pay for the shipping costs of having those zines sent to the distro. in a way, that makes sense to me, but i'd like to know other people's opinion, other distro owners opinions. to free zine editors: does it bother you that a distro charges for your zines, even if its a small amount, just to cover the postage costs of having them sent for stocking?

- when receiving zines for distro consideration, there's 2 options:
a) zine doesn't get accepted - if the distro's guidelines state that in this case, if the sender wants their copy back, they should send a self-addressed envelope when sending the zine. when you work  “internationally”, it's not possible to ask for a self-addressed stamped envelope because the shipping costs are obviously different. 
in this case, what's the common practice among distros - who pays the postage for returning the “refused” sample? this may seem like a silly question, but i'm almost sure someone will eventually ask me about that.
b) zine gets chosen to be in the catalog - what happens with that first copy? the distro pays for it, including it in the payroll while making an order for more copies to stock?

i've read about working on consignment, as payment option. it's seems quite normal to accept that physical stores don't have money for upfront payment, because they are afraid to risk losing money. somewhere else i read (and i think it was on a forum post here) that consignment is normal, specially if a distro is just starting, it makes sense that it doesn't have that much money to pay for all the zines it chooses to carry upfront, and also due to the uncertainty if a zine will sell well/fast. 
yet, i get the feeling (from reading some posts and dealing with zine-makers) that consignment is kinda frown upon. i understand they fear that a distro might try to scam them - has that happened to anyone here? but when it's clear that you're trying to start a serious “business”, isn't it also understandable that not everybody has a money-tree growing in their backyard? i'm not trying to offend anyone, or start a flame-war here, honestly. 
anyone wants to share their experiences of working (or not) on consignment, from distro owners, to zine-editors who work with distros?

- how about using distro credit as a payment, is that being used a lot? i read it can be cost effective for both sides (distro & zine-editor) - experiences, anyone?

while i'm doing my research on how to run my distro, i've realized that there are quite a few books, and even zines, about how-to make zines, or how-to silkscreen, how-to start a zine workshop, etc. While the “how-to make a zine” books/zines also mention a chapter on distros (how to start & run one, how zine-editors can work with distros, etc), there isn't really a how-to guide specifically on how to start & run distro (or for zine-makers on how to work with distros), as far as i know anyway... 
would anyone be interested in collaborating in a project about that? Like a how-to/guide zine, compiling experiences and tips from other distro owners...


p.s.: maybe i should have made two seperate posts, so this wouldn't be soooo long. i'm afraid it will get way too boring to be read and nobody will answer haha!

Tags: distro, distro owners, distros, how to, zine distros

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Thanks for your questions! I'm been going back and forth on starting a distro so I don't have any specific advice for you, but as for charging for free zines - I've seen distros charge 1 cent on such zines just so they'll be able to be added on Paypal orders. I don't see a big problem with that, it's just a cent and it'll take a few hundred of those to really make an impact!
Woah! Great questions! Hopefully my answers can help you out a bit. :) I cut out some of your questions so my post wouldn't be so long.

- any advices on how to “approach” a zine editor to invite to a new distro, specially a “famous” zine-maker?
I just email them saying Hey I run a small distro and I came across your zines and I would love to stock them. What are your wholesale prices? *Make sure you research the zines before hand. I know it sounds stupid, but trust me it's worth it. I went through a period where I just read a description about the zine and emailed the zinester immediately. Take some time to check out some reviews and make sure you know exactly what the zines all about.
And I just picked zines that I found interesting and cool. Some where already in tons of distros (Like Urinal Gum), and others weren't anywhere (Like An Unedited Mind). And if you have a "famous" zine that's in other distros, so what?

- when accepting cash (real money) through “snail” mail, from costumers who don't have the option to make online payments, who is responsible if the money never shows up?
I haven't had this problem. And I think it's the persons fault really. Because I have a way where people can order using paypal and credit cards, so the person had other options... Idk.

- refunds - has that ever happened to any distro owner, someone wanting to return zines that they ordered, for whatever reason?
I've never had to issue one, but it's easy using paypal, and you could always give distro credit instead.

- my biggest doubt is how to make the split percentage (specially a fair split, for both sides) between the zine-editor and the distro, since the distro will be the one having to support the costs of printing & the work of assembling the zines...
I'd say split it 70/30 with you getting the 70 percent... but it depends on the zine. I don't do flats because I know I couldn't make it to the printer that often.

- what's the best option - having a good PDF file (with good enough resolution for printing), or having the “real” flats in paper? I don't mind PDF files, to me the content is important.. But I love having the tangible zine. It's much cooler.

- recently, i saw an info on a distro, about them charging for free zines, where they explain that they do so because they have to pay for the shipping costs of having those zines sent to the distro. in a way, that makes sense to me, but i'd like to know other people's opinion, other distro owners opinions. to free zine editors: does it bother you that a distro charges for your zines, even if its a small amount, just to cover the postage costs of having them sent for stocking? It depends.. Are they charging you shipping AND for the cost of the zine? Because I would hate that..

