Blue Pencil

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Title: Blue Pencil
Editor(s): Carolyn Cooper
Date(s): 1985-1986
Medium: print
Fandom: multimedia
External Links:
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Blue Pencil is a multimedia newsletter offering tips and articles on fanzine production by Carolyn Cooper.

From the first issue:

As with most professional, non-fiction publications, submissions are subject to editorial revision without galleys or prior approval. No submission will returned without SASE. As with LoC zines & most informational zines, contributor's copies will be given only on rare occasions (like when the moon turns Pantone Process Blue) and at the discretion of the editor.

The Creator Was Nervous

Some months back I got a vague idea for a zine for editors, writers and artists entitled -The Blue Pencil- (BP for short). I put out feelers on the idea which have somehow, like the Green Slime, grown into a full-scale creature with a life of its own. However, I received some strange responses to the idea. The editors, writers and artists I spoke with all like the idea. They are eager to submit to the project. But, alas, the vast majority sent me dire warnings. I've been told to expect hate mail from disagreeing fen, near ostracism at many conventions, the demand of censorship on zine economics and marketing techniques, and a short life span for the publication because fen don't want suggestions, advice, or help. Being a mild-mannered (albeit friendly) soul who loathes fighting of all sorts, these predictions have, needless to say, led to some trepidation on my part. So I come seeking and caveats on the proposal. [1]

What Was Planned

I've nebulously settled on a periodical I hope to produce the zine quarterly. Each issue will contain a brief (very brief), regular section on basic zine pubbing information, then would come an editorial or point/counter-point editorial, next a feature topic with short suggestions, anecdotes, helpful hints culled from submissions by various editors, writers and artists (you folks, in other words), and last, but far from least, letters of comment on previous topics and editorials. I'll probably also include an occasional section on new products, publications, or services that would be useful to us. The zine will probably be 12-20 pp. digest-size (folded 8-1/2 x 11 sheets) with a 77% reduction and priced from $1-2 per issue. I suppose it's only fair to point out that should I go through with the project, there will be discussions of breakeven, profit margins, at-risk pre-payment, and other hot, but necessary, publishing topics. I believe communication is essential to achieving solutions to problems, personal, professional and fannish, and that censorship is a sin. However, I will refuse to publish attacks or slurs on individuals, races, creeds, fandoms, etc. Dis- cussion and views will be limited to topics, information, concepts and other inanimates. Saying -I disagree with Carolyn- is fine: saying -Carolyn is an asshole- is not. (And you may feel free to write that you disagree with my policy.) I've already sent a Media Fan Survey to Dr. Susan Bridges which should be inluded in the January issue of UNIVERSAL TRANSLATER and if the first issue of BP comes out as tentatively scheduled, it will contain the results of that survey of zine buyers' habits and preferences.[2]

Issue 1

front page of issue #1
sample page from issue #1

Blue Pencil 1 was published in June 1985 and has 16 pages.

The editor writes: "The Tuesday following IDICon II, a group of very special California K/S fans & editors gathered at my house for dinner and provided most of the information in this Roundup."

  • Roundup: This months' topic was "Saving Money."
  • a letter by Susan M. Garrett which praises the idea of "Blue Pencil" and explains at length how to submit to zines
[Bev Clark]:

If you use any sexual material, let your printer know when getting a bid. Some won't handle it. Some charge more. If you're doing a slash (homosexual material included) zine, find out what printer some of the gay businesses in your area use. You might get a better rate and they certainly won't object to the illustrations. Control the zine's size. Limit the number of submissions.

Save some for another issue. Edit stories, cut excess words which will save money on printing and postage. Reduce up to 77% and limit white space. However, don't get carried away at the expense of the art or readability.

[Carolyn Cooper]:

How In the world could you afford all that color? Zine publishers always ask me about the color In the $7.00 Issue one of FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW. To be honest, I couldn't. At least not In the usual way. Here's an expurgated history of FACPOV 1.

