Ancillary Merchandising: The Selling of Other Products to Defray Costs

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Title: Ancillary Merchandising: The Selling of Other Products to Defray Costs
Creator: Carolyn Cooper
Date(s): January 1986
Medium: print
Fandom: multifandom
External Links:
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Ancillary Merchandising: The Selling of Other Products to Defray Costs is a 1986 essay by Carolyn Cooper.

It was printed in the zine Blue Pencil #3 of which Cooper was the editor.

Some Topics Discussed

From the Essay

Once upon a time a tired, poor, starving zine editor stood in a field of Dealer's Tables watching the filthy carpetbaggers make fortunes off of the other media fans by selling buttons, movie posters, shaped candy, old books, costume jewelry, photos and more at outrageous markups while she, prohibited by the social mores of her fandom and in fear of censuring by her friends, groveled in the table cloth for someone to buy her below-cost fanzine. Chewing the last of the M & M's she'd saved from a bid party the night before, she grew ill and collapsed from hunger. Rising up from the trash strewn by a comics dealer from Chicago, she made a vow (in a slightly English Southern accent), "As God is my witness, I will never be broke again!"

Our heroine then put on her best party dress (made from the hotel curtains) and swept coquettishly through the convention flirting first with one dealer than another until she had found her market — buttons! For the nominal investment of $200 in equipment and supplies (the price of a color cover), she could make hundreds of buttons. The cost per button was 12-25 cents (depending upon the source and volume discount of supplies) and they sold for $1.25-$2.00 giving her a 100-175% profit!

Our heroine went on expanding her sales line until one day from behind an overflowing row of dealer's tables, her partner and co-editor announced she was leaving. Their partnership was dead. Our heroine had become a filthy carpetbagger herself, caring only for profit. Our heroine rushed to her partner. No!

It wasn't true. She truly loved the zine. She realized that now. Her partner, with scorn said, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a DANESWOMAN!" and left. Our heroine, with tears in her eyes covered her tables. What would she do? Where would she go? And then it struck her. Her IBM Selectric. She'd go back to her roots, to her IBM Selectric and write a sad, tragic, 300 page Trek novel. But how would she ever get her friend and co-editor back? It was too much. She'd think about that tomorrow. Tomorrow was another day.

Okay, okay. Maybe it wasn't EXACTLY like that, but somewhere, sometime a fanzine editor sat and decided she had had enough. She was tired of being broke. She was tired of never having enough money to buy the fanzines SHE wanted. She was tired of crashing on people's floors in order to attend the cons and sell her zines. She had had it and she was going to do something to make money at the cons. And since it wasn't all right to make money off of her fanzine, she'd have to do it some other way. Since then dozens of zine editors have supplemented their zine funds by marketing other items. Fans, including writers and artists, are getting into the act offering everything from prints and custom art to T-shirts and headdresses. Below are some tips and caveats on ancillary products. If you're looking for funding for your fannish efforts, don't think about it tomorrow; tomorrow is another wasted day.

Select a cost effective product. If you only attend one convention a year to premiere your zine and then ship it out to other's to sell at local cons, something requiring a sizeable or long-term investment in equipment and supplies, such as buttons or T-shirts, is not the best choice. Go for the inexpensive, one-shot sales like baked goods.

Select a complimentary product. Spiked dog collars and studded whips might give the wrong impression about your Spock/Chapel love story novel.

Sell your talents. If you're an excellent artist, consider selling prints or photoprints. Put together a portfolio. The matter of "fair use" from broadcast material is still undetermined so be careful with creative audio/video dubs.

Sell philosophies. Take a tip from the Scientologists and movie makers, give the people what they want—great lines! Maybe you're aren't an Oscar Wilde or a Lawrence Kasdan, but Fair Use allows you to "borrow" a great line or two from copyrighted works. Hence, the "I've got a bad feeling about this" and "Don't call me tiny" buttons, labels, bumperstrips, etc. For more product ideas, check out an specialty advertising catalog, everything from pencils to totebags, clocks to flashlights; you name it they either got it or they'll get it and at surprisingly cheap rates. Where do you think all that Lincoln Enterprises stuff comes from? Some items are cheaper than others.

Re-sell your zine. I don't mean recycle the thing or an elaborate con game. Use elements of your zine to create other products. If you've got a great cover or piece of art consider printing it as stationary, bookmarks, note pads, prints, posters, T-shirts, whatever. (Always be certain to get the artist's permission first.) Perhaps you could design cover stock posters of a particularly good poem and piece of art. Sell left over covers as prints. Collect that two-part, 60-page story and pub it as a collected mini-zine (again, with permission).

Sell your knowledge. Have you tracked the market value of every ST zine every pubbed to keep you insurance up-to-date? Do you know all the tricks for working with Dr. Martin's Radiant Watercolors or the right mix of acrylics to get Mr. Spock chromotagraphically accurate? Do you know how to take pictures from a TV screen without fuzziness or lines? Selp-publish a monograph on the subject. The booklet can be sold not only to zine buyers, but to other fans, dealer's, etc. without one iota of guilt or concern that the LFL Stormtroopers will swoop down upon you.