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How to set up a zine distro

February 5th, 2004 · post by anon · Make a comment

Setting up a DIY distro – particularly a zine distro – is pretty easy, especially if you do a zine yourself. I started doing Death Wish zines (now Town Clock distro), in the summer of 2000. At the time there were three zines on the go in little old Thirsk. My effort, ‘Small Sailor’ (and incidentally the only one still going); Aaron Beat Up’s ‘My God Can Beat Up Your God’; and Antony Monkey’s controversial, but insanely humorous, ‘Monkey Bizness’. So it made sense for us to get together, as we were always hanging out at Aaron’s anyway, and do a Thirsk omnibus zine. Astonishingly the omnibus, titled ‘Thirsk 2000’, actually happened! (But what was to be a yearly event never took place again! – whilst doing this article I’ve spoken to Beat Up and we could have a possible resurrection on our ands, but we have attempted it once before!).

We printed loads of zines (the most we’ve ever done of one issue) and decided that we could, in theory, trade 5 or 10 copies with different zine editors and start up a distro. It benefited us, because we got our zines sold at loads of gigs in different areas of the country, and the distro was somewhere people could buy different zines from, and at the same time discover new zines.

I find that most people will spend about a fiver at a time. They buy established zines they’re familiar with and take a gamble on some new zines. People come back for more too. Probably because it’s the only place they know where they can buy zines, and if I don’t have what they want they ask me to chuck in summert new (so I don’t even have to bother with credit notes!)

I’ve been trading zines since I started Small Sailor over 8 years ago. Start a zine, trade, and do a distro. Easy as that!

Then it’s down to getting people to find out about your distro so they can buy the zines. This is just like any other distro. So, where would you find people who are interested in punk based fanzines? Gigs. I have mainly sold Small Sailor at gigs, my record for one gig is 75 copies, which was a long time ago at a Strung Out, Goober, Diesel Boy gig at the Duchess in Leeds. So doing a stall at gigs is always a good idea. Particularly small DIY gigs. Alternatively if you only have a few different zines to sell or you have a few new ones which you wanna shift fast then just take 5 6 different zines and try them round the crowd. In-yer-face tactics is probably the best way. It’s hard to say no to a 50p zine and I find that fewer zinesters go selling at gigs so people get enthusiastic when they see you. It¹s also good to sell at gigs and have kids tell you that they¹ve enjoyed reading your zines in the past! Marv Gadgie is one person I trade with who sell his copies of Small Sailor to the kids at gigs in Boston (which was the whole idea behind the distro!). Alternatively, if you get pissed at gigs and can’t rely on yourself to look after any zines then it’s a good idea to do some flyers to put on the door. Most people, when they are paying, will pick up a few of the flyers, even if it’s only while they wait for someone to scrape them enough coppers together for their change.

Another way to get yer zine distro known is to do mailouts. I invade the mail with as many flyers and copies of the distro list as I can afford to get printed. But, do the distro lists actually get to the people who are interested in buying zines? I tend to send them to the zines contributing (for their mail), and to UK based DIY labels. Hopefully, this way the lists go out to the people who are actively buying from small distro’s and labels. I vaguely remembering reading that for 1000 flyers posted you get about 10 orders, so you need to print loads of flyers as cheaply as possible, which will probably be photocopying.

Maximum Rock N Roll’s ‘Book Your Own Fucking Life’, a huge yearly booklet and constantly updated website of DIY resources. Go on their website, put yer distro on it and people will contact you!

Then there¹s the internet. You can use the forums and message boards to tell people about the distro, or if you are more technical (and think it’s worthwhile), you could create your own website so people can see what you have to sell. I don’t know what I’m doing with the internet so Jon at Running Riot Records put my distro up on his site but I have problems updating it and he has had problems accessing his site lately. I’m less enthusiastic but you shouldn’t let the first obstacle put you off.

What about money asked Edd, as an after thought? Well, this has never been a strong point of mine, and it’s the reason the Town Clock Recordz account and cheque book is under my sisters name! There’s two categories for money, simply ins and outs. As I said earlier I prefer to trade zines. If possible for Small Sailor’s, or otherwise for other zines on the list. It’s easiest when trading with zinesters who do their own distro’s. For example, I always send Andy Cactus 10 copies of Small Sailor and he does likewise with Bald Cactus. You might say, ‘but if you trade Small Sailor’s then they are like the currency you use’, which is true, but the idea was to get the zine sold to people in different areas, so I don’t loose out by trading. And naturally I sell zines on the distro and at gigs for cash, which can go towards the printing of the next issue, or to printing the distro lists. But I usually owe Town Clock money from sales or trades so money I make from the distro sales go to paying off my Town Clock debts. If you want financial advice you’re asking the wrong person!

Send a SAE for the latest list and if you do your own zine then get in touch. If you don’t do a zine, get started! Town Clock Recordz, Rich T, 39 Station Road, Thirsk, YO7 1QH.

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