Self-publishing something might seem like a huge job with a steep learning curve but if you want to start small, and learn the ropes in a way that might be fun but will still result in a finished product then why not try publishing a zine as a first step?
Why A Zine?
Pudding Press is a UK company so we’re writing this from a local perspective but zines have a rich history in the UK, dating back to the punk and DIY movements of the late 1970s. Before the days of digital publishing, it was even harder as an industry to break into than it is now. So what did you do if you wanted to make and distribute something, whether it was a political call to action or just a work of fiction. Those with voices that weren’t mainstream or profitable would find it even harder. After all these were the days when red top newspapers like the sun purportedly had daily circulation well in to the millions.
Zines were hand made and printed, often with photocopiers or duplicating machines. This technology meant that more of them could be made than something hand-drawn, and so they were suitable for producing larger quantities and distribution. Yet it was still a cheap way of producing. Then you could distribute physically by selling to friends and interested parties in person or via the mail and generally word of mouth. Yes this was how things worked before the internet. In these days zines became a means for individuals to voice alternative perspectives, grow countercultural movement and critique mainstream society. With a cut and paste aesthetic, that has since been influential digitally, many of these publications captured the rebellion and spirit of the times. Key things to take from this were that distribution and influence were around well before the internet, so you don’t need ten thousand Tik Tok followers to do this, and these cheap ways of production are still available.
Modern Zine Format
Modern zine formats are now a lot more slick than many of the above because we have technology to do home printing and publishing in a much more polished way. As zines are not part of the specific punk and counter cultural movements of the 1970s they have also grown to embrace many different subject matters and distribution styles. Modern zines come in many forms that you could investigate, from high quality photocopying that can be sold in illustration and comic book fairs, to commercial publishing of small booklets and other printing formats such as Riso and Screen printing. Layout software is now much more accessible too, so you could design something with an experimental format outside of the magazine layout. At Pudding Press we love InDesign but if you’re just starting out
Zine Ideas for Today
Lots of artists and illustrators have today taken over the zine format of a small self-published and self-authored publication with independent distribution. Check out our founder’s Humans and Aliens one-off illustrated essay about pulp sci-fi and identity or Bits and Pieces, which is a regular collaborative zine all about sharing stories of young LGBT people in Scottish Education. As print and distribution are much easier now, many people focus on the distribution of these and opt to get the printing done commercially. Digital printing can offer just a few pence per title, depending on size and order quantities, so does not have to break the bank for an indie zine creator. Distribution can still be in person but many people opt for online, from setting up their own shops to using larger platforms like Etsy. You can also participate in zine fairs and comic cons. Subject matter can be as varied as making your own comic, to political activism to academic publications. Overall, running a small zine project is not the big undertaking it is to get a fully published book to market and then distributed. It can have a home-done flavour meaning that spending large amounts of money on high quality production values isn’t necessary and you can also definitely do this in your spare time.
For a successful zine make it small – not too many pages will keep costs low and also allow you to make better work as well as keep the subject matter punchy
·Look at all the different ways you might have to reproduce something from the classic photocopying to doing your own printing, inkjet, Riso, commercial and many others
You could use a zine as a pilot project before you launch a bigger item – e.g how about printing the first chapter of your book in a zine to build momentum?
If you want it to look super slick you can work with other pros, such as a graphic designer or illustrator but this is much less expensive or less of a collaborative ask on a small zine compared to a bigger project.
Remember whatever you do, the heritage of zines is alternative and full of energy. Make it fun and use it for something you couldn’t do in any other way.