- when receiving zines for distro consideration, there's 2 options:
a) zine doesn't get accepted - if the distro's guidelines state that in this case, if the sender wants their copy back, they should send a self-addressed envelope when sending the zine.
I state in my rules that the other person must pay for the postage back..
b) zine gets chosen to be in the catalog - what happens with that first copy? the distro pays for it, including it in the payroll while making an order for more copies to stock?
I don't have this problem since my zines are on consignment.. Maybe you could work that out beforehand and put that in your rules perhaps?

i've read about working on consignment, as payment option. it's seems quite normal to accept that physical stores don't have money for upfront payment, because they are afraid to risk losing money.
I work on consignment.. And so far people are okay with it.. Sometimes I buy a set wholesale, but only if I have the extra cash.. I have about 50 different zines, all are sold on consignment..

- how about using distro credit as a payment, is that being used a lot? i read it can be cost effective for both sides (distro & zine-editor) - experiences, anyone?
It depends on what you use to run your distro. I have a shopping cart system so when someone gets distro credit I can actually make an electronic coupon that acts as a gift certificate. So that makes things easy.. But if you didn't have that keeping track of who has how much credit would be quite difficult.

while i'm doing my research on how to run my distro, i've realized that there are quite a few books, and even zines, about how-to make zines, or how-to silkscreen, how-to start a zine workshop, etc. While the “how-to make a zine” books/zines also mention a chapter on distros (how to start & run one, how zine-editors can work with distros, etc), there isn't really a how-to guide specifically on how to start & run distro (or for zine-makers on how to work with distros), as far as i know anyway...
would anyone be interested in collaborating in a project about that? Like a how-to/guide zine, compiling experiences and tips from other distro owners...
I'd be interested! That sounds like a great idea!


Extra tips:
Definitely let people place their orders and pay through snail mail and with cash. I only have a shopping cart system, and I've had about 5 people email me because they were confused about how to place an order (no joke).

Don't be afraid to email people and ask if you can distro their zines.

Use the internet to help get your distros name out there.

And I know everywhere it says you'll need to put in a lot upfront for your distro, but really you don't. There are easy ways to get cheap promo material for your distro, and there's cheap hosting.

If you are going to code your site from scratch, take some time to learn about SEO, it'll help you in the long run.
hello Tiara! thanks for the reply :)
yes, i've ordered from distros were they charge 1 cent because of the paypal cart issue, but they mention that if you don't want to pay for the zine you should write a note on the paypal checkout. i don't mind paying a cent for a free zine, and i've actually bought more than one zine like that, it's not like i'm gonna get poorer cause of a couple of cents hehe!
my concern is about the people who make those free zines, if they like it or not, specially if more than 1 cent is charged, though i haven't seen that happen in distros.
the distro i saw that info on (though i'm not gonna give out names, that's irrelevant for my post), i've browsed their catalog today but it looks like they're out of free zines at the moment, so i have no idea of how much they were charging...

Tiara Shafiq said:
Thanks for your questions! I'm been going back and forth on starting a distro so I don't have any specific advice for you, but as for charging for free zines - I've seen distros charge 1 cent on such zines just so they'll be able to be added on Paypal orders. I don't see a big problem with that, it's just a cent and it'll take a few hundred of those to really make an impact!
hi Brittney! thanks for the reply (& patience!) :)

I cut out some of my questions too and put your comments in 'italics', so that i can comment on your advices within this getting too confusing!

- any advices on how to “approach” a zine editor to invite to a new distro, specially a “famous” zine-maker?
Make sure you research the zines before hand. I know it sounds stupid, but trust me it's worth it. I went through a period where I just read a description about the zine and emailed the zinester immediately.
--- i started sending "invites" to zines i have in my own collection, because that's how i know they're good ;-).
though i did buy a lot of zines just by reading a description, specially at first, it was a matter or luck, i guess. sometimes i see an ad to zine on the internet, that looks interesting and then i'll just ask if they're interested in sending a copy for distro consideration.
my thing with inviting a "famous" zine-maker is that sometimes i think they won't care about my distro, since it's a new thing, barely starting, etc, etc. and because i'm in Europe, in this little country called Portugal, i also feel that kinda puts people off. --

- refunds - has that ever happened to any distro owner, someone wanting to return zines that they ordered, for whatever reason?
I've never had to issue one, but it's easy using paypal, and you could always give distro credit instead.
--- yeah, i never thought about the paypal refund option! but if i'm giving them their money back, then i want the zine back too :p ---

- my biggest doubt is how to make the split percentage (specially a fair split, for both sides) between the zine-editor and the distro, since the distro will be the one having to support the costs of printing & the work of assembling the zines...
I'd say split it 70/30 with you getting the 70 percent... but it depends on the zine. I don't do flats because I know I couldn't make it to the printer that often.
--- since the copyshops here are quite near (i can always get a lift from my dad, or make half the way on the subway), i thought about it, for a situation like where the zine-editor doesn't have enough copies or can't afford to send me many copies but would still want to be in the distro's catalog... ---

