Don’t Buy my Zine

Just the other day I was reading /r/zines on Reddit and there was a post about other zine authors who were complaining about how difficult it was to create their zines. I was surprised that authors would complain about this because I love making zines myself and why else would you make them?

Most of mine have been half letter size zines. Over the past few weeks I’ve been creating a smaller version for my latest issue of Splash of Code. This smaller size zine has been far more difficult to create and it takes forever to print, cut, and bind paper issues.

I created the smaller version because it has several advantages.

  • A 16 page zine can be printed on a single sheet of paper
  • The finished zine is easy to bind with staples
  • The small sized zines feel a little more personal
  • It’s cheaper to mail a small format zine

I have a rotatable stapler that makes creating half letter size zines easy. It’s a great little invention. It’s both cheaper and a lot less wieldy than the long reach staplers you typically see advertised for the purpose. This special stapler is completely unnecessary if you’re making a tiny zine because sandard desktop staplers have a 2″ to 3″ reach.

Some of the small sized zine’s I’ve ordered come in #10 size or smaller envelopes. Two or three sheets of paper in this small size can be mailed in the U.S. right from your home mailbox for the price of a single postage stamp. As long as it’s smallish, flat, and less than an ounce, it can be shipped this way.

But, as I got into creating my small size zine I ran into a few little problems I had to overcome.

  • Trimming content to fit within 16 small pages was a challenge
  • I couldn’t find booklet printing software
  • Cutting letter sheets requires a lot more labor

Before I even starting designing my zine I committed to creating 100 copies. Another zine I recently purchased had a space on the back for the author to number each one. I decided to add that feature so I built it right into the design. I was fully committed to printing 100 copies

The first problem I ran into was space. I had to reduce font size but I couldn’t reduce it so far that it would become hard to read. Less words fit on a page and so I had to be more concise with my wording. I was also trying to cram my entire zine into 16 pages so that I could print it on a single two-sided sheet

Besides being less wordy my zines have source code listings in them. Most of my source code, these days, is limited to about 120 characters wide. For zines I’ve got to compact it down to about half that. For this small format I had to go even smaller. I was having to get pretty creative with the way I wrote my code and it just wasn’t working. I finally decided to switch from portrait format to landscape and that gave me the little bit of extra space I needed to make it happen.

Once I had the zine written I was ready to print the drafts. Normally I use booklet printing software to format my zines to four pages per sheet. Two on the front and two on the back. With this new layout I could no longer find software that would automatically layout my pages for me. It may exist, but I couldn’t work it out. This meant that I had to export my zine pages as individual images and manually stitch them together in the right order.

With the layouts all figured out it was time to print a few copies. I made card stock cover sheets and the inside pages. Once printed I needed to chop the sheets into the individual signatures. I don’t have any special equipment for cutting paper so I decided to simply tear the pages. This turned out to be a pretty labor intensive process.

The small finished zines did turn out pretty great. They’re rough and they’re personal. It will take quite a bit of work to print, tear, and bind 100 copies of this zine. The cost benefits are more than erased by the amount of time I’ll spend tearing sheets of paper apart.

Will I try a small zine again? Probably. As one co-worker once told me, I like to do things the hard way.