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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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Replies to This Discussion

hi Lizzy! thanks for being so patient with me ;)

‘famous’ zines(ters) - If people say no, or don’t reply, email them in 6 months when you can prove your staying power.
--- that's one doubt i had too, if i got no reply, how long should i wait until i could try again without sounding annoying ;)

Accepting flats - What do you mean by ‘only stapled’?
--- i mean most zines are just stapled, but there's also zines that are hand-bound/hand-sewn, which i think is a lot harder to do, and i don't see myself doing it

*Heads up that North American paper sizes are different from UK/Europe – this causes no end of troubles for flats!*
--- yep, i thought about that too, it can be a pain in the ***, so i wouldn't/couldn't make it a habit to accept flats to copy from countries with different paper sizes. why can't we have one standard system for paper sizes for the whole world, why??? :(

- percentage split? Very few zinesters I stock are making any money at all after printing once they have sold their zines to me at wholesale price.
--- i believe you, cause when asking around for wholesale prices of zines that cost between 1$ or 2$, their split being half their retail price, it probably only covers the printing and not much else

- 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!
--- and now that you say it i realize it was a silly thing to ask. or maybe i didn't chose the right words, like you said, it would be 'copies of the master flats'

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.

--- sounds quite fair, and logical. good tips ;)

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.
--- i have them email me first, since it's the only way to get my address. i also have a page with the types of zines i'm interested in carrying, though i'm up to receive zines that fall out of those topics if i get a chance to read a sample or something first. i don't mind giving them a chance to show me their work, in the end i might discover a new subject that will interest me.

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).
--- there's another good tip, to mark the zine with something so it doesn't get mixed with the stock!

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.
--- i'm guessing will be spending something like that, around 100-150 €, to start up the zines catalog, along with some other items, like buttons...

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.
--- then i guess i can try to work more on consignment further up ahead, after having the distro going for some months and doing some sales?


Advice for starting a distro
The distro section in Alex Wrekk’s Stolen Sharpie Revolution 2 is pretty good.
--- i agree, i have SSR2 and i've re-read that section quite a few times! i trying to write my submission guidelines and some basic how-to's for my distro by following some of Alex's topics and tips on that section of her book

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!
--- i can't disagree with you on that, maybe a forum can help out quite a lot, specially for someone posting so many questions like me! and i've been lucky to get a fair amount of help & good advices from everyone replying ^_^

Other advice
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.

--- as i've been/am a costumer from distros (and even including etsy shop), i try to put myself in the other side's position. it's something i've learned from my last job, trying to put myself in the costumer's place when something goes wrong

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?
--- we had a bigger zine scene some years ago, then i think it turned into something a bit elitist, since most of the zines i would see were about illustration and comics, so i feel it was a bit of an artsy zine scene, mostly with art college students.
like i told someone not long ago, i would like to bring new blood to this country, to the people that don't buy what the mainstream media tries to feed them with, but also to younger generations that are open to try different things. i think there's a whole lot of people in Portugal, from alternative scenes that don't read zines because they don't know where to get them (if they actually know about zines at all), but they read books and search for other people with common interests because they don't want what the mainstream has to offer. somehow, i think i can make that connection with these people and zines through my distro.

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...
--- since most of the zines i get & like are from the US and other English-speaking countries, i'm open to get zines for consideration written in Spanish and French because i can understand the languages enough to read a zine, so i'm aiming to get costumers from Europe mostly. i'm also into getting zines from Brasil, which can be easily read by Portuguese costumers.
i've been trying to find Portuguese zines willing to join my project but it hasn't been easy. i know there must be a distro out there but they're into the punk rock scene, and i'm not looking for music zines about punk sorry. then there's those artsy zines i wrote about before, but they tend to be a bit more expensive than your average zine and that's not what i'm looking for. i want accessible prices for everyone, if you know what i mean...
my hope with getting Portuguese people read English zines is that they can feel at least a bit inspired by them and maybe start writing their own zines in our language.

Right, rambling over. Sorry about that. Hope there is something of use in there!
--- no, i'm the one who apologizes for posting such a big text! and you definitely have a lot of good advices & experiences to share, specially from someone running a distro in Europe, i can pick up some of your advices on working with international zines/costumers.

