Why I don’t have an online shop but you can still order my zines online (and please do)

Zine libraries like the Salford Zine Library in Manchester are also great places to find readers for your zines

I was recently considering that opening an online shop such as on Etsy, Storenvy, or Bigcartel might get me more outreach and more sales. Because of course I’d like my zines to be found by people who might be interested in reading them and I enjoy connecting with more (potential) readers. So maybe such online shops and market places could help with this? Plenty of zinesters have their own online zine shops so there are probably a number of advantages to selling zines this way. This is what I could think of:

  • I assume it’s faster and easier for potential readers than mailing or messaging me to place an order?
  • Extra unexpected traffic and sales on marketplace shops such as Etsy where potential readers could just stumble upon my zines.
  • It looks more professional (although I don’t really care about this – I mean we’re talking DIY zines here, not magazines or books)
  • I heard there’s such a thing as “Etsy Team Zine” which sounds fun (but I don’t really know what it is)
  • UPDATE: Zinester Ryan Ewing pointed out that Etsy has a nice feature that readers can leave a review after they bought something.

But besides these advantages, I’m still hesitant. There are several reasons why I don’t use such shops (at least at the moment) and listing them here convinced me to keep things that way (at least for now):

  • I enjoy having some contact with the reader, even if very minimal. It’s just nice to receive a (more or less) personal mail or message instead of an automatic order. I’m not that overwhelmed with zine orders that I can’t respond to individual mails or facebook messages and I’m curious to know who my readers are. Also, I’m just oldschool and like receiving emails (almost as good as snail mail).
  • Online shops don’t offer the option of trading zines which is even better than selling zines. 🙂
  • I don’t have to give a part of my (very minimal) profits to a big corporation like Etsy and I don’t have to raise my zine prices just to be able to afford to be present on an online platform. (And I heard that for example Etsy keeps raising its prices and you have to pay them even if you don’t sell anything).
  • With each order I can calculate the REAL postage costs instead of general estimations that some online shops suggest. This means I don’t end up having to pay parts of the actual shipping cost AND the reader doesn’t end up paying too much.
  • I would have to register and make yet another account on some online platform…

Flyer I made in 2015 to advertise my zines

So these are my thoughts at this moment, written from the perspective of myself as a zinesters/zine seller (it might be different – or not – when I think about these things as a zine reader/buyer). I’m sure other zinesters find Etsy & co extremely useful and don’t mind these disadvantages or deal with them in one way or another. I can imagine they must be even more pratical for zine distros. In the (near? far?) future I might look into using Bandcamp for selling stuff, as I already have some accounts on that platform for the bands I’m in (check out f.e. Lavender Witch!). But I also just enjoy making a catalogue/list of my zines on this blog or design flyers which list my available zines. Some zinesters even make paper catalogues (like Hadass)! There are many options!

So what’s your experience with and preference of selling zines online? If you run an online shop, can you recommend it, and if yes, why? Which platform do you use or have you built your shop from scratch? Or do you prefer to table at zine fests, have distros take care of your distribution, and/or sell your zines in brick-and-mortar shops instead and erase any traces of your zines on the internet? Do you have other ideas and strategies? I’m curious to hear your views and stories!

Same Heartbeats #14, one of my most recent zines

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8 Responses to Why I don’t have an online shop but you can still order my zines online (and please do)

  1. meenilevi says:

    I guess one argument I have in favor of having an online store is that writing an e-mail to someone you don’t know can be anxiety-inducing for some people, and so a potential deterrent to people who are vaguely interested in your zines but don’t feel comfortable contact a stranger. But of course that’s just one argument among a lot of others, and I say that even though I don’t have an online shop myself.

    • rebelsister says:

      I totally agree! That’s a very valid argument in favour of online stores. Would you mind if I add it, crediting you?

  2. Nyx says:

    It’s certainly an interesting pickle of a topic, that’s for sure. My impression it’s the bane of many people’s existence – they’d rather live without it, but there are a lot of convenience reasons to do it.

    For instance, I just opened the SGZ distro on my blog but, as much as I have a list of complaints about Etsy, I won’t be closing that shop. Convenience, random finds (as in people who wouldn’t otherwise find you), the ‘safety’ to be found in handing over financial details on a big platform as opposed to a small platform (Paypal sort of makes this point moot, but I think it’s still there in the back of people’s minds), and so on.

    One thing about trading though is that there are people who put an ‘up for trades’ note on their listings and do make zine trade connections in that way. And I hear you about the appearances thing. I think it has to look nice and full, but not too full. Anything more than that – meh.

  3. Nyx says:

    PS. I might need to chat about this more on the podcast. ^_^

    • rebelsister says:

      thank you for sharing your thoughts! i definitely understand and agree with it all. and i’d love to hear more about it through your podcast!

  4. Jennie says:

    I just turned my old Etsy shop into a zine shop, mostly because it’s a platform I know. I don’t love it a ton, but I thought it was worth trying to see how it worked out. In response to your thoughts, I will say that I did often hear personally from customers when selling other kinds of items on Etsy. I certainly prefer selling in person and brick and mortars, but…I guess I haven’t worked up the nerve yet. I’m new haha. I found this blog looking for someone’s thoughts on listing on Facebook marketplace. It doesn’t feel right for zines, but maybe I should consider it? I don’t know…

    • rebelsister says:

      Hey, thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts! That’s nice to hear that customers did get in touch with you! I haven’t seen any zinesters use Facebook Marketplace though there might be some who do! You could give it a try? Are there any costs for signing up/selling like on Etsy?

  5. Pingback: SHOP! Echo Zines – zine love

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