Twenty-Four Hours #21 (Makin’ Zines) Welcome to this special issue of TFH!!! :D You’ll learn to how make you own little magazine, which I’ll refer to from here on out as a “zine”. You’ll also learn how to publish said zine, and then how to distribute it around your town, your state, your country, and the world. Hopefully it will be a solid introduction for zine neophytes, and will give a few pointers and ideas to well-versed zine-sters as well.
What’s a Zine? Well, that’s a tough question. There are almost as many different definitions of zines as there are zines themselves. The easiest way is probably just to take a look at one and decide for yourself. The safe answer, though, would be, “A zine is a small magazine published by one person, or a small group of people, for their own aesthetic and artistic satisfaction, rather than as a business venture.” Since the dawn of time, or at least since the dawn of punk rock, there have been heated debates in zines such as Maximum Rock N Roll (aka. MRR), the dearly departed Flipside, Punk Planet (RIP), and a slew of other zines about “who’s sold out”, what constitutes selling out, what exactly a zine is, etc., etc., etc. I’ll leave the debates for academic articles and drunken conversations.
Why Publish a Zine? There are many good reasons to publish a zine, and probably just as many bad ones. In my many years of distinguished zine publishing experience, I’ve found there are several reasons why people publish zines. Some Reasons People Publish Zines Fame. People want to be remembered for their talents. They want to write like Kerouac and publish masterworks. Well, chances are if you don’t know how to write, then you won’t be able to get published. Zines are a great way to get yourself published. The writing part just takes practice. Practice. For those of you who want to write for a living, or just figure out how to get rid of all the shit that’s rattling around in your head, a zine is a great way to get started as a writer. I published my first zine, Noise Noise Noise, in 1994, a full 5 years before I got my first “real” writing job. I wrote some of my funniest, right-on stuff back then (and also some of my worst.) But zines are a great place to start. They’ll give you the confidence you need to succeed as a writer, and like I said before about community, they’ll give you exposure. A word to the wise, though, be careful what you write. Even if you only give your zine away to ten people—what you say about people, and your opinions eventually will get around. Even if you don’t take it seriously, someone else probably will. Especially if you’re writing about them. Accept the responsibility of be-
ing a writer and a publisher (no matter how small), and go ahead and back in the glory of your creation. Community. Of all the reasons to publish a zine, this is probably the best one, and the closest to the heart of what zine-ing is all about. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where there was very little in the way of alternative culture. So, I started a zine, and began writing and publishing interviews with local bands, reviewing local CD’s, and eventually, me, my zine, and the bands I was featuring in my zine got ink spilled about us by the daily and weekly newspapers in town. Before we knew it, we’d created a scene where there was none before. I made some great friends, some of whom became my closest friends, and I owe it all to my shitty little zine. Money. Good luck with this one. I’ve yet to see a zinester who’s made money off of their creations. However, if you’re a good writer, and/or a canny businessperson you can parlay your zine into a book. Although we did say this wasn’t about business, earlier—it ultimately is. Just watch out for your dignity and your soul if the big boys do come knocking, I’ve heard it’s pretty rough out there in the publishing world. For The Hell of It. As good a reason as any. I’ve known a lot of people who just do one or two issues of a zine and then decide that’s all they had in them. There’s no shame in that. Free Stuff. Last but not least, there is a mountain of free stuff to be had out there for zine publishers. Granted, not all of it is good, but it’s out there. Lots of CD’s and zines will come your way.
A Brief History of Zines 1930’s-1960’s: SciFi to Beat Legend has it that ‘30’s sci-fi fans created the zine by publishing letters and essays about their favorite stories and authors back and forth to each other. The sci-fi pulp magazine still lives on today in Asimov’s, Ellery Queen, and Weird Tales, although all of those magazines are legit, and not zines at all. In the 40’s a bunch of proto-beatniks were putting their heads together and making their own literary magazines, such as Ark. They printed the zines off on a mimeograph machine, which (I’m told) is a prehistoric photocopier typething. I’ve never actually seen one, but the retro technology fetishist in me is extremely curious about them. What made these lit-mags zines and not traditional literary magazines is their DIY spirit and non-university backing.