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”.
--- this is a phrase i'll sure try keep in mind! positive-thinking is a precious thing, thanks Lizzy! ^_^
Here are my replies to your replies :D:

--- 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. --
Well honeslty when I first started my distro I didn't have any zines...
I think the fact that you are in Portugal would make them want you to stock their zine.

- 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 ---
Oh true. I'd want my zine back too!

--- 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... ---
Oh so it would be only something that happens on rare occasions? Well I would then split the normal amount. 60/40

- 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 ;/ ---
I didn't set out thinking "I want to stock 100 zines!".. I just going to my mailbox and finding people had sent them to me..
If you want to do that you can buy wholesale from Microcosom, and from Parcell Press. :)

- 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. ---
Yeah. Maybe you could even sell gift certificates?

... 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. ---
That's sounds quite cool actually. :)

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 ---
Yeah and being the web geek I am, I thought implementing the paypal system was going to make things easier for them!

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? ---
Both. Adverstising. Getting buttons to pass out, business cards, flier printing ect.




----------------------------------
Distros definitely deserve to be paid...
Maybe not paid a whole lot, but they should get something..
I work my butt off doing distro work and lots of distro owners do, and I also hold zine workshops, and on top of that I work on being a normal 16 year old..
Who's Holly Fluxx?

Gomes / Invicta Distro said:
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!!!!
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.

I just recently found out about Storenvy, which is free! I moved the Trees & Hills shop there, and while we haven't been there long enough for me to review thoroughly, so far it's been very easy to use. It's not totally ideal for a distro - you can set up "collections", which I've done for each artist, but it could become a bit cluttery with many artists. You could just set up A-F / G-L etc categories as I've seen some distros do. You could also set up groups of organizing links on Blogger or whatever, and have links at your store pointing to those pages.
E.T. zine distro said:
>maybee distros should be paid, but if they get paid, then the zinester (who's number 1) loses money to you and to the stores. it would be easier to just tell people to get it from the zinester him/her self.. or you could run a distro where you get paid nothing.! (but you'll still feel important.)

Right, I don't make money out of my distro. Very few distro owners too. By "get money" we're usually talking about small amounts that are "made" out of the retail markup which can then be spent on website hosting, envelopes, more stock, etc.

You are aware that distros actually have the stock? Otherwise you're not a distro but someone just compiling a list of places people can get zines themselves? The advantage of a distro is that you can get a range of zines in one place that you might not have come across otherwise and/or postage for a pile of zines from one place is cheaper than lots of postage from individual people. Telling someone to get zines from the zinester themselves is nothing more than recommendations, it's not a distro.

I don't do this to feel important. I do this for a million a reasons, but feeling important definitely isn't one of them.
Amen Lizzy.
And hah, I wouldn't talk about not doing school work. It doesn't make you sound cool.
And doing a distro isn't about feeling important. Distro is hard work. Just wait until you start getting in more zines, then you'll see what were talking about.. You just started and you only have two zines (one is yours), so just wait until you get some experience.
And sir, I use my money to get more stock and pay for hosting, and the other things.

lizzy / marching stars distro said:
E.T. zine distro said:
>maybee distros should be paid, but if they get paid, then the zinester (who's number 1) loses money to you and to the stores. it would be easier to just tell people to get it from the zinester him/her self.. or you could run a distro where you get paid nothing.! (but you'll still feel important.)

Right, I don't make money out of my distro. Very few distro owners too. By "get money" we're usually talking about small amounts that are "made" out of the retail markup which can then be spent on website hosting, envelopes, more stock, etc.

You are aware that distros actually have the stock? Otherwise you're not a distro but someone just compiling a list of places people can get zines themselves? The advantage of a distro is that you can get a range of zines in one place that you might not have come across otherwise and/or postage for a pile of zines from one place is cheaper than lots of postage from individual people. Telling someone to get zines from the zinester themselves is nothing more than recommendations, it's not a distro.

I don't do this to feel important. I do this for a million a reasons, but feeling important definitely isn't one of them.

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