By February the artists made missed deadline, the printers, a small press specialty printer In California that could give me a perfect-bound, 4-process color cover for only an extra 25 cents, had gone up 40 cents per zine base price and added an extra month load time to their schedule. Enter Shoestring Press and my education Into the world of printing.

Already friends with Katharine Scarritt and Mary Lowe, I had learned a little about printing and printers, now came the question of the color cover. I got lucky. Low cost color separations (I.e. $90 a set Instead of $200-400) were sprouting In the trade magazines and Mary was anxious to try her own 4-color process work, but she was wary of using FACPOV 1 as the guinea pig. Instead she negotiated a deal with a new firm to get my front AND BACK covers for the cost of one cover ($250) In return for using them for her color separation work. The color covers ended up costing fifty cents per zine.

Meanwhile, I agreed to do my own collating and binding. I also learned basic press operations well enough to assist. The power was intoxicating. I conned Mary Into letting me run the interior color for costs by having it ready to batch with her 4-color process run. I also ran much of my own black job and assisted during the color runs. The rainbow colors were weedled out of Mary by playing to her professionalism and by taking the dirty end of the job. (The rainbow effect takes 2 people, one of whom gets very messy.) Begging and pleading helped.

There Is no doubt that FACPOV 1 was an experimental Issue. Some of the experiments worked and some didn't. Some techniques I'll use In Issue two, others I won't. I learned. The color, however, was a hit. And by doing my own collating, binding, batching my colors with an already existing press run, and negotiating with my printers I got a downright gaudy zine for only $250 over a straight, one color job.

Don't be greedy & mercenary. Earn your contribe copy by contributing. You know if you're just racking up free zines by sending a slapdash piece or four-lines of poetry written in 10 minutes, no revision or expansion, or a single page warmup sketch done during MAGNUM P.I. instead of working to give fandom your best. Try to give each zine at least a couple of pages of material or illo a story for your freebie. Otherwise, you can't complain about mercenary editors & increased zine prices. (ED. NOTE: These suggestions are collected from various editors & WRITERS.)

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1

I'm really very interested in the BLUE PENCIL. it seems quite a sensible project, I just wonder why no one has thought to try it before, (ed. note: It was. [April Valentine] & Co.'s STYLUS.) There is a definite need for an informational and discussion forum for fan-publishing topics and I think yours should fit the bill nicely. I'm enclosing an SASE for general information (i.e. price and availability), but also for an additional reason I d like an indication of the format you'll use for the topics to be discussed. I have deflntie opinions on some of those you mentioned in UT, as well as others. Should I write an LoC, an article, or just make it up as I go along? [3]

Issue 2

front page of issue #2

Blue Pencil 2 was published in 1985 and contains 16 pages.

  • Kiss my !X@$**! Obligations of the Editor to Contributor by Cynthia Lockwood
  • "Behind the Blue Pencil: Censorship or Creeping Creativity?" (excerpted from Jaques Barzun's article in "The American Scholar", Summer 1985)
  • "Copy Editing: Hand to Hand Combat" (excerpted from The Elements of Editing: A Modem Guide for Editors and Journalists by Arthur Plotnik)
  • more practical suggestions on zine publishing
  • a letter from Joan Verba that comments on fanzine prices. She writes that producing inexpensive fanzines is still possible. Verba also adds: "For the record, I have little complaint on fanzine costs -- if I want a fanzine, I'm willing to pay a premium price if I think I'm getting premium work. The point I want to make is that a relatively inexpensive fanzine can be done."
A garbled version of the Killing Time incident has finally made general SF circuit generating lots of 'truefen' questions about K/S, media fandom, media zines, and where they can get a copy of the book. Expect to see the K/S controversy heat up yet again with increased paranoia by the predominantly male 'truefen' and possible sporadic witchhunts. All media-oriented fandom will be targets. But then we live in the age of the new McCarthyism so it comes as no surprise.

