This is for small zine or comic anthologies for poets, writers, artists, activists, because that’s what I have experience with.
If you’re just thinking of making one, well, this is a great way to see what’s involved.
This is a time-saving system I use when putting together a zine anthology.
Why Make the Anthology?
It’s not just your own fans buying your work now, it’s also the friends, family & fans of the other contributors! Make sure your work in the zine has your website & social media tags so they can find you.
You’re all in this together, so being the editor is a great way of interacting with new people on a joint project, especially if you have an facebook or whatsapp group for the project.
A String to Your Bow
Gaining organising skills, emailing, editing, experience with a printer, Indesign, bleeds, marketing, google suite…there’s a lot that goes into it. Great for the CV.
Experience with Selling Your Art
It’s much easier to promote a collection of other people’s work than just your own, so this is a great gateway into the world of tabling at cons.
They are easier to sell, too – working with others means more pages, so your buyer gets more value from the zine.
You may, like me, not have the time or confidence to put together a fully fleshed out story to sell at fairs & conventions just yet.
It’s great contributing to an anthology someone else is organising, but if you have a theme you’d like to stick to and can’t find any anthology asking for submissions like yours, then this is the way to get yours out there.
It’s Hella Fun
There’s something pretty magical about seeing your work printed on a physical book, that someone then pays to read, and sharing that feeling with others in the same book…That is cool. It feels good. So what the heck? Let’s do it.
STAGE 1: PLANNING
Why are YOU making this anthology?
It’s a lot of work, so why are you putting in so much effort?
Is it to get your work out there? To meet like-minded artists? To gain experience? Just for fun?
Whatever it is, this will shape what you do with the end result.
Jot down some theme ideas for your zine anthology
Prompt can be seasonal, location-related, abstract, topical, random or non-existent, but I recommend choosing something if only as a social experiment!
Some example themes I’ve created something for has been ‘rising sun’, ‘hometown’ & ‘dead singers’), and let everyone interpret that.
How will you get it out there?
Depending on why you’re doing this, and what you’re aim is, that will dictate how you produce the zine.
- PDF only? Then you can have as many pages as you want.
If the idea is to get the work out there, then this is great. You can host it for free and link to it from different directions.
(I like doing this after the zines have sold enough to break even, so that I’m not out of pocket).
- DIY – access to a photocopier & staples? At home, at a friends or the library? Then do that, but work out how much per page if you’re using a library photocopier.
- Online printer – you can use your local one, I used Rope Press because of their cool Risograph effects. It fit in with the theme of ‘Hometown’ for the anthology, but I also use Mixam.
Right now, I’ll only be talking about the Online Printer option, which begs the question,
What is your budget?
When you’ve got your budget you can work out how many pages you want, which may dictate how many contributors you invite, and how many copies you want to get printed and how much you want to sell the item for.
It’s not just printing the zine you need to consider, either. There’s also the travel expenses for getting to and from the zine fairs or comic cons, the cost of selling at the event, and any other miscellaneous costs, like postage and packaging if you end up doing this online. Just something to consider.
Maybe the easiest way to decide on the budget is to ask:
How are you funding the anthology?
- Your own pocket
- Contributors, so everyone who submits pitches in £10
If it’s a group of friends then that last one is the best option. You’ll all be investing in getting your work out there, and kickstarters are just creating more work for yourself.
But, if you want that experience of raising funds, and you have the time to do it, then kick-starting is a great way of funding your project.
A side note on Kickstarter…
This is a huge thing in itself and there are lots of resources online to do this and do it well, but the best advice I can give you as someone who has fundraised before is this:
- Use Video to show them why they should contribute
- Ask friends directly, not just a blanket call out, take the time to message them.
- Start as early as possible – from the moment you’ve established who will be contributing to the anthology.
Also I want to add if you do a kickstarter, you might want to consider offering £££ for contributions, which is much fairer to the artists who are putting their work in.
Funding your Zine Anthology
For the sake of this blog I’m going to assume you have enough money aside to produce this.
So whatever that budget is, go to Mixam and play around with the settings until you get a price you’re happy with.
Settings include black & white?
What type of paper? Front cover?
How many pages?
The reason for playing with Mixam with the budget now rather than later is to determine how many pages of the zine you can afford. You don’t want to get too many pages and then not be able to afford printing, although I’m sure if it came to that you would find a way to make it work.
Then when you have the number of pages you are in a better position to tell contributors how many pages they get each, or how many contributors you want at all.
(For example if it’s going to be 30 pages, then that’s 3 sides each to 10 people, or 5 sides each for 6 contributors.)
This doesn’t need to be exact at this stage, but now you have a good idea of what your zine will look like in its final form, and you can start making that happen.
Choosing a Deadline
You should have two deadlines, the first is to register their interest and the 2nd is the deadline for the submission of their entry.
You could even give a deadline for draft versions to check the progress.
When picking a deadline, I’d recommend picking an upcoming event, such as a zine fair or holiday to aim for. It’s just something that gives me a real motivation to get it done.
Getting everyone to submit on time can be like herding cats when it comes to deadlines.
Everyone has full time jobs and commissions and life to deal with, so make sure you set the deadline quite a bit before your actual deadline to create some flexibility there for you and the contributor.
