Now that you’ve had a look at what other zine-makers are doing, you’re probably champing at the bit to start your own zine. Well, good for you. That kind of world-domineering “Nothing’s gonna stop me now ” attitude is just what you need.
It’s really pretty damn simple, actually. You get yourself some paper and some pens and you just start writing. Or maybe you don’t start writing. Maybe you start drawing, or making a comic strip, or taking photographs.
Whatever it is, once you’ve done it you stick it on a piece of paper, run it off on a photocopier, fold it and staple it and there you go. You’ve just made a zine.
Here are some things you might like to consider when putting together your own zine:
Get yourself a bunch of old books and magazines (I like to use old textbooks I find in op-shops, old National Geographic magazines from the same place and old Who Weekly magazines). Cut out all the interesting headlines and quotes and pictures from the books and magazines and lay them out in a funny, strange or interesting way on the page.
If you can draw a stick figure, and you can draw a box around that stick figure, you can draw comics, so why not put some in your zines?
Sick of hearing about what’s going on on The Secret Life of Us? Then bag it out to your heart’s content and put it in your zine. Confused as to why nobody else understands the genius that is Shaggy? Then explain why he’s the best thing since Grandmaster Flash and put it in your zine. Boyfriend dump you? Slag the bastard off in a 300-word swear-fest and… you guessed it. Put it in your zine.
Now that you’ve decided to become a zine-maker, you’ve inadvertently joined the ranks of the independent media, so why not take advantage of it? If there’s a band or an artist or a celebrity who you’ve always wanted to ask a few questions of, why not approach them and ask them if they’d like to be interviewed for your zine. You’d be surprised how many times people will say yes (people love talking about themselves. I know I do.)
Saw a great film on telly last night? Can’t stand the Scissor Sisters’ album? Why not write a well-thought-out and reasoned review setting out your contention and then publish it in your zine? While you’re at it, think about contacting a few record companies and book publishers and asking them if they’d like their stuff reviewed in an independent publication? Once again, you’d be surprised how many people will say yes.
Size and Shape
The easiest shape for a zine to take is usually A4 or A5, which simply involves folding a standard-sized piece of paper in half. But armed with scissors, a guillotine or a stanley knife you can trim your pages to be any size or shape you want – the only limit is your imagination.
There’s a bit of a trick to double-sided photocopying and collating, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. The diagram above will hopefully give you a basic idea about laying out your zine. And it’s pretty easy to get your hands on a photocopier these days. Newsagents, libraries, businesses like Officeworks or Kinkos – they’ll all satisfy your toner-related needs.
You should also consider trying to find a way to find free photocopying. After all, the cheaper it is to copy your zine, the more copies you can make. If you’re at high school, try convincing your librarian or English teacher that your zine is part of your overall education.
If you’re at university, try applying for photocopy funding or subsidies from your student union. If you have parents or friends who work in an office, or if you work in an office yourself, consider a bit of zine-copying on the sly. There’s really no limit to the amount of free copying that’s out there if you know where to find it.
Once your zine is finished, it’s time to release it into the wild. There are a few ways to do this.
If you’re not interested in making any money from your zines, even just to cover your printing costs, you could hand them out for free. If this appeals to you, try handing them out to your friends, leaving them on empty seats on trains and buses, stuffing them into people’s mailboxes at random, leaving them lying around cafes or foodcourts, or sneaking them between the pages of magazines at the newsagent, slipping them inside your local free music paper, or tucking them inside books in bookstores or libraries.
If you do want to sell your zines, try taking them into stores that you think would be interested. Bring a few copies in to those stores and ask them if they’d like to stock them. Help the lovely people behind the counter out by preparing the following:
- have an invoice book and a receipt book (buy these from any newsagent);
- have an idea about how much you want to sell the zine for (remember that you want to cover your photocopying costs);
- be aware that the stores usually take a 30-40% commission on the price, so factor that into your selling price.
Zines are also sold through mail-order services, which come and go on the internet like the proverbial mayfly, but it’s worth googling “zine distro” or “zine mail order” and seeing what you come up with.
Most distros will have their own rules about what they want you to do if you want them to stock your zines, so make sure you’ve read through those rules before approaching them. They’ll probably ask you to send them a sample copy, and then if they like it they’ll ask you to send a bunch and add you to their catalogue.
A good place to find out what’s happening in zines online, especially if you’re an Australian zinemaker is the We Make Zines ning, which has an Australian zinesters discussion group full of lovely ziney folk from right here down under. They’ll be sure to answer any questions you have about distribution!
Another sure shot is Sticky, the little zine shop in Melbourne that hides away underneath Flinders Street Station. If you’re not based in Melbourne, or not even in Australia, it’s still worth contacting them to ask them to stock your ziney bits. They’re pretty keen and quite likely to say yes.
Once your zine is finished, as well as distributing it far and wide, another thing to do with it is to send it to other zine-makers and swap it for one of their zines. If you pick up a zine that you really like, why not send that zine-maker a copy of your zine and ask if they’d like to do a swap with you? You send them your zine, and they’ll send you theirs.
Zine-swaps are a well-established part of the zine community – every zinemaker likes to get a new zine in the mail. One good way to track down zine-makers, apart from simply finding their addresses in the zines themselves, is to check out that We Make Zines site I mentioned before. New zines are announced on there all the time, and the zinemakers often call out for trades and swaps.
The Main Thing
The main thing to remember about zines is that there are no rules. The above are merely guidelines. If you can think of a better way of doing things, or a different way of doing things, then try that way. You never know how things will turn out.
If you have any questions about any aspect of zinemaking, don’t hesitate to contact me, or contact one of the zinemakers whose work you like. The zinemaking community is a large, friendly ever-expanding group of people whose favourite thing is discussion and communication, so go ahead: write them a letter or drop them a line. They’ll be glad to hear from you.
Good luck, and happy zining!