- what's the best option - having a good PDF file (with good enough resolution for printing), or having the “real” flats in paper?
I don't mind PDF files, to me the content is important.. But I love having the tangible zine. It's much cooler.
--- i meant a PDF file to use for making those copies myself, this one's connected to the previous question. anyway, i also prefer having the paper-zine in my hands when getting them for consideration. i've accepted PDF once, but it was from someone who's work i already knew and i could trust that the print-version would be good enough. ---

- recently, i saw an info on a distro, about them charging for free zines, where they explain that they do so because they have to pay for the shipping costs of having those zines sent to the distro...
It depends.. Are they charging you shipping AND for the cost of the zine? Because I would hate that..
--- like i answered to Tiara, the distro i saw that info on (though i'm not gonna give out names, that's irrelevant for my post), i've browsed their catalog but it looks like they're out of free zines at the moment, so i have no idea of how much they were charging... ---

- i've read about working on consignment, as payment option. it's seems quite normal to accept that physical stores don't have money for upfront payment, because they are afraid to risk losing money...
I work on consignment.. And so far people are okay with it.. Sometimes I buy a set wholesale, but only if I have the extra cash.. I have about 50 different zines, all are sold on consignment..
--- yeah, 50 zines is quite a lot of money if you had to put it upfront! i try not to get too ambitious and wanting to stock that many zines or even all the zines i find being really good & fitting to the distro's catalog, because i feel most of them would have to be payed upfront, which i can't do :( . i might get some from wholesale distros in the near future, otherwise it will take me too much time to build the catalog, the way i've been doing ;/ ---

- how about using distro credit as a payment, is that being used a lot?...
It depends on what you use to run your distro. I have a shopping cart system so when someone gets distro credit I can actually make an electronic coupon that acts as a gift certificate. So that makes things easy.. But if you didn't have that keeping track of who has how much credit would be quite difficult.
--- i've only had that distro credit option asked from one zine-editor, so it's not that much work (yet). but i don't know if it will happen in the future, so i'll have to search PayPal for that gift certificate option. ---

... there isn't really a how-to guide specifically on how to start & run distro (or for zine-makers on how to work with distros), as far as i know anyway... would anyone be interested in collaborating in a project about that? Like a how-to/guide zine, compiling experiences and tips from other distro owners...
I'd be interested! That sounds like a great idea!
-- that's cool :) . i know you probably can't make it like a "how-to-make-a-zine" guide, because distro's can work in so many different ways (but zines can also be done in so many different ways too), but it's the gathering of advices, people's experiences, and tips that i think could useful to be put into a guide-like form. ---


Extra tips:
Definitely let people place their orders and pay through snail mail and with cash. I only have a shopping cart system, and I've had about 5 people email me because they were confused about how to place an order (no joke).

--- i believe you, i myself have trouble with setting up the paypal system, so... LOL ---

Use the internet to help get your distros name out there.
--- so far, i've used Facebook and made a group page for the distro, while i post around other groups and pages that are about topics i want to get zines about or plan to have in the catalog. also used LiveJournal to post around asking for distro submissions, but in general it hasn't been getting me that far. since i was once a real internet addict, i know all about Hi5 and MySpace, so when the distro's catalog is up maybe i'll have to get an account on those two. ---

And I know everywhere it says you'll need to put in a lot upfront for your distro, but really you don't. There are easy ways to get cheap promo material for your distro, and there's cheap hosting.
--- oh yeah, i definitely can't afford site hosting, so i'm using Blogger to make a blog and turn it into a shop. kinda lame, no?
but i looked up some online shop websites, like Big Cartel, and they seem to have good options, but i'm not gonna risk paying a monthly fee to put up the store there. maybe in the future, but i'd have to start the thing from scratch...
as for cheap promo material, i'm not sure what you mean - like fliers or online advertising? ---
re famous zinesters - I don't think anyone's *too* famous that they won't consider your distro! They may wonder if you're legit or a scam but other than that even conventional famous people are often happy to hear from you :)

Gomes / Invicta Distro said:
hi Brittney! thanks for the reply (& patience!) :)

I cut out some of my questions too and put your comments in 'italics', so that i can comment on your advices within this getting too confusing!