If anyone could lay claim to the title of “Queen of the Beat Zine-sters”, it would be Diane diPrima. Her mimeo’d lit-zine, The Floating Bear, ran from 1961-1969, and featured her own original work, as well as that of LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and John Weiners. There was a Floating Bear Anthology published in 1973, which now sells for around $400 at various used bookstores online. I’d give my left one for a copy of it. 1960-1970’s: Hippies to Punks Starting in the early 1970’s, a new type of zine sprang up. Gone were the free associative, Buddhist-inspired writings of the sixties (although there was quite a bit of carryover in the lit-zine world). Patti Smith, the punk-poetess herself began publishing a zine in the early seventies. Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine of Television began publishing their poems with small publishers and on their own, and finally in 1975, the bomb dropped. Punk magazine was born. Punk featured interviews with the Ramones, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, everybody. Following close on the heels of Punk was London’s answer, Sniffin Glue. How much more bad-ass of a name can you get than that? Many hundreds and thousands of zines were born in the wake of Glue, and thousands of would-be rock scribes were born. 1980’s-1990’s:
The Birth of American DIY Culture
Over on the other side of the pond, in 1981, a new zine—Maximum Rock N’ Roll—usually known simply as “MRR”, put out it’s first issue. The birth of MRR completely changed zines forever, and pretty much set the standard for zines all the way through the 90’s. MRR started reporting on punk music scenes around the country (and the world) through their “scene reports”, sent in by readers, and helped create the underground music network that fuels bands and other independent ventures to this day. They got their phonebook-sized newsprint zine distributed from San Francisco all the way to Albania and everywhere in between, before any other zine publishers. There were other zines that were around longer, and frankly contained better and more fun writing, like Flipside, (MRR has a reputation for being dogmatic and a little self-serious)—but to give credit where credit is due, MRR did more to bolster the underground music and zine scene than pretty much everyone else. The only other zines that even came close in the 80’s or 90’s were Flipside and Punk Planet. Besides, MRR was kind enough to publish some of my stuff. Thanks, guys. 1990’s-Beyond: Is There a Graphic Designer In The House? Webzines and (maga)Zines
The now defunct Punk Planet, and Clamor are two magazines that started out small in the 90’s, and quickly became legit, with the help of desktop publishing and offset printing, plus a lot of hard work on the part of their editors. Technically, neither of them were zines, because of their high production value and whatnot. But, so be it. Not every small publication has to be a zine. There’s room for zine-graduates in the professional magazine world, too. There’s still going to be some kid slapping a zine together in his basement, with dreams (delusions?) of grandeur. Another thing that happened in the 90’s was the webzine, although Flipside had a BBS running in 1986. Let’s hear it for text-based browsers! Mosaic, anyone? Thanks to free web-hosting on Yahoo and others, zine-folk started posted their material online—and began bombarding an international audience—and it’s a pretty awesome way to get started for no money. Except for those god-damn pop-up ads! Bastards.
The Basic Elements of a Zine There are many elements that go into making a zine, which I’ll talk about here. When you’re first starting out, it’s nice to know what people have done before you. It helps to establish ground rules of writing, and helps you figure out what you like, and want to emulate. The Rant Ranting is unfortunately a favorite of zine writers everywhere. From ranting about prima-donnas in the scene, to the death of the scene, to political rants, you’ll find someone ranting in a large percentage of zines. Not my favorite. The Scene Report The scene report was a vital feature of 80’s zines, and before the dawn of the Internet, was the way like-minded folks stayed in contact with each other. A scene report can be about pretty much anything, in theory, but traditionally they’ve been about zines and music scenes. Sadly, Facebook and other social media outlets have made the scene report pretty much obsolete. The Album and Zine Review The album review is one of the staples of the zine world. Ninety-nine percent of all zines you pick up will have an album review. It doesn’t matter if the album is old or new, it’ll be in there. And it will be long and opinionated, but unlike political opinion in zines, opinionated record reviews are still usually pretty good. Zine Reviews are equally ubiquitous, and are usually more vague than the record review. Re-