In a related matter, reports from Creation Con in L.A. say Nimoy asked who the audience thought Spock should fall in love with and about half the audience answered "Me" and the the other half answered "Kirk." [4] Nimoy's alleged reply: "I thought we already did that." Hmmm! On the other hand, at the NASFiC Maureen Garrett implied it was not only Lucasfilms desire to stop the SWars zines and let SW die a natural death, but made threatening intimations against the K/S zines alleging Paramount would soon take action. This is unlikely. Ms. Garret also stated it would be another 3 years minimum before SW was back in production. So expect to see a decline in SW but an increase in 1986 not only ofStar Trek zines in general, but in K/S zines, in light of the big year and the renewed interest.

More excitement on the computer front. There is finally a use for the new MacIntosh computer. With a laser printer and one of the new publishing software packages, low grade typeset quality originals can be created. Alas, the system presently would run about $15,000. However at press time, the Alpha-graphics chain of instant printers had opened the first Lasergraphics shop where customers can either 1) enter the material directly into available MacIntosh computers 2)bring in the MacIntosh disks to be printed with the Lasergraphic's high grade laser printers 3) bring in disks for disk to disk conversion onto Mac disks which can then be printed on the high grade systems -- at a price zine editors can afford!

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 2

Received BLUE PENCIL #2 about three days ago — the blue ink makes for a distinctive touch, and is easier to read, I think, than #1's black ink on blue paper. Bit of a problem with line dropout (Ed. Note; my fault, sorry, laid out too close to the printer's borders.) at the top of a couple of pages, but so it goes — back when I was putting out a monthly SCA newsletter I used to collect other people's typos, layout errors, and so forth, and hug them to my heart for consolation (especially the ones in professional publications). The worst one are the times when it s all dead-solid PERFECT when it goes to press — and then the printer screws up. Horror stories are available upon request.

After reading the section of BP#2 on matching art to story and creating a zine's "look", I started wondering about a possible link between that aspect of zine publishing and the often-remarked and sometimes-criticized tendency of media fanfiction to emphasize "relationship" stories at the expense of the action-adventure and drama in the original shows and/or movies.

Based on a quick scan of a stack of zines, the easiest kind of art for fan artists to do badly seems to be the action-oriented type, with two or more characters interacting physically against fully-conceived backgrounds. (And based on what I've heard from the cognoscenti of the subgenre, that goes double for erotica!) And from my own sometime experience as a writer, several years spent doing literate stuff in the groves of Academe, I can state that the sort of scene fan artists shine at illustrating a scene in which the story is advanced by two people sitting and talking (or worse, by ONE person sitting and thinking!) is the hardest kind of scene for a writer to do well.

Given that this problem may be part of the nature of the fanpubbing beast, I'm not sure what editors can do about it (It s have to be the editors, since they're the ones already acting as the three-way interface between writer, artist, and reader). Possibly on answer (as BP#2 in fact suggests in heading #8 under "The Match Game") is to wean ourselves from the idea that every story has to have artwork attached. Given that Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth are dead, and that Wanda Lybarger can only be in so many y zines at once, a really smashing action-oriented story might be better served by lavish attention to layout, design, and typography than by settling for unsuitable artwork.[5]

I think the problem of action art and action stories is really the other way around. I think the reason for so many character interaction, non-adventure pieces is because a) most fans are primarily interested in the characters and their nuances and b) an action-oriented story requires a plot which is harder to think up than a character study (it may be harder to write a truely well-done character study, but they're easier to think up).

As for the art, I think the problem is that most fan artists draw from photographs of the characters and rarely are these photographs conducive to action-oriented stories (often they are simply studio stills). In addition, portrait art sells better than action art at auctions so there is even less incentive to develop action art skills. It requires either an excellent artistic mind which can visualize and then, after considerable study, accurately draw this visualization or it requires "borrowing" action positions and backgrounds from various sources. I think with the advent of VCR's with freeze-frame and slow-motion we may actually see some of this art develop — if the editors start asking for it. If the editors really want more action-oriented material (both stories and art), I think it will be up to them to take a stronger hand in both editing and art direction. It is much harder to edit action-oriented stories because the plots usually require work as well as the words and it is much harder to direct action-oriented art because good composition as well as correct anatomy is essential. And unfortunately, I'm doubtful either the writers, artists or editors are willing to put in the effort. [6]

Issue 3

plans for future issues...
front page of issue #3

Blue Pencil 3 was published in January 1986 and contains 26 pages. The theme of the third issue fandom and profit.