- any advices on how to “approach” a zine editor to invite to a new distro, specially a “famous” zine-maker?
Make sure you research the zines before hand. I know it sounds stupid, but trust me it's worth it. I went through a period where I just read a description about the zine and emailed the zinester immediately.
--- i started sending "invites" to zines i have in my own collection, because that's how i know they're good ;-).
though i did buy a lot of zines just by reading a description, specially at first, it was a matter or luck, i guess. sometimes i see an ad to zine on the internet, that looks interesting and then i'll just ask if they're interested in sending a copy for distro consideration.
my thing with inviting a "famous" zine-maker is that sometimes i think they won't care about my distro, since it's a new thing, barely starting, etc, etc. and because i'm in Europe, in this little country called Portugal, i also feel that kinda puts people off. --

- refunds - has that ever happened to any distro owner, someone wanting to return zines that they ordered, for whatever reason?
I've never had to issue one, but it's easy using paypal, and you could always give distro credit instead.
--- yeah, i never thought about the paypal refund option! but if i'm giving them their money back, then i want the zine back too :p ---

- my biggest doubt is how to make the split percentage (specially a fair split, for both sides) between the zine-editor and the distro, since the distro will be the one having to support the costs of printing & the work of assembling the zines...
I'd say split it 70/30 with you getting the 70 percent... but it depends on the zine. I don't do flats because I know I couldn't make it to the printer that often.
--- since the copyshops here are quite near (i can always get a lift from my dad, or make half the way on the subway), i thought about it, for a situation like where the zine-editor doesn't have enough copies or can't afford to send me many copies but would still want to be in the distro's catalog... ---

- what's the best option - having a good PDF file (with good enough resolution for printing), or having the “real” flats in paper?
I don't mind PDF files, to me the content is important.. But I love having the tangible zine. It's much cooler.
--- i meant a PDF file to use for making those copies myself, this one's connected to the previous question. anyway, i also prefer having the paper-zine in my hands when getting them for consideration. i've accepted PDF once, but it was from someone who's work i already knew and i could trust that the print-version would be good enough. ---

- recently, i saw an info on a distro, about them charging for free zines, where they explain that they do so because they have to pay for the shipping costs of having those zines sent to the distro...
It depends.. Are they charging you shipping AND for the cost of the zine? Because I would hate that..
--- like i answered to Tiara, the distro i saw that info on (though i'm not gonna give out names, that's irrelevant for my post), i've browsed their catalog but it looks like they're out of free zines at the moment, so i have no idea of how much they were charging... ---

- i've read about working on consignment, as payment option. it's seems quite normal to accept that physical stores don't have money for upfront payment, because they are afraid to risk losing money...
I work on consignment.. And so far people are okay with it.. Sometimes I buy a set wholesale, but only if I have the extra cash.. I have about 50 different zines, all are sold on consignment..
--- yeah, 50 zines is quite a lot of money if you had to put it upfront! i try not to get too ambitious and wanting to stock that many zines or even all the zines i find being really good & fitting to the distro's catalog, because i feel most of them would have to be payed upfront, which i can't do :( . i might get some from wholesale distros in the near future, otherwise it will take me too much time to build the catalog, the way i've been doing ;/ ---

- how about using distro credit as a payment, is that being used a lot?...
It depends on what you use to run your distro. I have a shopping cart system so when someone gets distro credit I can actually make an electronic coupon that acts as a gift certificate. So that makes things easy.. But if you didn't have that keeping track of who has how much credit would be quite difficult.
--- i've only had that distro credit option asked from one zine-editor, so it's not that much work (yet). but i don't know if it will happen in the future, so i'll have to search PayPal for that gift certificate option. ---

... there isn't really a how-to guide specifically on how to start & run distro (or for zine-makers on how to work with distros), as far as i know anyway... would anyone be interested in collaborating in a project about that? Like a how-to/guide zine, compiling experiences and tips from other distro owners...
I'd be interested! That sounds like a great idea!
-- that's cool :) . i know you probably can't make it like a "how-to-make-a-zine" guide, because distro's can work in so many different ways (but zines can also be done in so many different ways too), but it's the gathering of advices, people's experiences, and tips that i think could useful to be put into a guide-like form. ---


Extra tips:
Definitely let people place their orders and pay through snail mail and with cash. I only have a shopping cart system, and I've had about 5 people email me because they were confused about how to place an order (no joke).

--- i believe you, i myself have trouble with setting up the paypal system, so... LOL ---

Use the internet to help get your distros name out there.
--- so far, i've used Facebook and made a group page for the distro, while i post around other groups and pages that are about topics i want to get zines about or plan to have in the catalog. also used LiveJournal to post around asking for distro submissions, but in general it hasn't been getting me that far. since i was once a real internet addict, i know all about Hi5 and MySpace, so when the distro's catalog is up maybe i'll have to get an account on those two. ---

And I know everywhere it says you'll need to put in a lot upfront for your distro, but really you don't. There are easy ways to get cheap promo material for your distro, and there's cheap hosting.
--- oh yeah, i definitely can't afford site hosting, so i'm using Blogger to make a blog and turn it into a shop. kinda lame, no?
but i looked up some online shop websites, like Big Cartel, and they seem to have good options, but i'm not gonna risk paying a monthly fee to put up the store there. maybe in the future, but i'd have to start the thing from scratch...
as for cheap promo material, i'm not sure what you mean - like fliers or online advertising? ---
Hi Gomez, here is a long response to your long post!

