on July 7th: “educate yourself about zine distros”
on July 19th: “zine distro appreciation day”
on July 23rd: “check out a zine distro you’ve never ordered from before”
*A distro is a DIY distribution project. They distribute zines (and/or music, patches, postcards, buttons, etc) made by other people so these DIY creations can reach a different or larger audience. Isn’t that great? Some distros sell their stuff at events (zine fests, punk shows, etc), a lot of them have an online shop, and some even a brick-and-mortar store!
I love these prompts – new zines! new zines! – and in the past years I have used them as an excuse to buy zines from American zine distros. The postage to Europe is so expensive and usually doubles the price, so I could’t do this often, but I allowed myself some luxury during International Zine Month. Now that the EU has introduced expensive and annoying VAT to pay on incoming mail from non-EU webshops I’m trying to focus my zine orders and trades inside the EU for a while (until I figure out how to avoid these fees…) but luckily there are zine distros everywhere, including in the EU.
There exist a lot of amazing zine distros and there might be some nearby where you live too. Here is a list of zine distros that I’ve heard of and that I encourage you to check out:
(If there are any distros that I didn’t include in the list, please mention them in the comments!)
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…
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!
My next “24 hour zine” is almost finished and printed… It was made during the 24 Hour Zine event co-organised by Girls Go BOOM at PLEK in Ghent. At the same time I’m slowly working on a mini-zine about self-care and a Brussels DIY tourist zine and I started writing down some ideas for Same Heartbeats #13…