The world of zines is a vast and ever expanding one where everything you could ever think of either has or will be created. I've made four zines to date, with a huge selection of more in the works, and I can honestly say that after the first one I made I was immediately hooked. From having complete control of the concept, design, and assembly, the creative freedom it allows is so much different than anything I had experience to that point. I want to do my best to share my knowledge of everything zine related and to help in any way that I can.
My plan is to make several posts on the process of zine making, going through the whys, whats, and hows to help you get in the zine game. If you've never made a zine before, then these will be perfect (I hope) for you. If you're an experienced zine veteran then maybe you can adopt some of my practices for yourself or even comment and add some knowledge about your own process in order to get a great conversation going. In no way do I know everything there is to know about zines. As a whole, zine making should be experimental and cater to your project or your own preferences, so please take my process and add to it or subtract in any way and create the perfect method for yourself.
ORIGINS OF THE MODERN ZINE
Zines originated in the 1930s and 1940s around the science fiction community in what the modern world might consider fan fiction. Unknown writers would create their own science fiction short story and publish it themselves, selling them very cheaply or even handing them out for free for the sole reason of getting their work out there.
Fast forward to the blossoming punk scene of the late 1970s and 1980s and the modern zine was created. Punk rockers and outsiders had no way of taking their ideals publishing them in the mass media or formal publishing world, so they took gritty photos of their concerts, random things from their personal lives, photocopied them along with their writing, and gave them out, spreading their voices throughout the underground.
Next up was the skateboarding community, which adopted the same diy ethos the punk scene did just years earlier. Skaters took photos of themselves, the odd lifestyle so few got to experience, and followed the same loose guidelines the punks did, handing them out and spreading their work throughout the community.
Lastly, artists, photographers, and everyone in between arguably has reign over the modern zine now. Fan zines, illustrations, bodies of photography, and everything you could ever think of can be made into a zine, so that now brings up the question of why make a zine?
WHY MAKE A ZINE?
There are hundreds of reasons to make a zine, but to me some of the most important are:
- To share an alternative voice or vision with the world
- It's important for you to have your work in a physical form
- You like whole collections of work rather than single prints
Notice that my top reasons don't even mention the act of making money? While breaking even or making a little extra money from my zines is always a plus, when I start making one I understand there's a great chance I'll lose a little money in the process. Zines are a labor of love, and above all else the best reason to make one, in my opinion, is simply because YOU want to. If you're in to branding and things of that nature, I'm sure you know authenticity is key, so if you're just making zines for the money there's a good chance it will translate to we your viewers. Nobody wants to read or view a zine and get the feeling there's no real connection between you and your work.
NUMBER ONE RULE TO FOLLOW
If you're having trouble acknowledging whether or not an idea for a zine should be followed through with, there's one rule I think can always help you. Sit down and ask yourself, "Would I still make this if I were the last person on Earth?" If the answer is yes, then you know right away to go through with it! If not, then maybe you should rethink it. You can always scrap that initial idea completely, but if something keeps on drawing you back towards it, then you can always find a way to alter it to where you'd make it even if you knew you'd be the only one to ever see it.
In conclusion, I believe zines are a powerful way to get your work out there. Thinking of ideas is always a thrill, and making them is even more fun. Whether it's apparent or not, I think everyone has a great idea for a unique zine deep down. All it takes is a little searching and the know-how to turn it into something physical. The second part of Zines 101 will entail the "hows" of making a zine in regards to project ideas. I'll go over some of my favorite zines and photo books, how you can draw inspiration from everything around you, and offer some tips on what to do after you've got your amazing idea!