a place for zinesters - writers and readers
So, a few months ago I started Punk Tree Distro (facebook.com/punktreedistro, working on a real website as we speak). I know part of the point of running a distro is to contact and build relationships with individual zinesters, because that's where community comes from. People have lives, so things often get delayed and letters don't get sent, but a distro with only three or four zines in it isn't that interesting - and hard to take to a zine fest. The L.A. Zine Fest is next week, and I'm tabling no matter what, but I'm feeling a bit lackluster especially with all the buzz around the fest.
How do you build up stock and become not-boring without being unethical or a jackass? Should I just wait to launch the site until I pick up more things from individual people? I've considered ordering from AK Press or Microcosm, but the Joe Biel abuse history raises my feminist hackles. And ordering from other distros just to stock things in my own feels like cheating, and often isn't ethical.
Help a new grrrl with a distro out? : )
Good question! I'd love to hear what others say but as an aside - I am aware of the Micorcosm issue but AK Press also has an issue????
I'm still pretty new to running a distro, but I think the thing that helped me most was being involved with Philly Zine Fest, it gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of really cool people at once. I did a lot of trading, and as I read the stack I brought home with me, I would contact the people whose zines I liked and ask if I could carry their zine.
I also have some friends whose zines I liked, and wanted to support, so for the most part, I just asked. You can also get buttons and postcards made to bulk up and diversify your inventory. Those things tend to sell well at fests and tabling events because they're cheap and cool.
You can also order some wholesale stuff from Cindy Crabb. Her zines are amazing. And Parcell Press offers a 30% discount on wholesale orders.
Maybe I'm out of the loop. What is the issue with AK?
Oh, nothing's really wrong with AK, they're just another example of a big distributor, heh.
Oh, right. I staff at an infoshop who orders from AK, they're fine. Super helpful. But kind of impractical where my distro is concerned, personally.
When I started my distro in 2005, I relied on big distros for my initial stock, as well as taking stock from distros that were shutting down. I put a note on my site explaining exactly where I got my stock from, and said that if any zinesters objected to my distroing their zine (since I hadn't gotten it from them directly) to please contact me and I would remove it from the distro immediately. No one ever asked me to stop distroing their zine.
If you feel like it's cheating to buy wholesale from other distros to establish yourself, perhaps if you put a note such as that up, or even sent a note to each zinester whose zine you bought explaining how you got their zine, maybe that would help the situation?
I agree with Sarah Arr! on this one. I ran a distro for seven years and one of the ways I built up my stock initially was to directly contact zinesters who's zines I was interested in and ask for a sample copy. If that doesn't work, you can always buy zines from them directly. A good way to check out new zines is to search around on etsy for subjects or themes that you're into.
Also if you have a zine yourself, trade with other zinesters! The zine fest is a great way to do that (I'll be there too!) but it's totally possible to do so online also. Check with your friends, see if they recommend zines, ask what their favorite zines are or what kinds of zines they like to buy from distros.
Hope this helps!
Yeah, trading zines is the way to go. You get constant mail, make new friends, and trading is a crucial community building tool.
There's really not anything wrong with stocking well loved zines from bigger distros. They need the support as much as individual zinesters.
I actually think that a cool thing to do might be to trade my zine to other distro owners for their zine in quantity. I've only done it once, but I really enjoyed the experience, and I love the idea of a wider audience for the stuff I have to say.
We started to build our stock at Portland Button Works by getting zines from our friends that we liked and thought would fit well in the distro. We worked really hard to get a good selection up before the online shop and brick and mortar went live. It was a lot of work but I think we gave ourselves enough lead time to make it work.
Thank you for all of the great responses everyone <3