[Carolyn Cooper]:

A word processor/home computer is great for brainstorming—you can sit there and fill up the screen with all sorts of natter in no particular order, save the lot, and then go back later to prune, massage, or lift out useful bits.

Series writers — ever forget what you called a creature six stories back? Ever change a support character's name in mid-series by accident? You can avoid the embarrassment of misspelled or incorrect names, places, creatures or objects by creating your own series dictionary. Compile a list with definitions of all of the names and words you create and store them on index cards, a computer database or a tab-indexed notebook. Grouping them in alphabetical order by subject much as the SWars Universe book (names, creatures, equipment and weapons, worlds, etc.) helps the hunting. And if your stories themselves are pubbed all over the zine galaxy, collect photocopies of them, in chronological sequence, in a notebook for handy reference.

[Carolyn Cooper]:

I expect this issue will instigate a bit more commentary than usual; money always does. Unfortunately, I also expect this issue will result in a few more people who look through me at cons, a few less fannish correspondents and few more bites on my back. Not for anything I've said or done to these people, not even for an opinion I've expressed, but for allowing opinions contrary to their views to appear in BLUE PENCIL. It is a sad fact that the "love-it-or-leave-it", "there-is-but-one-true- path", "black-and-white" mindset that's resurfaced nationally has re-emerged in media fandom. Single-issue fan feuds, clique identification, and censorship of expression are disgustingly common, and accepted, in media fandom. In point of fact,IDIC has lost out to the Dark Side. True, there has always been some typical, human conflict in fandom, but it seems to be on the rise. I am not always in agreement with my fellow fen, both in views and personality, but I strive to tolerate and when I feel have been wronged, I strive to keep my petty thoughts and words within my circle of close friends. Yes, there are times when

someone's actions require social censureship, but it is the actions, not the individual that should be under attack. We are each unique. We are each imprisoned in our own minds with our own on perspective on the life, the universe and everything. Let us strive to peer around are personal views to see the world from another's vantage point. And if, after reading BLUE PENCIL, you are a former friend, I wish you all the best. Fly casual and live long and prosper.

[Carolyn Cooper, from a much longer essay]: Finding the Money to Go to Press: With zine printing costs usually in the thousands, finding the money to print the Best-Zine-in-the-Whole-Darn-Galaxy takes some planning. It will also take some work and possibly sacrifice on your part. Below is a list of suggestions from editors across the country on how to raise publication money. Some of these plans are not for the timid; some of these plans are not for the impetuous. In most instances, a combination of methods will be necessary, but always be realistic. If you've never gotten an IRS return bigger than $300, don't expect to pay a $3000 printer's tab courtesy of Uncle Sam. Another popular practice is to plan the zine premiere around a major convention to recoup a large chunk of your investment quickly (before the repo man comes knocking). Be sure to let the fans know for any fannish activity, such as zine auctions, that the proceeds are to going toward your zine fund; it stimulates interest in your zine and encourages greater financial support. Most importantly plan your budget and fundraising when you plan your zine. Maybe you'd rather cut out 150 pages of a 300 page zine than eat peanut butter everyday for a year.

Issue 4

front page of issue #4

Blue Pencil 4 is undated but was published in late 1986 and contains 18 pages.

"Details, Details: Things You Never Think of Until Press Day," excerpt: Oh, boy. It's layout time. Next to you is the world's largest and greatest stack of stories and art fandom has ever seen along with T-square, layout board, blank paper, rubber cement, tape, Xacto knife and other implements of torture. Merrily you zip along, cut, paste, cut, paste and ta-da, your finished... you need to do the table of contents and you should include the copyright and how about a title page for the zine and oh, yeah there are all of those thank-yous and...

