I have loved and respected the idea of zines for a long time, but to be honest I’ve always kind of felt like I was an outsider in the world of zines, or worse, an intruder. I’ve never made one myself, and I didn’t buy my first zine till a few years ago. I’ve never been to a zine fest; when I started buying them it was online, from Etsy shops. I love everything about the aesthetic and ethos behind zines–the do-it-yourself, guerrilla publishing ethic, the punk attitude, the optimism and purity of the whole thing. So whenever my wife and I are in Chicago we stop at Quimby’s, the greatest indie zine/book shop there is, and we grab a few that look interesting, but I still sometimes feel like I’m trespassing, like I’m not cool enough or legit enough. I definitely don’t want to be a zine tourist, annoying the locals. I want to get more into zine culture, and do it right.
When I saw Pioneers Press had a zine called How To Be A Good Zine Citizen on their site, I immediately added it to my wish list. When I was at Quimby’s earlier this month, I was excited to see it on their shelf and snatched it up. It wasn’t until I got home and started reading it I realized one of the authors–Liz Mason–is a Quimby’s employee, one who has helped me several times when I’ve been there. Very cool.
This zine is exactly what I was hoping for. Liz and Carrie cover all the basics, including how to buy, sell, and barter at zine fests, and how to do the same online. The largest portion of the zine deals with selling your own zines on consignment at a store like Quimby’s, and this is where Liz’s expertise really shines through. Since she’s been on both sides of this–writing zines and also working at a place that sells them–she provides tons of good advice on how to go about consigning your zines to a shop in a way that benefits both parties. My wife and I are talking seriously about writing some zines or chapbooks, and this will really help with knowing how to go about getting them on shelves if we do.
The zine also including information on zine distros and online zine reviewers, which can be a big help for getting your zine into the hands of more readers. The zine offers lists of sites for both, which is a big help (though a few appear to now be dead links).
How To Be A Good Zine Citizen has the expected handful of copy editing issues, which is no big deal–if you’re going to read zines, you’re going to have to be okay with that. The information in here is wonderful and definitely makes zine culture feel more approachable and me less like a weirdo hanging around not talking to anyone. …actually, I usually am the weirdo, hanging around not talking to anyone, but that’s a different issue. If you want to get into zines, I definitely recommend this one to help you learn the ropes.