Zines, Glorious Zines!

page of Potluck Mania

page from my Potluck Mania zine, Issue 1

Amey and Kittee and I led a workshop about zines at Vida Vegan Con 2013, and it was great fun—both the planning and the execution of—but I wanted to follow up with a very quick post about my process of digital zine creation, because it is so different from the copy-collate-staple method.

Amey has written a really great post about her process, in case you get halfway through this and decide that digital is for the birds. (I wouldn’t blame you if you did.) If you need inspiration, Kittee hosts a Vegan Cook-Zine Museum at PakuPaku that is a true treasure trove of cookzine love.

Onwards! Joanna’s Down and Dirty Digital Zine Creation, intentionally unordered, because you might get to steps 3 or 4 and realize that you really need to rethink step 2…

    • Determine your audience. Knowing who your audience is going to be is going to inform every other decision you make. The zine I would make for my parents and in-laws might be very different from the zine I would make for my blog readers.
    • Zero in on a theme. I know my pal Kittee is somewhere shaking her fist at the use of the word “theme,” but even if your theme is as loose as “20 vegan recipes I like,” you should be able to sum up the contents of your zine in one sentence. It need not be a cookzine, people! One of my favorite digital zines is my friend Jay’s anthology of his website, The Plug.
The Plug, Anthology Volume 1

The Plug, Anthology Volume 1

  • Figure out what your zine will look like.Full-size magazine size? Pocket-size? 24 pages? 36? If you’re comfortable with Photoshop, you may want to design the entire thing yourself—the way that I did the Potluck Mania zines shown here—editing PSDs and then saving as PDFs when they’re done. If you go that route, I recommend purchasing some digital scrapbooking templates to make your project look especially sleek and polished. They were an invaluable resource to me when I was creating Potluck Mania. If you’re not as design-savvy, you may want to skip ahead a couple of steps: choose a publisher, download one of their templates, and cut and paste directly in the template.
    page from Potluck Mania Issue 1

    page from my Potluck Mania Issue 1

  • If you have no idea what you want your zine to look like, a good way to figure this out: Start typing. Writing your zine in a word processing software will give you some idea of exactly how much content you have to work with, and besides, you’ll want one text-only version of your zine for easy editing purposes.
  • Now that you’re getting a feel for what your final product will look like, it’s time to pick a publisher/distributor.1 One of the main advantages to creating your zine digitally, as far as I’m concerned, is that once you’ve finished your project, you are done. There is no need for you to spend big bucks up front to print your zine, or to set up a virtual storefront, or to go to the post office multiple times a week. Online publishers are print-on-demand, and they mail the zine to your customer for you. I use (and really love) Amazon’s createspace. I get monthly payments from Amazon and a yearly tax form, but otherwise, I don’t have to do anything at all. I’ve included a screenshot below of the first page of the project creation process. See that you have the choice between “Guided” and “Expert”? The Guided process makes it easy for literally anyone to create the final digital file. Createspace offers a wide choice of templates which you can just cut and paste your project into.

    Amazon's createspace interface

    Amazon’s createspace interface

That’s it!

Hopefully this has demystified digital zine creation for you, and you are already planning your next zine. If so, I want to hear all about it.

1I know what you might be thinking here: “Hey, Joanna, isn’t the entire point of digital zine creation that you don’t have to publish it? Your customer can just download the file to the device of their choice and never have to bother with a hard copy? ” Yes, totally! That might be a big selling point for you! Personally, I prefer to have physical copies of things, especially cookbooks, so this tutorial addresses publishing. If you don’t want to publish, then you can stop right here.


Zines, Glorious Zines! — 8 Comments

    • Smurfy, we should talk in person about this maybe, because I have a lot of opinions. Basically, I can’t see ever doing a zine the old-fashioned way again, because I don’t have the patience and hate the entire post office aspect of it. But if you need to be able to print out a lot of physical copies to sell at bake sales / pop-up shops, then digital might not be the best choice for you.

  1. Thanks for this post Joanna! I am such a huge fan of zines, I think it’s time I start working on one of my own. Will definitely be vegan kid centered.

  2. This post was super helpful! I’ve made a few zines the photocopy & staples way but never digitally. Your zine session with Kittee & Amey was one of my favorites from the weekend. Your passion for the subject was obvious and contagious!

  3. It’s great to see photos of your zines Joanna! I was in the class and enjoyed every minute. I have some ideas for my own zine now. :)