Josh Inman / zine

Self-publishing in zines. And a farewell.

by JC Inman

In this article, I talk with Canberra artist collective Art Underground about self-publishing in the form of a zine. [Editor’s Note: It’s so underground that we couldn’t even find a website to link to.] For those who don’t know, a zine (short for magazine) is a modern form of pamphlet or chapbook, consisting of one or more pages of “curated content”.  Zines are often mixed media artefacts, containing images, découpage, poetry, articles, photographyliterally anything that the producer feels enhances the zine.

This article is also my last as the blogger-in-residence here at Capital Letters. Its been a great six month period, starting with the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival and running through to this last peek into alternate methods of publishing. More than just a recap of the adventure, I’d like to express my gratitude to Kelli-anne and Mandy at the Writers Centre for the internet space and audience for me to share my words. I’d also like to thank those I’ve interviewed who have helped contribute, especially those that responded but then the article never came to fruition ( like Lorese Vera, rip Publishing and Scissors Paper Pen).

Before I hand over the blogger reins (really its a mouse and keyboard) to the incoming soon-to-be-blogger-resident, just to make sure the seat remains nice and warm, here’s my final blog post: Zines with Art Underground.

Art Underground is an event that begins on the 25 of April,  that combines spoken word and visual art. The difference with this fledgling shindig is that the performers are asked to submit their words to a zine. The zine ties the visual art elements of the night to the ephemeral aspects of spoken word. In the world of performative poetry, this codification is a departure from the trend of podcast and YouTube videos that record the event faithfully, giving a greater focus to the words themselves.

I asked Arrin from Art Underground what was the motivator behind the zine.

“The choice to write in zine form was made on two main grounds. The first had to do with the flexibility if the form. The range of ways that a zine can be presented means that each issue can be physically tailored to thematically suit the content in a way that is more difficult with standard books or magazines

The second has to do with cost. As our event is not-for-profit, costs are important, and this is a form that can be produced with minimal cost.”

Zines can indeed be made cheaply, or as elaborately as you wish; in my collection of zines I have some that are a single A5 page, double sided, others that are bound by thick twine, illustrated by digital artists,  and screen printed on paper recycled by hand.

A zine is the confluence between art and literature, magazine and poster, between scrapbook and chapbook. Because it is self produced, creative control is perhaps the biggest benefit, and why zinesters have been appearing in greater numbers.

As with a lot of self publishing, the onus is on you to distribute the zines. Some independent book stores or live venues may stock your zine, and stores do exist specifically to sell them (I knows of one in Newcastle and another in Perth), and arts festivals will usually have a zine stall. The ACT also has a zine festival that draws in zine enthusiasts from interstate, but the majority of distribution comes from your own efforts.

A labour of love, zining is not a style of publishing that will have you driven to fabulous parties in the back of a Bentley. Most zines cost between $1-5, and plenty are given free. Zine swapping is a common practice amongst producers.

That’s my last post, so adios! Maybe next we cross, we can swap some zines.


JC Inman is a poet and co-host of the Canberra Poetry Slam. You can follow him on Twitter @JC_WHO_ART or on Facebook.

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