About me: I am a co-organizer of the Trees & Hills Comics Group, a regional group for cartoonists in the US states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and the western part of Massachusetts. Among our various activities, we distribute comics made in our region. We make most of our sales at events (conventions, zine fairs, craft fairs, etc.) and through stores. This may be in part because our online shop was out of date for so long; now that I've revamped it, I'm trying to figure out how to get more orders through it. I also hope for us to carry a more comprehensive stock then we currently do. We mostly acquire comics for the distro in person. So, I think we are a bit of an odd duck in the world of zine distros.

Q - any advices on how to “approach” a zine editor to invite to a new distro, specially a “famous” zine-maker?
A - Pretty much what Brittney said. Maybe they will say "No," but I bet you can deal with that.

Q - cash in the mail
A - We don't offer this as an option, so I don't have any experience.

Q - refunds - has that ever happened to any distro owner, someone wanting to return zines that they ordered, for whatever reason?
A - Hasn't happened so far. It may help to decide on and post a returns policy. I can't think of many good reasons someone would want to return zines. If someone receives an incorrect order, I'm inclined to just send them the correct item and leave it at that. Alex Wrekk has some relevant policy in her FAQ you may find useful: http://smallworldbuttons.bigcartel.com/faq

Flats
(We don't deal with flats, but I'll offer a couple of opinions)
Q - % split?
A - Doing flats kind of shades into publishing rather than strictly distributing. You might split the amount left over after copy costs, or you might subtract the copy cost from the amount they would normally receive. Either way, I would determine the copy cost at the beginning and agree to that amount with them rather than trying to keep them updated on every little jiggle in copy cost. Maybe the deal could be that your revisit the copy cost once a year.
Q - PDF or paper?
A - I would ideally want a PDF because it's so easy to send to the printer, plus one hard copy to use as a guide. It's up to you if you want to accept hard-copy-only submissions. If you do accept them, you could set up a pdf yourself and use that.

Q - Charging for free zines
A - I definitely think charging for a free zine is wrong. I think charging for shipping on a free zine is OK. If you can afford or are willing to ship free zines for a penny or less, then that is a lovely thing.

Q - What to do with submitted zines?
A - We state up front that we don't return submitted zines (or we did when our submissions guidelines were online...need to get those back up); it simplifies things and I think is fairly common. I've seen distros announce they donate unwanted zines to libraries. We don't receive a lot of unsolicited submissions & so don't deal with this much. I would say if you plan to sell it you should definitely pay for it. In any case, you should state your intentions up front so people know what to expect. It may depend too on how many copies you buy from them - if you only buy a few copies, then that submission is a larger percentage of the total order.

Consignment
Q - a distro might try to scam them - has that happened to anyone here?

A - No, but I haven't placed my work in many distros. I have consigned to a couple of distant stores that I haven't collected from. If you search around, I think you will easily find stories of people who've been ripped off on consignment (not always maliciously - sometimes distro owners are flaky, or they go out of business). On the flip side, artists can be flaky too, and you may have trouble tracking some of them down to pay them. They may change addresses without telling you, etc.
Q - when it's clear that you're trying to start a serious “business”, isn't it also understandable that not everybody has a money-tree growing in their backyard?
A - I appreciate that many of us (including me) have little money and I applaud efforts to accomplish things on little cash, but to me one important thing that signals a "serious business" is willingness to invest in it. Trees & Hills buys all of our stock up front (except for my comics, because I'm so involved that I have trouble keeping them separate) because we believe it's better for both us and the artist. It's good for the artist because they get money right away, and good for us because we don't have to keep track of a bunch of consignments.

It's so much less hassle. When we sell comics, we keep the money because we already paid for them. We don't have to track down the artist with a bunch of piddly payments, or keep records on how much we owe people until there's "enough" to pay them. We also don't have to pay extra postage for a bunch of checks. It encourages us to take good care of the stock - if we lose or damage something it's our own problem, not grounds for an argument with the person who consigned them.

One plus to consignment is it can free you to experiment more with what you stock. Paying up front means you want to feel more strongly about what you're stocking. But don't you want to mainly carry zines you feel passionately about anyway? Historically we've managed to sell through most of what we've bought.
Another possible in-between way could be to do consignment but offer up-front or net-30 to for zines you feel more confident about. I don't know if anyone else is doing this, and I'm not especially recommending it because I don't like consignment, but it's an option.

An in-between measure is to pay "net-30" (or "net-60"), which means you pay for all the zines 30 days after you receive them. This gives you a chance to sell some of them before paying for them. I've dealt with a couple of distros that do this, and while it's not as nice as payment up front, I like it better than consigment.
In any case, I highly recommend you keep distro finances separate from your personal finances.

Q - how about using distro credit as a payment, is that being used a lot? i read it can be cost effective for both sides (distro & zine-editor) - experiences, anyone?
A - Trees & Hills offers 50% cover price in cash, 100% cover price distro credit, or a mixture of the two. People mostly take the cash, though, I think for a variety of reasons including our relatively small selection and the trading that happens in our community outside the distro.

