the creative process behind a published zine

from evy's notebook

Someone asked me yesterday what my creative process is, and specifically how I went about writing the zine that I've now sold 50 copies of, and which will soon be published by microcosm! This is one of the biggest projects I've worked on over the last year (alongside the house I live in and the job I do for money), and it's been fun to reflect on what that has looked like.

september: initial spark

It's the evening of the 9th and the excitement of a new idea is growing in my mind as I'm laying in bed and about to fall asleep. What do I know a lot about that I could write a zine about? I sure have written a lot about anxiety. What if I put them all together in a zine? It would be neat to write with the intention of trying to read a wider audience and not just my friends.

Over the next week, I collect and edit five notebook posts in a google doc. I have a zine draft!

I write a list of goals for the zine, to think about while I and others edit.

i want it to feel accessible (easy to read), relatable, and helpful

which are your favourite essays and which felt less exciting for you? does it feel like a good length? would shorter or longer feel better?

it should be able to be printed black and white for cost-saving, with cover printed on neon paper (cover art is TODO)

october: post-spark lull

I've sent the google doc to several friends but no-one has looked it over or left comments. Is it too long? Is it not good? If no-one would read it, is it worth writing or printing?

On the 21st I call a friend and we go over the draft together in the call. They have some helpful ideas for me to make the zine more engaging: adding more of why it's relevant or useful to the reader, being more deliberate with talking in the first/second/third person, and moving some sentences and paragraphs around.

A few days later I feel motivated to add two more essays to the google doc.

november: community supported creativity

I call a friend on the 1st and make some more edits. They tell me which essays they like best, and express enthusiasm about some of the ideas I'm talking about. Maybe people could like this!

On the sixth, a new friend says "I'm super excited for it, I love seeing the DBT in this, and I think it's really cool that you're making this". The next day two housemates give me detailed and helpful feedback on the google doc. I feel excited and write one last essay. The day after I journal: "working with people on my zine has brought me some of my happiest feelings in the last few weeks."

A few days later, I get coffee with a friend who is extremely enthusiastic about the zine, and her joy fills me with energy. A housemate and I brainstorm essay titles at a table, writing ideas on dozens of bright sticky notes.

I move the essays from the google doc into a visual layout in Apple Pages over the span of 24 hours.

A friend of mine expresses interest in making a cover for the zine. A good cover is important to me because I want people to feel drawn to read the zine when they see it in stores! I don't have much experience working with friends in this way, and after a bit of bumbling around I eventually send her a selection of sample zine covers I like. She sends me some ideas and we iterate on one of them. We agree I'll pay her upfront for the cover art and also for a percentage of the sales.

december: finishing touches

On the 4th, I'm choosing between two possible covers and ask around for advice. Over 10 friends share opinions and feedback, and we end up finalizing a cover that incorporates aspects of both options.

In the first week of December, I also finalize what fonts I want to use, create the guestbook, put a digital version of the zine online for anyone to read, and send out an order form to friends.

It's tricky to print with a small budget (zines are usually sold for cheap), especially in color. I order zine covers on bright orange paper from OfficeDepot. A couple of friends who work at a big tech company are willing to use their company's printer to color-print the insides of my zines for free. About 20 people order zines and I mail them out on the 29th!

On the 20th, I spend hours collecting a few dozen names of places that sell zines. Local stores, international stores, art gallery collectives, zine distributors, and publishers.

After visiting several local bookstores with a friend, I realize that the zines they stock are often published and distributed by microcosm. Their submission process is really easy, so I submit my zine that night. The next morning they email back and say they're interested!

january: distribution!

A friend that bought my zine has a friend that works at an indie bookstore. They look through my zine and ask if they can buy 24 from me!

A week later, Microcosm officially says they'd like to publish the zine! I can still distribute myself, but they plan to sell hundreds of copies across various stores.

They can only print the inside in black and white, so I look around and find cheap color printing so that I can continue to create my own copies to sell locally and to friends.

Several people who read the zine really really like it, and I feel excited to see what could happen when the zine ends up in stores :)