viewers will often use a sort-of “underground shorthand”, and compare an album or zine to something everyone within the scene already knows about. The Live Show Review The show review is a great way to show off your music writing skills, and take some great pictures to boot. Tiny rock bands need exposure, and your zine is the way they’ll get it, to start with. There is always some exciting, alive writing going on in a live review. The Interview The interview is hands down the backbone of zine-writing. Pick up a copy of MRR, Punk Planet, or any large zine and you’ll find that three-quarters of it is taken up with interviews. Remember what I said about live show reviews? After the show, hit up the band for an interview. They will fall all over themselves to do it. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. (Not a judgement, just an observation.) The Letters Page Letters are a good way to give your audience a voice. If you don’t have an audience yet, don’t make up letters and print them. People will figure out that you wrote them and make fun of you for it. Trust me, I know. Short Stories Short Stories used to be the pariahs of the zine world, along with poetry. No one would review a lit-zine because they were so bad. There are several lit-oriented zines around these days, such as Verbicide, which prominently feature fiction and other literary writings. A good place to find literary zines and related stuff is the Canadian zine Broken Pencil. Poetry See: Short Stories
How Do I Publish My Zine? Within the two categories of zine-formats (print and web), there several ways of laying out and publishing your zine. Here are a few. Layout and Design (Print) Cut And Paste This is a very popular method, which requires no desktop publishing experience, or computer experience, but does require some savvy layout skills. It is basically what it sounds like—you take the material and cut it up, and paste it directly onto your master copy. This is how I did my first zine. It’s messy, but it’s fun. Desktop Publishing
Desktop publishing has taken off in a big way, in the zine world. For print zines, it’s pretty much the standard. MS Word will get you through in a pinch, but if you have access to a desktop publishing program such as Quark, or MS Publisher, etc… I recommend them. Personally, I use MS Publisher, because it’s easy to use, and it won’t take a lot of studying and tutorials to get started making your zine. A good option is to convert your document to a PDF. Then you can email it directly to your copy guy. I have a great one here in NYC. Email me and I’ll give you their contact info. Zine Printing Shortcuts (Print) A good zine-printing shortcut is to make the zine digest-sized (8”x5.5”), or half-legal (8”x7”). This will keep your copying costs down, and will allow you to send your zine in smaller envelopes. Having a small zine will also come in handy when you’re sending them out to prospective companies, who will hopefully purchase ads in your zine. Raising Money To Print Your Zine (aka The Hustle) Raising money to print your zine is probably the single most important thing you can learn in the zine world. If there’s no money to print the zine, there’s no zine. And nobody wants that. Even with businesses buying ads, a lot of zine-folks spend their hard-earned money publishing their
How Do I Distribute My Zine? Now that you’ve done all this work, you want to see your zine get out into the world, right? Of course you do. Here’s a list of distributors, and retail stores that will sell your zine. A lot of distributors and retail stores offer you “consignment” which means that they’ll pay you when they sell the zines. Most places offer a 60/40 split. If they want more than 40 percent, they are probably shady, and you should stay away. Some distributors will offer you the money upfront. This is rare. If you can find these people, take the offer of money up front. You’ll need it. Just don’t spend it on drugs, alcohol, or music. I spent the bulk of my zine income on music, “back in the day”. I know better now! In addition to distributors, you can sell your zine directly to stores. And these days, the latter might be a better idea. A lot of distributors have gone belly up in recent years. Going through a zine distro is a good idea, but again, don’t expect to get rich, or even make your money back on your zine. Consider any money you get back a bonus. Zine Distros and Small Press Distributors A lot of zines are distributed through small distributors, called distros . (The person who coined the term took liberties with the spelling. It should be “distris”, shouldn’t it? Oh well.) There are other zine distributors like Last Gasp, which are more established and require a bit of professionalism on your part in order to do business with them. Unfortunately, most of the distros I originally had on this list are dead.