Unfortunately, certain things always have to be done last. Let's face it; as hard as we try its still difficult to do the Table of Contents until the rest of the zine is finished and the pages numbered. But that doesn't mean things won't go better if you planned ahead.

The classic zine editor's horror story; The zine was completed, the promo for the next issue included, the binding was perfect* the editor beamed—and then someone pointed out the editor forgot to include her address for LoCs and additional sales. Oops! This has happened - more than once - this year even.

So how to plan for something you can't do much about until the end? Simple. Start by making a list. There are certain things you will probably need or want:

Table of Contents
Copyright Notice
Editor's Comments
Editorial Address

The Proposed Issues That Were Never Published

In the first issue, Cooper printed detailed plans for seven issues. They were never printed.

Issue 5

  • May '86
  • SYSTEMS ANALYSIS (Recordkeeping, Scheduling & Other Business-Like Jobs)
  • SOAPBOX 1: Becoming BATTTLEcreek - Do Fans Expect Too Much Business-Like Behavior From Publishers?
  • ROUNDUP 1: Keeping Records -- Which Ones & How?
  • ROUNDUP 2: Estimating Deadlines for Editors, Artists, & Writers
  • ROUNDUP 3: Dealing With Delays (Solutions & Tips)
  • FEATURES: Mailing Lists - By Hand & By Computer; Where Have All the Zines Gone? (Sales Records); Banking-Handling the Money Easily & Accurately; Preparing Material (Including artwork) for Mailing; Touching Someone - Effective Phone Techniques

Issue 6

  • Aug '86 :
  • DON'T DO ME ANY FAVORS (Contributors' Responsibilities & Helpful Techniques)
  • SOAPBOX 1: But I'm An Artiste! - Obligations of the Contributor to Editor
  • SOAPBOX 2: Free Contributor's Copies: Necessity, Nicety or Are There Limits?
  • ROUNDUP 1: Submission Tips: Finding, Selecting & Submitting to Needy Zines
  • ROUNDUP 2: Improving Your Craft: Technical Tips & Tricks for Writers & Artists
  • FEATURES: Handling Rejection; The Editor Is Your Friend - The Care & Stroking of Editors; Money Saving Tips for Starving Artists (Inc. Writers); Computer Tips for Contributors; Manuscript Preparation; Developing a Concept In Art

Issue 7

  • Nov '86
  • LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD (Marketing & PR Techniques)
  • ED. VOICE: My World & Welcome To It - Marketing & PR Are Not Dirty Words
  • SOAPBOX 1: Can You Buy a FanQ & Are They Worth Anything?
  • SOAPBOX 2: This Product Maybe Hazardous to Your Health - Are There Limit to Zine Promotion & If So, What?
  • ROUNDUP 1: Promoting Your Efforts - Besides UT & Datazine, how do you promote your zine?
  • ROUNDUP 2: Favorite Marketing Techniques You've Seen or Used
  • ROUNDUP 3: Flyer & Ad Preparation Tips
  • FEATURES: Publicity, Marketing, Advertising & PR - What's the Difference & How Do they Work; Ten Tips to Handling Angry Customers; Positioning: Finding Your Readers & Creating an Image; Publicity Ain't Just Stunts; Other Marketing Tools Besides Ads & Flyers

Similar Fanworks

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  1. ^ from Southern Enclave #6
  2. ^ from Southern Enclave #6
  3. ^ from Susan M. Garrett's letter of comment in "Blue Pencil" #1
  4. ^ in the zine itself, it was erroneously reported he said "Spock," something that was corrected in the next issue: "In the Oops! Department: a small (?) typo in issue #2 made poor Spock sound narcissistic. The report from Creation Con in L.A. should have read "half the audience answered "Me" and the other half answered "Kirk."
  5. ^ from D. Doyle, a letter of comment in "Blue Pencil" #3
  6. ^ reply by Carolyn Cooper to D. Doyle's letter of comment, both letters in "Blue Pencil" #3