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5 Tips for 'Zinesters
By Starling Root
The crackling of leaves beneath your Docs and the crisp breeze rustling your DIY scarf can only mean one thing—it's 'zine festival season!
As you may know, this past weekend the Philly Zine Festival took place at The Rotunda, “a community-gathering place that is fueled by the belief that art is a catalyst for social change.” The Houston Zine Fest and the San Diego Zine Fest also meant lots more indie merriment on Saturday. And Canzine Toronto, “Canada's Largest Festival of Zines and Underground Culture,” will take the independent publishing world by storm on Sunday, October 20th. Several more 'zine festivals will round out the year, and surely early 2014 will have its share of 'zine magic, too. (Just look to Stolen Sharpie Revolution for a geographically representative calendar.)
Unless you're independently wealthy, have few commitments, and are just damn lucky, chances are you can't make all of these fantastic events. But, hey, it's about quality, not quantity. And while dropping in on a 'zine fest is in and of itself fabulous and rewarding, you more starry-eyed folks might even dream of one day tabling at all of these events. Again, two words: “time” and “money.” It's one thing to go to a 'zine fest and another thing entirely to table at one. You'll definitely need the hours, a budget, and a lot of commitment if you plan on lording over a kick-ass table.
Since The Quail Bell Crew is full of 'zine fest veterans, we've come up with a simple guide to tabling intended for novices (cough, cough) fledglings. Here are five tips that will help you enjoy the best tabling experience possible, especially if it's your first:
1. This is not about making $$$: Sure, there will be times when the 'zine gods favor you and you'll break even. Perhaps you'll make a profit and a respectable one at that. But even if you're raking in the cash (which is unlikely your first go-round), 'zine fests are first and foremost about sharing your ideas and your art with new friends and fans. At the best 'zine fests, you'll find people who connect with your work and whose work resonates with you. Sometimes the 'zine you traded your 'zine for ends up being your favorite find of the day.
2. Gussy up your table: Just because you're not out to strike it rich doesn't mean you can't put effort into your display. Don't expect people to notice your 'zine simply because you put effort into it. All the other tablers worked hard, too. Entice potential readers with a display that speaks to the subject(s) and theme(s) of your 'zine(s). Did you write about the whales you spotted that time you camped in Nova Scotia? Then maybe make a construction paper whale to hang from your table, or at least throw a plastic one up by your 'zine. The more inventive your décor, the better. If nothing else, crafts are F-U-N.
3. Bring a friend: Your first time tabling can be a stressful task, especially if you're at a bigger fest. A trusted buddy can watch over your table when you go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat; help you make change when you forget how to add and subtract (it happens); talk to people who come to your table if you're busy with another customer; and make the process of packing up at the end of the day much easier.
4. Make new friends: You and your table buddy shouldn't just be selling your 'zines the whole fest. You should get up and explore other tables, too. That's one of the reasons you brought a buddy in the first place—so you can leave your table with no worries. Take turns checking out other 'zines and talking to the people who put the brainpower, creativity, ink, and staples into those 'zines. Many 'zine fests are large enough that people from all over the country (and occasionally the world) are there.
5. Venture out into the city: Unless you live in New York, Toronto, or Philly, which all lay claim to more than one 'zine fest a year, you probably had to travel to table. That's one of the best parts about tabling: going to a new place or at least a place that's not your own. Stay with a native. Eat out. See the sights. Now is not the time to succumb to homesickness. Every city has something interesting to offer. If that “something” is not immediately obvious, seek it out. Who knows? The trip might make great material for your next 'zine.