Also, I’d recommend sending a reminder email to everyone contributing a month before the deadline.
STAGE 2: CREATING the ANTHOLOGY
So now we have an idea of what the zine will look like. How many pages, the theme, the size & paper.
Time to round up the wonderful souls who want to contribute!
You now know from working out the budget and playing with Mixam how many contributors you need from the amount of pages you’re aiming for.
Choosing Contributors, Method 1:
When it comes to picking them, in my experience the best way to do this is make a list of all the creators you want involved and contact them individually. Tell them why you want them, and be flexible with deadlines if that becomes the only barrier.
If you don’t have a group you can contact, then that’s okay too.
I’m going to show you a way to collect all those entries in a more streamlined way.
Whether you’re inviting specific people, or you’re going to do an open submissions, these systems work for either.
You’ll need to do a Call Out, or a document with the specifications on it,
You’ll need a way to collect their entries
And you’ll need to store it somewhere.
The Call Out with Google Docs
When you write your call out make sure you specify exactly what is required for the printers.
You’ll find them on Mixam, or with whatever printer you use.
If you put this on a Google Doc, they can view it on any device anytime without editing the details.
Make sure you share the link as public.
Collecting Entries with Google Forms
Assuming that the anthology is a way to get your work out there, you’ll want to link to other people’s work, so make sure you get their details.
The aim is to reduce your workload, so the more info you get in this one place, the better.
(If you have limited places for the anthology, you can do first come first serve or ask for their ideas first and then choose the few you are going to use.
Maybe you can put everyone else’s in a PDF version of the zine? Either way, if you choose to do it this way, don’t forgot to email everyone).
If you’re planning on posting the zine to them make sure you get their address as well with their entries.
Website (or link to their work)
What they’re going to do it about
How many pages (maximum x)
are they okay with it being resold
Finding Contributors Online
Then Post the form link to wherever you want to gather your contributors from.
I’d recommend comic-related Facebook Groups (you can find them in the search bar of Facebook)
Or this Twitter feed
Be sure to use Hashtags on social media to find people.
Contributers Best Practise
When you have the contributors, I recommend having a facebook or whatsapp group, whichever you prefer, so that everyone can ask questions and see the answers and keep each other in the loop. It’s a great team bonding exercise.
The Front & Back Cover
You have the zine, the entries, the budget.
It’s missing one thing – the cover.
This is arguably the most important part, ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ is true in theory, but doesn’t always happen in practise.
It can kind of rally everyone behind the zine as well, so if you can get this done first, I’d recommend using that.
If you can get an artist to do the cover for you, great. Otherwise can you ask one the contributors? Or maybe use your own talents?
Whatever you do, make sure you give it some thought.
STAGE 3: GETTING IT OUT THERE
Selling the Zine Anthology
Once you have a physical copy that you need to sell, you can do this in a few ways:
- Visit the zine fairs or comic events yourself, great for meeting people and making friends.
- OR you can sell a bunch of them (like 5 at a time) to friends & contributors going to these events and then they can charge an extra £ to make it worth their time.
- Ask shops about the independent section of their store, local comic book stores tend to host local work in some corners. You’ll need to enquire about invoices and stuff, here.
- Sell the anthology online, like Etsy or Big Cartel
If it’s online selling then make sure to watch your emails and get your envelopes and postage stamps ready.
If you know you won’t be able to be as prompt with checking emails and getting them sent then make a note on the site that delivery will be within 2 weeks or something like that, to manage expectations.
Selling the Zine Anthology Online – Shout About It
You have it, you’re ready to get it online…
…but no one knows it exists.
Going back to the beginning, who is your target audience? Where are they?
First and foremost your no.1 audience are the friends and families of everyone who collaborated. Your supporters, your community. First port of call.
After that…for me I’ve whittled it down to four main areas you need to think of when it comes to getting your work out there:
- Can they find you?
Where is this zine gonna be made accessible/stumbled upon? Is it your site? Your social media account? Hashtag # it. Feature on a friends blog, or a popular blog you like, so that people know it exists.
- Can you find them?
Reach out to them on facebook, twitter, zine fairs etc. Fish where the fish are.
Take care of the people who receive it and ask them for reviews- they’ll do the marketing for you that way, word of mouth is no.1 way of getting anyone to look at anything, and social media is just a tool. So make sure you get people recommending it, and mention that review so others can see it. Social proof.
I also sent free copies of the zine to key influencers and reviewers, to get a link from their sites. Great way to get more people looking at it!
- Follow up
This one is more work but basically if people take an interest but don’t have the cash on them at a zine fair, get their email address and then send them a reminder and a link to buy it online with a reason why they should.
Again, a lot can be said around marketing, a LOT, but these are some basic principles that you can build around.
And going back to the beginning, if your goal for doing all this work is getting your work out there, then once you’ve broken even with the selling (or made the money back that you wanted), put it online as a PDF with links to it, so that your work goes wider.
Don’t do this alone. It’s quite a lot of work for just one person, and it’s good to be held accountable and have a second person to make decisions with.
Hope this helps with your comic anthology making!
This applies to any zine really, but I say comic because that’s what I make.
Here is a link to the Hometown themed anthology by Laydeez do Comics Birmingham