2017-08-01

The Easiest of Physical Zine Formats!

Are you intimidated by the idea of creating a physical zine? I am, or at least was.

I recently learned of a few, wonderful zine formats that greatly lower the fear factor. It's true that small successes breed larger ones, so I think I'm going to give one of these a try in the near future, hoping that it will give me courage to start sending out my digest-sized zine, Plundergrounds.

The Letter Zine
When I first learned of Christian Walker's The Tolling of the Great Black Bell, it blew my mind. Christian's zine begins as a hand-written/drawn artifact on both sides of one page. He copies his original onto colored paper, tri-folds it, and mails it in a standard envelope with a single stamp. He can even slip in several "back issues" without raising the postage, so let's say his cost per zine is something like 50 cents for postage plus maybe 15 cents a page for copying and paper stock, maybe another 10 cents for the envelope. Outside of his time, Christian is making and delivering a physical zine for 75 cents an issue. Brilliant. Easy. Useful!

I think my own mental block was that I always imagined a zine to be like a magazine or a book. It never occurred to me that a zine could just be a single page.

Black Bell (front/orange), What Danforth Saw (behind/yellow)

The Mini-Comic 
Another small zine I recently purchased was a comic called What Danforth Saw from artist Sean Poppe. I was expecting a digest-sized thing, so when I got a 3.5" by 5" envelope from him in the mail I was a little surprised. Inside was a blank piece of paper folded over a tiny booklet. The booklet was/is 3.25" x 3.75" and 20 pages long. (That number includes the cover and both sides of every page. IOW it is 5 strips of paper, printed on both sides and stapled/folded in the center.) The hand-feel was a bit like one of the old (horrible but also clever) Jack Chick tracts. It didn't even occur to me to feel "cheated" by the size. For one thing, I paid almost nothing for it. For another, the small format just seemed awesome! What a great idea to make the zine so that it fit in the kind of envelope that Thank You cards often use.

My one concern here is how to easily create the zine in this format. It seems like it would involve some fussy printing and cutting. One solution might be to use the PocketMod format. A PocketMod uses one sheet of paper, printed on one side only, to produce an 8-page pamphlet about the size of a playing card.

What's So Easy About These?
Both of these formats solve one of the biggest problems of the physical zine ... distribution. By exploiting standardized envelope sizes and mailing rates, they ensure that getting your zine to a reader will be easy. For your convenience...

USPS Size/Weight Limits
Domestic First Class
International First Class

EDIT: Follow Up!
So, it turns out that a 28 page zine the size of a half-page of US letter paper (5.5" x 8.5" tall) will fit into a mailing envelope (like this one) that conforms to the USPS requirements for a standard envelope! That means a single stamp. I tested it and it arrive at a friends house (on the other side of the US) in about 5 days. YAY!