The Art of Zines
By Greg Shewchuk
Do you ever get the feeling that no one really knows what a genius you are? Or you have some obscure information on your favorite topic that you're dying to share? Maybe you have a great idea, or you drew a great comic, or maybe you just have some complaints about the way things are -- but as a kid, it can be hard sometimes to get your voice heard.
Even in this day of internet everything and a million television channels, there is still a simple, old-school way to make a very bold statement. It's one of the oldest forms of communication: the printed word. Making your own zine is a cheap, easy, and LOUD way to get your point across.
What's a Zine?
Zines (pronounced 'zeens', shortened from the word 'magazines') are small independent publications. There is nothing professional or fancy about them. Making zines is the print equivalent of starting a band in your garage, or making movies with a couple friends and a camcorder. You don't need to be the biggest or the best, you just need to start somewhere and put your creativity into it. Your individual touch is what will make your zine stand out, and make people want to read it.
There are no rules for making a zine, so the following guidelines are just to give you an idea of where to start.
How to Make Your Own Zine
1) Begin at the beginning.
For the sake of simplicity, let's make a 12-page (10 pages plus a front and back cover), 8.5' x 5.5' zine. Start out by taking three pieces of regular sized computer paper, fold them in half horizontally, and hold them sideways like a book. Voila! You have a blank 12 -page zine, ready to be filled with your best ideas.
2) Pick the fillings.
You can do a zine by yourself or with your friends -- just make sure you can agree on most things and work well together.
Then you just need
a subject: You can have a very specific theme, or you can be freeform and completely different on every page. As long as it's important to you, and you feel it's worth sharing, it's worth putting on paper.
and a title: Pick something that is easy to remember, and will make people interested enough to open the cover.
Some popular subjects are:
music or movie reviews
sports (skateboarding, snowboarding, etc)
clothes and style
video game tips
And it doesn't have to be all words. Zines are perfect for showing off your artistic skills as well, like:
2) Put it to the page.
The cool thing about zines is that you don't need to be that hi-tech about it. You can write things out by hand or print them out on your computer, and use scissors, tape and glue to arrange them on your pages. Take the three sheets you folded in step 1, and lay out the contents of your zine inside on that blank booklet.
When designing, think about each page individually, and also consider how they will all work together. Just remember that unless you're going to pay for color copies (which is expensive), everything is going to end up in black and white.
Take some time on the writing and designing. You don't need to rush, and paying attention to the little details can make your zine a true work of art. Check your spelling, edit your work, and remember that what you print represents you at your best. Do a good job and be proud of your effort.
3) Make your master.
After you've laid everything out on those pages, pull them apart and you'll have three 'master sheets.' They should have stuff on the front and back, and when they're pulled apart they'll be in a kind of strange order, like:
Sheet one will have the front and back cover on one side, and pages 1 and 10 on the other.
Sheet two will have pages 9 and 2 on one side, and pages 3 and 8 on the other.
Sheet three will have pages 7 and 4 on one side, and 5 and 6 (your 'centerfold') on the other.
4) Print it up.
The easiest and cheapest way to print up a zine is usually a photocopy machine, so get prepared to become very familiar with how they work. You'll be making 'two-sided copies;' i.e., you're copying both sides of a master sheet onto both sides of a blank sheet. It can be a challenge figuring out how to print on both sides of a piece of paper and still get everything right side up, but it CAN be done.
You can make as many copies as you can afford, but don't overdo it just yet. 10 to 25 copies is a good place to start, depending on how much money you want to invest in your first run. You can always go back and print more if there is a demand – just keep your master sheets in a safe place.
Once you have all your copies made, you just need to organize, fold and fasten them. Staples are always good, but it can be tricky to staple right down the middle -- you might want to ask around for a saddleback stapler (which has a longer reach) to make things easier.
A few friends can make the folding and fastening process go a lot faster.
5) Give it out
Some people charge a buck or two for their zines, to help cover their costs. But of course, when you're starting out, it's easiest if you just give them away for free.
But don't just hand them out randomly. Try to find people who will take the time to read your zine, and who will most likely be interested in the content. You might even be able to convince local bookstores, magazine stands, or record stores to carry your zine beside the rest of their publications; just ask one of the clerks how you would go about doing that.
Don't worry about negative criticism, just use those ideas to make your next effort even better. With luck, you'll find people who share the same views and feelings that you do. You might even make new friends.
All right. A job well done. You have spoken, and the people have listened. Now, I bet you have a million ideas for issue two. What are you waiting for?