Zines are different from magazines, although the name pays homage to the original source. While the term magazine implies a publication backed by some sort of publishing house or institution, zines are independent, usually self-published and distributed, and often used to promote the voices generally left out of mainstream media.
The coolest thing about zines? Literally ANYONE can make one. Yes, even you.
I’m a big fan of zines. In college, I was introduced to Jess and Yasmina, co-founders of the zine, Basement Babes. It was an inherently feminist zine, usually consisting of written and visual art by women and non-binary folks. I contributed some art of my own and also made a short film about their journey for a Documentary class. I was SO inspired by the community they had built around their publication, how they collaborated with their peers, and the overall feminist F*** YOU to the mainstream media who often disregards the voices of “nobodies,” queers, and women. Plus, they threw events and sold physical copies of their zines where profits went to local organizations that supported women and girls in the arts.
When my friend Franny and I realized we wanted to be doing something with our art to help facilitate conversation and change, we decided to publish a zine of our own. We knew we wanted to create something similar, where we could donate profits to an organization we cared deeply about. So we started our first issue of WINE MOUTH, a zine full of art by some absolute bad-ass babes we knew, and vowed to donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood.
That’s what makes zines so great. Is there a cause you’re passionate about? Something you or your friends are REALLY good at, but no one knows about? Are you an artist, writer, poet, crafter? Your zine can be a self-published cookbook, a gardening how-to, a homage to really good eye-liner application, or even a journal of your bad Tinder dates. Making a zine (and collaborating with your friends on it) can be a great way to get your voice heard by your community and raise awareness for the things you love OR it can just be a way to create something special to YOU. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve crafted up a lil’ how-to to get you there:
PICK A TOPIC/CAUSE
Whether going it alone, or collab-ing with a pal, the first step is deciding your zine’s topic and purpose. It doesn’t have to be philanthropic – maybe all you want to get some of your grandma’s ah-mazing casserole recipes out into the world – but whatever it is, it should be something you really care about.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS (OR NOT)
Next, decide whether you’ll fill your zine’s pages with work of your own, or seek out submissions from friends or strangers. Franny and I did include some of our own writing in WINE MOUTH, but we also put out a call for submissions on our Facebook pages. The interest from artists we knew POURED into our inboxes – you might be shocked like us to find how many of your friends want to contribute!
Historically, zine’s are endeavors of collage – handwritten text and pasted images in a little stapled booklet. Copy machines are a zine’s BFF. That being said, these days we have so much technology at our disposals, that if we want, we can get a little more creative. Franny and I decided to do ours digitally – creating our layout in Adobe Indesign and exporting a PDF that was ready for printing/posting online. Do whatever feels right for you! Don’t gotta get fancy with it – doing it by hand has a charm that digital creations just don’t have. But using a program like Indesign or even just Microsoft Word, might give you more options in terms of design. (Pinterest was my go-to for finding design inspo when we were creating WINE MOUTH bt-dubs).
Okay, I’m going to get real with you – printing can be really expensive. Like, so expensive, that Franny and I decided our zine would be mainly online, available as a hard copy for those who wanted and could pay for it. There are ways to do it cheaply, like sacrificing color, size, and type of paper. But if you’re like me, and presentation is important to you, those may not be sacrifices you’re willing to make. But if you’re also like me, and you don’t necessarily want to pay out of pocket for a bunch of prints no one will look at or buy, you may not want to do that up front.
If you can do it cheaply, and you’re not looking to sell any copies, just do it. Leave your zines in coffee shops, laundromats, in the lobby of your apartment building or office, on your neighbor’s doorsteps, and tables in bars. If you DO want to sell copies (Franny and I were hoping to make sales so we could donate all the proceeds to Planned Parenthood), then figure out some sort of ordering system online. You can also collab with a band/show promoter to sell at concerts, or find a local flea market to set up a table at!
I hope this convinces some of you artists, activists, or Tinder-ellas out there to self-publish something special. If you do, let me know below! I’d love to read it. 💕
(Feature image via Fly Girls Blog)