Making art is an expensive endeavor. Last year I started Catahoula Zine, a quarterly print publication that features eight to ten writers and artists reacting to a singular theme. Zines are the original self-publishing platforms. Anyone with access to pen and paper can make one and the beauty of zines lies in their DIY roots. However, you can also make your zine as fancy schmancy as you’d like. I like to collect all types of zines including beautiful risograph prints and ones that more closely resemble scratch paper.
I’m breaking down my expenses from my first year of zine-making in case anyone is interested in starting their own. I print with MagCloud, a print on demand service that offers high quality, perfect bound glossy publications. Depending on the pages and size, I pay between $4-$6 an issue and sell them for $8-$12. That profit doesn’t even cover my expenses though, which I’ve broken down below.
In 2016 I spent about $1,300 to print four issues, two supplementary issues, and some mini photo prints. I also attended three zine and book fests: Press Fest in Austin, New Orleans Comic and Zine Fest and the New Orleans Bookfair. You don’t have to spend as much as I did to start a zine, but prepare to fork over some cash if you plan on distributing them.
Shipping & postage: $162.34
Business cards plus a vinyl banner for zine fests: $64
Festival fees: $68
Hotel for one night: $151
Uber in Austin: $35
Grand total: $1,280.34
Expenses not factored in:
Meals in Austin, gas, domain purchase, and monthly Adobe subscription. My true grand total is between $1,600 and $1,800.
Where I saved money:
The Austin trip was part business, part pleasure. I stayed with my sister a few nights (she lives an hour from Austin) so I saved money on hotels. I also have an Adobe student subscription, which gives me access to the programs I need (InDesign, Photoshop, Lightroom) for the price of one program.
Where I could have saved money:
I definitely overspent on dog.bites, the supplementary, cheaper zine I produced specifically to sell at zine fests. I went to Kinko’s and shelled out more than I wanted. I originally wanted to sell dog.bites for $3 a piece but had to sell them for $6 to recoup my costs. I made about $1.40 off each one sold.
I paid for tables at three zine fests but I didn’t have to. NOCAZ offered free tables to locals and New Orleans Bookfair offered a sliding scale. I could have opted for the free table but decided to donate to the cause anyway.
Three of my four first issues had contributors. I sent each writer and artist one free copy of the zine. I could have just sent a PDF of the issue but since I’m not paying anyone I thought a print copy was only fair. This year I’m only accepting submissions for two of the four issues in an effort to save money on shipping and printing costs.
Where I made money:
The fests were my real money makers. I made between $130-$180 per day at NOCAZ (two days) and over $100 at the New Orleans Bookfair. I made $55 at Press Fest. It was the least lucrative fest but I met several people and it was an excuse to visit my sister. I also made money selling issues on the retail level (after the store takes a cut) and directly to readers at two issue launch parties, a pop up art gallery I hosted, and through the Catahoula website.
I hope this was somewhat helpful and the financial aspect of zine-making isn’t too discouraging. Money aside, I was introduced to lots of great people doing interesting things and really feel privileged that people trust me to publish their work. Drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about zines via email or IRL.