The Zine Board Speaks Out

Two members weigh in on what's happening in the world of self-published magazines.
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Zine. A slang term for magazine? Not quite. To start off another year of Zine Scene, we've compiled all the basics anyone—potential publishers and curious readers alike—should know before delving into the underworld of independent publications. And no one could provide an insider's perspective better than the zinesters themselves.

We've given our Writer's Digest Zine Advisory Board members the chance to speak out on what they feel are the bare essentials and best suggestions for zine enthusiasts. Here are the ins and outs—through the board members' eyes.

Chip Rowe
Zinester credentials: I run www.zinebook.com. I also published a paper zine for many years, Chip's Closet Cleaner, and in 1996 I compiled an anthology of great zine writing called The Book of Zines: Readings from the Fringe (Henry Holt).

A zine is: A publication done for passion rather than profit. You can attempt to make money, but that's a magazine.

Why zines are worthwhile: For a writer, I think it's a vehicle to publish your own work and the work of friends, and also to give you deadlines to follow and something to distribute.

Personal motivation: I had many ideas that didn't fit into the standard plans of magazine or newspaper publishers, but that I thought would still be fun to do. So I did them, put them in a zine, and in some cases, sold them.

20/20 hindsight: I wish I had put aside plans to make money early and just had fun.

The best zine resource: I have a site of resources at www.zinebook.com.

Frank Fradella
Zinester credentials: Creator of Cyber Age Adventures, the grand-prize winner of the Writer's Digest 2000 Zine Publishing Awards.

Why zines are worthwhile: Whether or not you'll find publishing a zine worthwhile depends largely on what you hope to get out of it. ... If your only goal is to produce something of quality, something whose inherent worth is determined solely by its personal significance to you and a feeling of pride, then publishing a zine can be listed as one of the best things you'll ever do. Publishing a zine allows you to amplify your own voice. It allows you to speak on the subjects which move and inspire you, and to attract the voices of others. If you do it well enough, your voice will carry.

Personal motivation: The reasons were twofold. The first was that I was a lazy writer. ... My thinking was that if I created a magazine, then I would have deadlines to meet. The second [reason] was that the particular style of fiction that I publish wasn't being done by anyone else. I was honestly looking for mature superhero-prose stories, and no one was writing them.

20/20 hindsight: Perhaps the most discouraging thing about running an online magazine is that your readers will largely be silent unless they don't like something. You have to ask yourself how long you'd continue publishing if all you ever heard from your readers was whining.

The best zine resource: The best resource for zine publishers is undoubtedly other zine publishers. Pool your talents and help one another get the word out.

Got a zine for the Scene? Send it to Zine Scene, 4700 E. Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati OH 45236, or e-mail wd-zinescene@fwpubs.com.

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