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No, I don't own a distro, although I have been debating the thought. I love zines--it's one of the very few things that I've had a consistent and thriving passion for... and I've been thinking that while owning and running a distro might be quite a responsibility, hey everything worthwhile is challenging!

 

But anyways, how come almost everyone I ask about distros--starting, owning, and running one-- say that if you're going to start one, you have to be open to losing money... and if you're lucky, you might break even. Is this always really the case?

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I don't know what other distros' experiences are, but zines are not a big-money world, and in the non-zine world it's normal for small businesses to not make money in their first few years, so that alone makes the advice not suprising to me. The more you know your "market" & etc., the better you should be able to do. Trees & Hills, the regional comics distro I co-organize, I think pretty much breaks even - we also do publishing & other stuff, so it's all kind of mixed in. We're working on better accounting to try to figure out things like "how well is the distro end of things doing?"
I've now put $900 of my own cash into Click Clack and in a year and a half have not paid myself back at all. I expect to within a couple years, but no time soon. The distro pretty much runs on it's own now without me having to put in any more of my own cash (aside from a very large wholesale purchase i just made).
I forgot to mention that if you go in expecting to do no better than breaking even and somehow do better, you'll be pleasantly surprised, where if you expect to make money and don't, you'll be disappointed.
I have about £250 ($400) of my own money tied up in stock. Other than that the distro is breaking even... but then the stock pile is growing. So in a sense, if I were to sell everything off tomorrow I would be able to take back the £250 and there would be extra. I suppose I could do calculations and work out a point when I've actually "broken even" on my original investment, but like I said, profit the distro is currently making goes straight back into expanding it.

(I've been running marching stars distro continuously and conscientiously for 2.5 years now)
haha. i never thought of it like that... i thought thinking negatively would be some sort of self0fulfilling prophecy. XD

Colin Tedford said:
I forgot to mention that if you go in expecting to do no better than breaking even and somehow do better, you'll be pleasantly surprised, where if you expect to make money and don't, you'll be disappointed.
paper trail broke even. it averaged about $1000 a year in profit. that breaks down to...what? like around $80 a month? a nice cushion, enough to go out for lunch on busy work days, but obviously not enough to live on. & it didn't start breaking even until i'd been running it for a few years.

if you want to start a distro, there's pretty much no getting around the fact that you're going to have to sink a lot of your own money into it at first to get it off the ground. & it's going to take a long time to make that money back because you're constantly going to have to add stock to keep the project going. if you are patient & persevering, you will start to make your money back. but there's just not enough of a mark-up in zines to really make any money running a distro. a business like a clothing boutique can make money because they have as much as a 100% (or more) mark-up from wholesale on the items they sell--that's how they can do sales & still make money. at most, there's a 50% mark-up on zines. & out of that 50%, you are paying for all the incidentals of keeping the project going, from office supplies to web hosting to paying for new stock. there's not a lot of wiggle room.

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