Q - would anyone be interested in collaborating in a project about that? Like a how-to/guide zine, compiling experiences and tips from other distro owners..
.
A - That sounds great, but unfortunately I don't have the time or energy to properly collaborate on something like that. Obviously I have a lot of thoughts on the matter, though, so if you do it and want to quote anything here or try to squeeze some more out of me, just drop me a line.

In response to your comment above in the discussion, I think it's fine that you're using Blogger. If you want to get a little fancier you could pay the US$10 a year or so to get your own domain name for it so your address doesn't have "blogspot" in it.

Good luck!
Hey!
I’ve spoken to a you a little by email but here are my answers to your specific questions.
For anyone else who might be reading, I run marching stars distro (www.marchingstars.co.uk) out of Reading/Nottingham in the UK and have around 100 titles in stock, all bought wholesale, been going for over 2.5 years.

‘famous’ zines(ters)
- Initially this really intimidated me too, so I completely get where your question is coming from!
- I had sent letters to a number of zinesters long before I started a distro, so a few people certainly knew of my existence.
- My advice is just to ask. The worst they can do is say no.
- Just send a nice (personalised!) email saying which of their zines you’ve read, where you got them from, that you’re starting a distro (link them to the website), the kinda of things you stock, and then just ask if you’d be able to stock their zines. Give them a quick rundown of how you pay (wholesale/consignment) too.
- I find most zinesters to be very supportive of new distros, although if you are only paying on consignment and they haven’t heard of you before then people might, understandably, be a little hesitant at first.... that’s to be expected.
- If people say no, or don’t reply, email them in 6 months when you can prove your staying power.

Accepting cash
I do accept cash (although it happens very rarely). I’ve never had a problem of not receiving it, but if I did then it would be the customers responsibility, not mine. In the customer-distro relationship, I’m the one that can be trusted... I’ve got the track record of not running off with money...

Refunds
I’ve never come across any distro that has offered refunds. Unless I’ve accidentally sent them the wrong zine (and I then quickly send them the right one and cover all costs and they keep the original wrong zine too), I wouldn’t send a refund. I’m not a library. If you do need to send a refund because you’re out of a zine or something then it’s really easy to do by paypal within 60 days.

Accepting flats
What do you mean by ‘only stapled’?
*Heads up that North American paper sizes are different from UK/Europe – this causes no end of troubles for flats!*

I do have some flats which I print locally and make into zines, yes.

- percentage split? When I print from flats the zinester doesn’t get any split of the money. Retail price of zines I copied myself is around 60% printing and 40% distro profit. I have permission do this from the zinesters and generally the feeling is that they want their zine out there rather than the money. Very few zinesters I stock are making any money at all after printing once they have sold their zines to me at wholesale price. They want maximum distribution, therefore I’m able to keep costs low and print it myself.

- does it work? If you can get around the paper size issue, it can definitely work well for both the zinester and the distro, yes.

- best option – I work from PDFs and photocopies of the master flats. I don’t have any master flats if that’s what you’re asking and I doubt any zinesters would ever send those! PDFs are good because you can usually resize them to your own paper size slightly easier. Photocopies need to be the same size as your local paper size...


Charging for free zines
Various situations and various solutions:
1) Someone sends me free zines, they pay for postage.
I put the zine in the distro at 1p so paypal is happy. If someone orders via snail mail then the zine is completely free.
2) Someone sends me free zines, I pay for postage.
I put the zine in the distro at a nominal price of around 10p. The zinesters has agreed to this.
3) Someone sends me free zines and says “feel free to charge what you like, keep the profit for your awesome distro”
I love these people. I usually put these zines in the distro at 25p.

Receiving zines for consideration
I have people email me and tell me about their zine before I give them my address to send it. I do this so that I don’t get zines there’s no hope in hell of me wanting to stock. You’d be surprised the number of people who want you to stock their zine that has nothing to do with your distro’s themes and they clearly haven’t ever looked at your distro before! I find this works effectively as a first screening process.
a) I don’t return zines I have not accepted unless the zinesters pays postage for me to return them. After 2.5 years and maybe over 50 zines sent for consideration, this has never happened.
b) If the zine does get accepted to the distro, I keep the original copy. I don’t pay for it at any point. (If anyone really cares, it gets a star sticker put on it so I can identify it from stock and it goes into my personal collection – I consider this one of the perks of being a distro owner, free zines).

Consignment
I don’t work on consignment. I spent around £150-200 on stock when I first started. I’m aware I was in a very fortunate position to be able to do this.
Things I will say about the wholesale/consignment issue:
- There is a trust issue here... and zinesters are more likely to let you stock them as a new distro if you’re offering wholesale.
- From what I can tell, consignment doesn’t work very well when combined with international postage.... I suggest you have a clear policy from the start on postage. I get quite stressed over who pays postage as it is, and we’re only arguing about paying once...
- I would hazard a guess that it is impossible to set up a distro without investing at least some of your own money... even if you’re working on consignment. (Can anyone else deny/agree with this?)

