For your poetry chapbook, short story collection, novel, or memoir, you typically want the best traditional or self-published results: quality paper, professional cover design, expert formatting, wide distribution, and more. But what if you simply wanted to get a few poems, stories, or an excerpt into the hands of your readers quickly? You might then consider self-publishing a zine. A zine (short for magazine) is a small production filled with text and/or images that is intended for limited circulation. At Self-Publishing Relief, we know zines are often handmade and less polished than your average book or magazine—and that’s exactly their appeal. Here’s why you might want to self-publish a zine.
Reasons To Self-Publish A Zine
Show more style. Zines can be created in whatever style you want—you don’t need approval from your publisher. And unlike self-published books, an amateurish design isn’t considered a drawback for a zine. A zine can be made using your own printer, a copy machine, and a few staples or stitches. You can hand make your cover as a collage or even give it three-dimensional qualities. The exterior and interior designs can be as basic or as complicated and edgy as you want. A zine is meant to be low cost and low tech, but it lets you tailor your product more specifically to your vision and your target audience.
Because zines are traditionally produced inexpensively, they don’t have the same quality as the glossy, commercial magazines. That being said, technology has come a long way. Images from your smartphone and a laser printer can now offer results that are a step up from photocopying. And zine readers are less concerned with a professional-looking format and more interested in the content.
Offer exclusive content. The “print run” of a zine will naturally be very small, which gives it the allure of exclusivity. In the current online world where e-books abound, every other website has a blog, and digital releases make publications accessible with just a click, zines thrive on their collectible, limited-edition status. Since a zine is typically only around eight pages long, be sure to make it fun, interesting, and engaging.
A zine can also be great “swag” (stuff we all get) for a conference or reading event. Often writers attending conferences or events have the opportunity to offer freebies. A few of your poems, a short story, or an excerpt from your book can all be made into zines to help build interest in your writing and grow your readership.
Enjoy quicker turnaround. While it may not bring you fame or millions of dollars in revenue, you can use a zine to reach short-term goals. It could be months after an acceptance before your poem or short story appears in a literary journal, and years before your book is traditionally published (even print-on-demand self-publishing can take months to prepare!). A zine can be produced and distributed in much less time.
Reach a niche audience. Because zines are generally small-scale, you probably won’t reach a wide audience. Before you start, you can check if there’s any interest in a zine of your work by asking via social media, your email list, or at writing events. You can also check local bookstores or businesses that might be interested in making your zine available for free or for purchase.
If your writing is more unconventional than mainstream, getting an acceptance from a literary journal might be even harder for you (it can be difficult for any writer!). But you can still get your niche writing or an excerpt of your short story collection or poetry chapbook into the hands of your audience if you self-publish a zine.
Build a reputation as a marketable writer. A zine is a cheap and quick way to distribute your work and build your reputation. If you want to show that your writing is a sought-after commodity, publishing a zine might help convince literary agents or editors: You can add it to the credits on your query letter, cover letter, and author website to boost your credibility. Whether you’re a published or unpublished author, your writing, editing, and publishing knowledge will benefit from the experience of creating a zine. You can also be part of the thriving zine community on Etsy, which can boost your zine’s potential reach.
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, self-publishing a zine can be a unique, unexpected way to get your short stories, poems, or book excerpts into the hands of your audience and even reach new readers.
Question: How would you utilize a zine of your work?