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Zines have been around since the beginning of radical publishing. Popularised with the cut-and-paste fanzines of the 1970s, nowadays these non-commercial publications exist on any topic imaginable. Whether it’s poetry, personal stories, political theory, artwork or manifestos, zines are a great medium for sharing thoughts and creativity.
At its simplest, a zine can be a single sheet of paper with handwritten articles and drawings, reproduced cheaply on a photocopier. There’s also scope for more elaborate projects. What underscores it is one simple principle: zines are made for passion, not profit.
Every zine is unique and conveys the passion and interests of its makers. These lo-fi publications enable people to say what they like how they like, with no censorship. There are no rules – so there’s scope to engage in zine-making in any way that suits you.
This short guide offers some tips and tricks on becoming a DIY media maker.
1 Join the zine scene
Once you read a zine, you often end up making one yourself. Why not order some from an online distributor to start off the process? AK Press (www.akpress.org) privileges social movement-based zines; Marching Stars (www.marchingstars.co.uk) specialises in girl-made, personal zines; and Ricochet! Ricochet! covers the queer angle (www.ricochet-ricochet.co.uk). There are also several annual zine fairs, such as the London Zine Symposium and Brighton Zinefest.
2 Adopt a no-rules approach
Forget the idea that publishing is only for professionals and then start writing/drawing. Absolutely anything goes in terms of content: skill share guides, stick figure comics, vegan recipes, interviews with activists, book reviews, community histories and so on. Decide what you want to write about, whether you want other people to contribute and what name to give your zine.
3 Start simple
Once you’ve assembled your materials, make a blank page zine to stick your content into – this will be your original, which you will then photocopy. As a popular format, a sheet of A4 paper folded in half yields four A5 pages. Paste material on both sides and make sure you number your pages (this helps when photocopying and collating). Write an intro explaining the themes of your zine and include a means for people to get in contact.
4 Paper + pen + photocopier + stapler
Make sure any handwriting is legible and use a good black pen. Letter transfers always look awesome, as does typewritten and word-processored text. Remember to leave about a two-centimetre margin around each page – the photocopier will chop bits off. Don’t crowd your pages; leave white space. For graphics, create collages from old magazines, use ink stamps and stencils, borrow images from other sources, or badger mates who can draw. Check out creative tips at http://www.csdistro.com/re/ZineAnatomyFlats.pdf. Photocopying in bulk is cheaper per page. To staple A5-size zines, you’ll need a long arm stapler.
5 Create a tactile object
One of the delights of zines is that they are handcrafted objects made on a small scale. According to what you would like to convey, think about playing around with page size, binding and cover as you get more proficient. You can make zines in any shape and size, including single sheet accordion zines, zines in little envelopes, zines with screen-printed covers and zines bound with dental floss, rubber bands, or stitching. The more distinguished your zine is from the dominant media, the more people will be curious about it.
6 Getting your zine out there
Zines are too important to stay underground. Think of inventive ways to circulate them: trade with new friends, slip them into commercial magazines, leave them in public toilets. To help disseminate and promote your zine, join the social networking platform We Make Zines (http://wemakezines.ning.com).
7 Create paper trails
Add your zine to the historical record by turning scans into pdfs (http://zinelibrary.info/how-scan-zines-and-make-pdf-files) and uploading them to digital archives such as the Queer Zine Archive Project (www.qzap.org) and Zine Library (http://zinelibrary.info).
8 Pass it on
Zine-making is a powerful act, especially for marginalised groups. DIY publishing can become a means of self-representation. Zine-making workshops, especially with young people, are a really rewarding experience. For workshop facilitation tips, check out Grrrl Zines A Go Go (www.gzagg.org/diyworkshop.htm).
Red Chidgey is a DIY feminist activist and historian. She teaches ‘Zines and the Politics of Alternative Media’ at the University of Salzburg in Austria and facilitates zine-making workshops