Distro credit
I have and continue to offer “distro trade/credit” for payment.
I personally offer the value of zines up to the wholesale value of the zines I’m buying. We both pay our own postage.
So say I was getting in 10 zines that were £0.50 wholesale/£1 retail, I would offer £5 of zines from the distro... and we’d both pay our own postage.
This is becoming less of an option as I deal with larger and larger quantities in my orders. For example, I ordered $100 wholesale worth of zines from someone the other day who has taken distro trade/credit payment in the past... but they aren’t going to want $100 worth!
Also, I find this definitely works best for UK zinesters. UK postage costs are almost double that of US and when I do distro trade/credit with US zinesters I really lose out as it costs me so much to send them their part of the trade.


Advice for starting a distro
- The distro section in Alex Wrekk’s Stolen Sharpie Revolution 2 is pretty good.
- Check out the livejournal community distrokids, especially the memories/favourites. There’s a wealth of knowledge in there and I read about 70% of it before I started.
- I think a zine would be good, but quite often I think people have an overview of how it works but have very specific questions which are bothering them, in which case a forum like this works better. We’re a lovely bunch over at ‘distro owners’ group so ask away! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels as though they’ve accumulated this wealth of knowledge about a really niche thing/experience that they’d love to have the opportunity to share more!

Other advice
Something you touched on in your email to me, which I’d like to talk about a little here... “international distros”. (I love how everywhere is international to North America... it seems messed up to me that I describe myself as an international distro!)
Trying to set up an international distro presents itself with a whole load of challenges that those in North America never need to consider. You have to worry about international postage, and exchange rates, and packages which didn’t travel well and are all battered. You’re going to need better negotiating skills.

I’m aware that living in the UK (and I’d also include Australia into this group), I’m likely to be in a more fortunate position than you in Portugal. The UK has a thriving zine scene and 90% of my orders are from the UK. Does Portugal? I think if you’re hoping to get orders from outside Portugal/Spain you’re going struggle. You need to generate customers closer to home. If you’re hoping to stock predominantly North American/non-Portuguese zines, then customers from outside Portugal are going to be able to get their hands on the same zines cheaper elsewhere. I’m sure you’ve thought about this... but I’m always surprised about how few orders I get from North America (although on reflection it makes sense).

Right, so getting stock in and getting zinesters to work with you. I would recommend you try and big your distro up as an opportunity to get zines to a new country. North American zinesters are constantly excited by the idea that their zines are being stocked in the UK (at my distro). It really inspires people that their zines are being read so far away. At the same time they are terrified of how it works/the unknown, especially if they haven’t travelled much or have never really experienced other currencies. I communicate with North American zinesters in $s and worry about converting my end. I paypal them in $s. I think this definitely helps. If you can educate yourself on North American/etc postage systems and recommend things to them... that helps. For example, I know that US no longer does surface mail (boo) but that their flat rate envelope (around $11) and box (around $40) can be pretty cost efficient. Sometimes I’d rather just say to a zinesters “do your best with sending it, but don’t worry, I’ll pay however much it is” and then factor that into the retail amount than not get the zines at all. (This is where working on wholesale rather than consignment is waaaay easier). At the end of the day, if they’re being paid in $s by paypal, all zinesters can tell you how much it was wholesale + how much international shipping was (past tense). You have to be careful though as when you’re dealing with smaller amounts the shipping often is more than the wholesale value.

Right, rambling over. Sorry about that. Hope there is something of use in there!

Oh, two last things:
1) The best bit of advice I ever read/heard when I started my distro was “carry on as though you are successful, even if no-one is ordering”.
2) If you haven’t read Stolen Sharpie Revolution 2 yet, I can’t recommend it enough. If you read between the lines, most of what I’ve said is in there.
Regarding cash in the mail- if it's less than $5 or so and the person doesn't have a history of trying to scam free zines from you I'd say just send them the stuff. If they're being honest this is a good way to build good will and if they're not you're only out $5. If it's more than $5... I don't want to say it's the sender's fault because it isn't their fault it got lost in the mail, but it's not your fault either.

And I really don't understand why you'd be worried about approaching "famous zinesters" The worst they can do is say "no" which is no big deal. Quite frankly I'm not sure why you'd bother since people can pretty much get COMETBUS or BURN COLLECTOR anywhere so carrying these zines doesn't do your distro much good. You'd be better off giving more attention to lesser known, but still high quality, zines people can't get in a ton of other places.
thanks for the positive-thinking advice Tiara :))

Tiara Shafiq said:
re famous zinesters - I don't think anyone's *too* famous that they won't consider your distro! They may wonder if you're legit or a scam but other than that even conventional famous people are often happy to hear from you :)
hi Eric, thanks for the reply!
yeah, i guess you're right on that first one, $5 isn't gonna kill me hehe. and i can always try to first check the person wanting sending cash payments out, to see if it's known for trying to scam distros or having a history.

