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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Small Press Advice

Todd Fischer, co-editor and co–publisher of imelod Publications, answers some questions about starting a zine. The questions have been paraphrased from their original email format.

I am interested in starting a small press zine and am wondering if you can offer me any pointers on how to make my zine successful.

We'll give you what ever help we can, which is one of the ways we ourselves have grown. Most zines are very willing to share information with each other, and if we don't have an answer you’re looking for, ask some others.

We found that trying to sell a zine in a book store on consignment (where they only pay you for what they sell) is pretty much hopeless. The zine ends up getting buried behind other merchandise, and no one can even find it. However, many comic shops, small book stores, and even large chain stores will carry it. So it’s your call if you want to try and distribute yourself that way. We sell most of our publications either through distribution or our website. We found that distributors can work in two ways. Either they'll advertise your publication, and then place an order with you if someone places an order with them, or they will buy a bunch upfront. For the publisher, the second is the preferred method, as those copies are now sold. If the distributor can't sell them, they are stuck with them. The downside to that is if the copies don't move, the distributor likely won't order more. You'll have to find distributors that deal with publications of your genre. Ours is horror, so most of our contacts may not be of help, but here they are:

David Wynn, Mythos Books, 218 Hickory Meadow Lane, Poplar Bluff, MO 63901 USA (573)785-7710 dwynn@ldd.net; Stuff, c/o Paul Houston, 5879 Darlington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15217 USA;

Chris Drumm Books, PO Box 440, Pol City, Iowa 50226-0440, USA; and Stars Our Destination, c/o Alice Bentley, 1021 West Belmont,
Chicago, IL 60657-3302, USA stars@sfbooks.com http://www.sfbooks.com/ Voice (773) 871-2722 Fax (773) 871-6816

If not interested in your genre, they may be able to direct you to distributors who are.

If you have any suggestions or helpful advice, I will be most grateful.  I'd like to hear how you got started and the measures you took to get where you are today. Also, do you have any distributors?  What newsstands sell imelod and your chapbooks? 

Get in contact with other zines, and arrange ad swaps with them. This is something that we do constantly, and it gives your publication wide exposure. Send out as many review copies as you can afford, as this will also give you good exposure. You won't know how, but world will begin to spread. Though we never received an order from Italy, one of our zines was wonderfully reviewed recently on an Italian webzine. Ad swaps and reviews will spread awareness of your publication around the world (we now have contacts in the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Scotland, the US, Brazil and so on). If you can, go to small press shows in your area. You can listings for these in local literary newspapers or listings.

We started out very small, basically doing the zine just for fun, but now, through the helpful advice of other small press publishers, we publish four issues of imelod a year, four chapbooks per year (at least) as well as various other projects. It takes time and patience, and some luck as well, but the rewards are worth the wait.

I am wondering about your chapbooks.  I am beginning a press and I'd like to know how you are printing/distributing them.  As far as printing goes, I'd like to know what you pay for each one and if you print them one at a time upon order or if you print them in bulk at an actual printing company.  We were planning on printing them individually because we have free access to a high-quality laser printer that will take care of everything for us besides the covers.

We print ours via a photocopier in the basement of our workplace, where we have a special deal set up with the owner. As we do the photocopying ourselves, and often use our own paper, our cost is much reduced. We print 50 copies at a time; when they run out, we just run off some more. We also have a laser printer, so we make our own covers at home one at a time.

I know distributors can be a problem when printing on demand as I am.  Do you go through distributors?  Do you use ISBNs? 

Besides word of mouth, small press books fairs and our website we do go through distributors. We've found that many won't respond to your queries however, even if you send an SASE so it can be frustrating getting in contact with them. Here are some addresses you can start with:

Chris Drumm Books
PO Box 440
Pol City, Iowa 50226-0440
This guy never got back to us...

Cthulhu Bob
Hastur Hobbies
2257 South 1100 East
Suite 2B
Salt Lake City, Utah 84106
Tel: 801-467-9814
Fax: 801-485-4997
A hobby store that bought some of our stuff...

Richard Grinnell
aka Richard Longcoat
Miskatonic University
P.O. Box 1205
El Toro, CA 92630-1205
(949) 837-9240
They bought some of our Lovecraft related stuff to sell through their site...

Stars Our Destination
c/o Alice Bentley
1021 West Belmont
Chicago, IL 60657-3302
Voice (773) 871-2722
Fax (773) 871-6816
Never got back to us...

c/o Paul Houston

5879 Darlington Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

David Wynn,
Mythos Books

218 Hickory Meadow Lane
Poplar Bluff, MO 63901 USA

Jon Hodges
Project Pulp

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