Last Gasp P.O. Box 410067 San Francisco, CA 94141 www.lastgasp.com Last Gasp has been around since 1970. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They distribute zines and comics and books of the alternative/underground variety. You would do very well for yourself if you tried to sell your zine through them. Microcosm Publishing 5307 N. Minnesota Ave. Portland, OR 97217-4551 503.286.1038 (call before sending fax) www.microcosmpublishing.com Another good place to send your zine, and another feather in Portland’s avant-publishing crown. Not only does P-Town have the IPRC (not to mention Tin House, Glimmer Train, Powells Books, Chuck Palahniuk and Jim Goad), they have Microcosm—but I digress. These guys just published a zine book, Stolen Sharpie Revolution, which is great. Some Good Places To Sell Your Zine Directly Here are some of my favorite places to buy zines around country. A small list, but a good one, I think. If you have any places to recommend, email me. Quimby’s (Chicago) www.quimbys.com Quimby’s has been around forever, and has a butt-load of zines for sale. Maybe they could sell yours? BookPeople (Austin, TX) 603 N. Lamar Austin, TX 78703 Toll-Free: 1-800-853-9757 Powells (Portland, Oregon) www.powells.com Powells is a gigantic new/used bookstore, and is another great place to get zines. It’s one of the pre-eminent independent bookstores in the U.S. No shit. When I was staying in P-Town during the summer of 96, I went there every day to read books and zines and gawp at the hipsters. Powells has an extensive selection of zines. Reading Frenzy (Portland, Oregon)
www.readingfrenzy.com A neat zine store in Portland, right below the IPRC. Check ‘em out. Zine Libraries IPRC Denver Zine Library Hugo House ABC No Rio Barnard Zine Library Brooklyn College Zine Collection
An Annotated Zine Biliography Here’s a list of books about zines, as well as zine anthologies, and other books by zine publishers. In Print Angel Hair Sleeps with a Boy in My Head: The Angel Hair Anthology By Anne Waldman & Lewis Warsh, Eds. Granary Books, Inc. 2001 ISBN: 1887123490 Anne Waldman published the seminal post-Beat lit-zine Angel Hair with Lewis Warsh from 1966-1978. During that time, she published work from Robert Creeley, John Wieners, and other lesser known poets and writers. Along with A Secret Location on the Lower East Side (and the woefully out of print Floating Bear anthology), the Angel Hair anthology is a must-have for small press history buffs and Beat/Sixties Counterculture freaks. Answer Me! The First Three By Jim & Debbie Goad AK Press, 1996 ISBN: 1873176031 www.jimgoad.com www.akpress.com This is one hell of a book. If you can find it, get it. Answer Me! was one of the best zines ever published. It was raw, visceral, deeply disturbing and pulled no punches. How can you not like a magazine that publishes an interview with David Duke, Public Enemy, and the Geto Boys in issue #1, and then goes on to publish “The Top 100 Serial Killers and Mass Murderers” in #2?
And that’s not even scratching the surface. Jim Goad also wrote the socio-economic classic, The Redneck Manifesto (Simon & Schuster, 1997), and a memoir from prison, Shit Magnet (Feral House, 2002). The Bust Guide To The New Girl Order By Debbie Stoller Penguin, 1999 ISBN: 0140277749 A collection of essays from BUST magazine, a sassy maga/zine that’s rewriting the rules of what “women’s magazines” should be. As far as small maga/zines go, BUST is more polished than most, but it’s still worthy of inclusion here. Despite Everything: A Cometbus Omnibus By Aaron Cometbus Last Gasp, 2002 ISBN: 0867195614 www.lastgasp.com Last Gasp has my undying gratitude for putting together a book of probably the best zine ever, Cometbus. Aaron’s writing is totally uncluttered, spare and beautiful. The man is untouchable. Despite Everything was edited by Aaron Cometbus, and shows a cross-section of twenty years worth of his writing. Double Duce By Aaron Cometbus Last Gasp, 2003 ISBN: 086719586X www.lastgasp.com More of the same kick-ass writing from Cometbus. England’s Dreaming (Revised Edition) By Jon Savage St. Martin’s, 2001 ISBN: 0312288220 I read this book as an impressionable teen. Although it’s a little heavy on the cultural criticism, there are lucid parts that still make me smile. Although the book is about the entire UK Punk explosion, and not just zines, the parts about Sniffing Glue and the birth of the British zine revolution are tops, and worth checking out. E-Zines: Exploring Magazine Design Online By Martha Gill Rockport, 2000 ISBN: 1564965554
This book discusses e-zines and how to format and disseminate them over the Internet. Recommended. Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture By Stephen Duncombe Verso, 1997 ISBN: 1859841589 Notes From Underground is the first in-depth academic study of zines and zine culture. You need this book. If you only get one book from this list (although I recommend all of them)—get this one. This one and the latest Zine Yearbook. (See what I mean?) A Secret Location on The Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing, 1960-1980 By Steven Clay & Jerome Rothenberg, Eds. Granary Books, Inc. 1998 ISBN: 1887123202 This book is a history of independent publishing and “the mimeo revolution”, from 1960-1980, focusing on San Francisco and New York City. Absolutely essential if you want to know about the history of underground literature. They even have a pull out timeline. Awesome. Based on a 1998 exhibit at the New York Public Library. Zines Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2001 ISBN: 1861542240 A neat book, looking at the graphic design styles of zines. At $39.95, it’s a little pricey, though. I recommend checking it out from the library, instead of buying a copy. The Zine Yearbook By Jen Angel & Jason Kucsma www.clamormagazine.org/zineyearbook (Currently on hiatus, and now published by Microcosm Press) The Zine Yearbook is hands down the coolest thing to happen to zines in the 1990’s. The first edition of the Zine Yearbook came out in 1996, and they haven’t missed a year yet. The Zine Yearbook is made up of articles from the previous year, from zines with a circulation under 5000. The articles and art are submitted by fellow zinesters, and the final decision is made by a panel of longtime zinesters and people considered experts in the realm of zines. I love these things so much. The 2002 edition (No. 7) was published by Soft Skull Press, and hasn’t gone out of print (unlike the previous six editions, which you can only get through the website.)