as for approaching famous zines, i wasn't really thinking about Cometbus or Burn Collector. i've read the first, but it's not like i've feel in love with the zine. i like its style and the layout, but you can buy it anywhere else like you said, so it probably doesn't make much sense stocking all of them... maybe the latest issue or something :x
and the latter, i probably read it but if i'm not sure then it's because i didn't resonate with me ;-)
one zine i really like but i don't hear people talk about it, is "Avow". i don't think Keith Rosson makes them anymore, as the only issues i see on distros are going out of stock. i can always have the Anthology book though ;-)

some of the zines that i think of being famous, i would like to have them in the catalog (let's say "Doris" or "Brainscan", as examples), because i really like them. but i'm also trying to get other lesser known zines to distro. a couple of them i don't think are even that much known in the "zine scene", and that's why i'd like to have them in the catalog, because i think they are quite good and deserve more attention.

Ericfishlegs said:
Regarding cash in the mail- if it's less than $5 or so and the person doesn't have a history of trying to scam free zines from you I'd say just send them the stuff. If they're being honest this is a good way to build good will and if they're not you're only out $5. If it's more than $5... I don't want to say it's the sender's fault because it isn't their fault it got lost in the mail, but it's not your fault either.

And I really don't understand why you'd be worried about approaching "famous zinesters" The worst they can do is say "no" which is no big deal. Quite frankly I'm not sure why you'd bother since people can pretty much get COMETBUS or BURN COLLECTOR anywhere so carrying these zines doesn't do your distro much good. You'd be better off giving more attention to lesser known, but still high quality, zines people can't get in a ton of other places.
hi Colin, thanks for the reply!

Q - refunds
A - Alex Wrekk has some relevant policy in her FAQ you may find useful: http://smallworldbuttons.bigcartel.com/faq
--- thanks for the tip, i had checked Alex's shop before (and i'm costumer hehe), but i'll have to go through her FAQs again!

Consignment
Q - when it's clear that you're trying to start a serious “business”, isn't it also understandable that not everybody has a money-tree growing in their backyard?

A - I appreciate that many of us (including me) have little money and I applaud efforts to accomplish things on little cash, but to me one important thing that signals a "serious business" is willingness to invest in it.
--- sure i do understand that distro owners put an initial investment when they start and they hardly ever get that back, but my problem is trying not to go overboard (if the expression makes any sense to you) while trying to build a good catalog with enough zines i like & interesting zines for a potential "costumer".

An in-between measure is to pay "net-30" (or "net-60"), which means you pay for all the zines 30 days after you receive them. This gives you a chance to sell some of them before paying for them.
--- this looks like a good idea, though it takes really good record keeping.

Q - would anyone be interested in collaborating in a project about that? Like a how-to/guide zine, compiling experiences and tips from other distro owners..
A - That sounds great, but unfortunately I don't have the time or energy to properly collaborate on something like that. Obviously I have a lot of thoughts on the matter, though, so if you do it and want to quote anything here or try to squeeze some more out of me, just drop me a line.
--- i'll keep that in mind! i'm also quite busy at this moment with the distro and all, so i'm just trying to collect people's opinions on the project first. then, depending on how many show interest to collaborate i might go forward with it. ---

i appreciate all your other advices and tips; once again, thanks for the reply :)
hi, thanks for the reply!
so you got the distro-bug too? hehehe good luck at it!

i don't know if i understand what you mean when you say distros don't deserve to be paid.
there are a lot of distros out there doing a great work for the community and having ordered from quite a few by now, i've come to admire the work people put in them. usually they're run by only one person, and from what i've read (even before imagining starting my distro, on my own too) it can be quite an amount of work. also, dealing with other people's money (costumers) is a responsibility, no matter what you think about money...
emailing zine-editors, working on a website/online shop, dealing with orders, dealing with costumers, packaging stuff, going to the post office to mail out orders, etc, etc, that's hard work, even though people do it because they want to and like it.
so, even if a distro is doing "work" for a community, i don't see them as a "charity shop" kind of thing. people are putting their time, energy and money into their distros, because they want to sure, but i think they should get something back from it, be it some money (little money most of the times) or support from zinesters. money helps keep a distro going, and kind words from zinesters help keeping hearts warmer and people hopeful, i'd say ;-)


E.T. zine distro said:
well today i started my own distro, and i now have two zines for sale. my zine distro is called "E.T. zine distro". i dont think it was too difficult. i am planning on having more zines in my catalog, but 2 is good for a beginner i think. also i have experience with accepting flats to copy & assemble and it worked out okay. with payment, i'll tell people that want to buy the other zine in my catalog to put it straight into the other persons paypal!!! cause i dont deserve to be paid, i dont think any distro does.
oooh also, i am very lucky to have a Holly Fluxx zine in my catalog cause she's pretty famous, she's a rapper you know, and a proper artist n stuff!!!!

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