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Zine Fests Are Scary: You Looking at Me?

OK.

I have to say that the first time I went to a zine fest (Portland, OR) I was a little freaked out.

There were a 100(+) tables with zine spreads all over and the authors were right there staring at me.

I felt awkward standing in front of someone and reading their zine because if it was not my style and I walked away, I felt like I was personally rejecting them. It was like a bad reality show where I had to dump 50 contestants in the first hour.

Am I the only one who feels this way?

Then when I became a tabler, I felt that pseudo-rejection. It was not personal, but where else are you that close with a critic? 

Being a hawker from my days selling at the farmers market, I tried to talk up my zine and be chatty, but this did not work. Many ziners are a shy lot or they simply wanted to have some space to check out my stuff. If they had a question, they would ask.

So I found that I kind of ignored the fest going public by default and talked with my table neighbors.

To solve for my lack of talking to customers, I printed up a large sample page of my zine and displayed it on a mini easel. That way people could walk by and see what my zine was about from a distance.

"Oh, he does a four panel a day diary comic. Cool." or "I am not into diary comics." (Thats fine)

But then I started thinking.

If I felt awkward sitting at my table and they felt awkward looking at my zine with me there, then why don't I just leave my table and give them some space?

That is what I did at my last fest. I walked the fest and look back at my table from time to time. 

Or better yet, I figured why not let people take my zine and have them find a corner to read it and then come back and either pay for it or give it back?

Which is what I plan to do for my next fest.

This may seem strange, but its what every bookstore on the planet does. You get to look through a book and decide if you want to buy it. And the author is not there to make you feel awkward. 

But what if they take off with my zine? (dine and dash)

If they liked it that much to steal it, I say they can have it. I'd be flattered.

But I figure most will buy it or read it for free and return it. Either way I got someone to read my zine, which is really all I wanted in the first place.

Or another idea is a Best of the Fest Zine Table.

I picture this as a huge display of representative zines from tablers placed in the front of the fest . People can look through the zines and then visit the tablers. These sample zines will have the ziners name and table number on them, so they can found the tabler on a map of the fest.

Soupzine

http://bmancomic1.tumblr.com/

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Very cool idea. I love it. I hate that awkward dynamic.

I don't know about just walking away, there's this little thing called 'theft' that people think of - don't expect people to KNOW you want them to take a zine and come back and pay for it later if they want it.  Nobody is psychic.  And an empty table does you no good to promote your stuff.

 

You do NOT have to make eye contact with everyone, you can sit there and sketch or write, or do whatever.  The table is not a judgement on you, it's your wares and you're laying them out for others to peruse if they want.  If you don't feel comfortable about eye contact, then don't make it, keep yourself busy with creating something or reading, or whatever. 

 

Trying to leave it up to the average person walking the room isn't the best way to go.  You have to have some sort of format/guide for them.  Worst case scenario - bring someone along who LIKES to talk with the public and can engage them while you go off and do something else.  But certainly don't leave the table unmanned.

i think meeting or even just seeing the creator of a zine can make the zine more personal and more human, ive found.

but i can also see where youre coming from, i dont always like conversation.

Well, I do know that it's 'awkward' for some people more than others. I haven't done farmers markets, but I did start out as a huckster at a science fiction convention (I had help at the table with the selling most of the time), then at SCA events, small craft shows, then a Ren Faire. It gets easier as you go. I used to be super shy too but being behind the table helped a lot with getting me more outgoing.

People perusing wares on a table aren't looking for a lot of social interaction, they're looking at the WARES. Some do like to converse but the vast majority just want to look and satisfy their curiosity. The only thing you're obligated to say is hi and thank you. Anything other than that depends on the expectations of the customer, and they'll be the ones to initiate the talking 99% of the time.

What REALLY is of interest to a lot of customers is seeing the seller doing something zine related. If you have any assembly to work on at the table, folding, DRAWING (that gets the interest a lot). It also gives you a safe way to 'hide' in plain sight without having to do any interacting with strangers if that's a problem for a person at an event like that.

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