Out of Print Factsheet Five Zine Reader: The Best Writing from the Underground World of Zines By R. Seth Friedman Crown Publishing Group, 1997 ISBN: 0609800019 Factsheet Five was the end-all be-all of zine review zines, back in the early-to-mid 90’s. I had a dog-eared copy from 1995 lying around for ages, and I don’t know what happened to it. FS5 went belly up in the late 90’s and no one except Zine Guide has come close to achieving what they did. Over 10,000 circulation, for a low-budget magazine about zines! Pretty incredible. Floating Bear: A Newsletter, Vol. 1 By Diane di Prima & LeRoi Jones, Eds. Laurence McGilver, 1973 ISBN: 0910938296 Floating Bear ran from 1961-1969, and has been out of print longer than I’ve been alive. It’s a genuine Beat classic, and an invaluable part of the DIY literary tradition. If you look this up online, you’ll see that it runs about $400 dollars. There are individual copies to be had, lurking around online, too. I’ve seen them, but I didn’t bookmark them. Diane di Prima and LeRoi Jones are both still alive—so here’s hoping they’re able to reissue the book soon! Punk, the Original: A Collection of Material From the First, Best and Greatest Punk ‘Zine Of All Time! By John Holmstrom, Ed. Trans-High, 1996 ISBN: 0964785854 John Holmstrom is the publisher of the pot-smokers bible, High Times. In the ‘70’s he was the publisher of Punk, the first punk zine proper. Punk pre-dated Sniffin’ Glue, and everyone else. They were a mixture of Mad Magazine and rock-n-roll journalism. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth checking out. It’s pretty funny. Rollererby: The Book By Lisa Carver Feral House, 1996 ISBN: 0922915385 Rollerderby was a classic 90’s zine by Lisa Carver. She was rude, she was raw, and she didn’t give a shit. Funny as hell too. Search & Destroy (Vols. 1 & 2) By V. Vale, Ed. RE/Search, 1996—Vol 2. 1997 www.researchpubs.com
Before RE/Search, Vale did Search & Destroy, a music and alt/culture zine based out of San Francisco, c.1977-1982. He interviewed David Lynch, William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Devo, Dead Kennedys, and the list just goes on and on. J.G Ballard, John Waters, and on and on. I’m an idiot because I never bought these books when they were in print. Sniffin’ Glue and Other Rock-N-Roll Habits: The Catalogue of Chaos 1976-1977 By Danny Baker, Ed. Sanctuary, 2000 ISBN: 1860742750 Mark Perry was the man with the plan in London, 1976. He interviewed everyone who was involved in the London punk scene—The Damned, The Clash, Generation X, you name it. Sniffin’ Glue was the first UK punk zine, and from everything I’ve read, the best. The anthology is a great read, and well worth picking up if you can find it. It came and went pretty quickly. Thrift Score: The Stuff, The Method, the Madness! By Al Hoff HarperCollins, 1997 ISBN: 0060952091 Thrift Score was (is?) another classic 90’s zine—and as you may have guessed, it’s about thrift store shopping. I’ve looked at a few issues of Thrift Score and I have to say, it’s pretty neat. Zines! (Vols. 1 & 2) By V.Vale, Ed. RE/Search, 1996 –Vol 2, 1997 ISBN (Vol 1.): 0965046907 www.researchpubs.com These are both great books, and seriously worth hunting down. They are a series of interviews with zine editors—all conducted by underground publishing superstar V.Vale.