Changing People's Attitudes, or, How to Attract New People to Zines

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Title: Changing People's Attitudes, or, How to Attract New People to Zines
Creator: Flamingo
Date(s): September 15, 2003
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Changing People's Attitudes, or, How to Attract New People to Zines was a 2003 post to Zinelist.

While the post received MANY long and thoughtful replies, "Zinelist" is a private mailing list that cannot be quoted from without permission from the fan being quoted. Therefore, only comments by Flamingo (who has given blanket permission) can be included here on Fanlore.

Flamingo's response was to this comment: Ann Crispin once complained that she & one of her collaborators in her non-media space opera series made the long Nebula (annual awards given by SF writers to SF writers) nominations list, but her co-author was much more excited at being nominated for a FanQ award.

Some Topics Discussed in Flamingo's Reply

Excerpts from Flamingo's Reply

Boy, was I surprised to see this comment show up here! ;-) Well, [name redacted] that collaborator would be me, Flamingo. And Ann *still* tells that story to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen to it. :-D I was new to fanfic back then, but had been pro-published for a long time, mostly in non-fiction. It was a thrill getting that recognition for a book that meant so much to me. I was actually more thrilled with having the book named as one of the year's best for young adults by the Librarian's Association (can't remember the official title now).

Being pro-published in science fiction was--is--wonderful, and I'm trying very hard to get another book written with Ann this year in that same series. It's still very close to my heart. But the truth is once I started the fanfiction addiction, it never let me go. I was writing in Miami Vice slash back then and had been told repeatedly that slash writing never won Fan Q's, but my writing got nominated, when no one knew who I was when I was writing in a very, very small fandom, and then it won the Fan Q, and I won that award with slash several times over the years, even though this is an awards process I never participate in since my job prevents me from going to Media West. I won the Huggy award at Zcon with my very first Starsky & Hutch story, in a fandom I was a total unknown in also. So I've had a different experience with fan awards than others have.

Have I seen awards be taken over by a block of fans voting for their friends for inferior work? Sure. But that couldn't happen if fans who cared about fiction also were participating. Lately, people don't just not send LOCs, they don't just not review fan fiction, they don't participate in awards, or in many other fan activities. Lately, writing fan fiction can be like dropping your story into a black hole. It's one of the reasons I lost a lot of interest in pro writing. Sure, they paid me (sometimes) and I got royalties (sometimes) but you never heard anything from anyone. You found yourself wondering, has anyone ever *read* that book? After 5 books and multiple short stories I think I actually got 2 pieces of mail about those works. In the past, the responses to fan fiction were more rewarding. I've gotten many LOCs since I started writing fan fic. The gratification of knowing someone is reading something you spent weeks, even *years* writing (Total Eclipse took 5 years from its start to its paper publication) and that they cared about it, is a very real thing. I even like hearing about complaints about my work! It means someone is *reading* it -- which is not something you can take for granted. But lately, publishing fanfic gets about the same response as publishing pro fic. And no one's paying me for it. I'm especially dismayed when I hear people talk about the zines they buy that they never get around to reading since there is simply *so* much fiction available, and so little time on everyone's hands. It's realistic, but very disheartening after all the work and expense that goes into publishing zines.

The fact is, if you don't nominate writing you care about, then who will? No one's forcing you to nominate or vote on awards, but the nomination process itself simply asks you to tell the awards committee what work you liked best out of what you have read. If enough people agree with you, it'll make the ballot and then, if you don't want to vote any further, fine, or if you felt the work was significant enough and feel enough confidence in it, you can participate in that. Most awards don't just go for individual works of fiction, they also go for best zine, or best artist, best writer, and most of us have pretty strong opinions about the zine we loved best, and the writer we adore. I know that out of all the things I nominated for Huggy awards for Zcon this year, half the artists and more than half of the writers were introduced into SH fandom through the net and had, within the last two years, had their work appeared in zines.

Re: the original topic, I do suspect that "how to attract new people to zines" might be a topic different per each fandom. In Starsky & Hutch, there was a lot of excellent fiction published pre-internet (hell, pre-copier machines!) that is largely out of print and unavailable. These wonderful old zines can be borrowed from other fans, or from our lending library, but many many of the writers of that older fic have simply disappeared and cannot be found to request that their fiction be put on the net. Of the writers who can be found, many have said yes, and a lot of that classic zine fic is still being lovingly scanned and transcribed by SH fans and sent to be archived on the two Starsky & Hutch Archives. In some instances, the entire zine, art and all, has been posted as close to its original appearance as was technologically possible, to give people a feeling for what those zines looked like. It's easy enough to *tell* people that "zines are really good" but it works much better if you *show* them what that means. Information on how to obtain zines can be found on the same site, as can links to other net fiction sites and lists and so on. Many of those older zines are still being produced and are available at very reasonable prices. Not all zines cost $20 and up. But fannish-zine-loaning is still an active practice in S&H and I know many many net fans have discovered zines by getting to see them, hold them, cuddle up in bed with them. I encourage people who care about zines in fandoms with large net audiences to find ways to make zines more reasonably available whenever possible. Can people find the source of zines on net fiction sites? Can they network on discussion lists to borrow some? Are you identifying classic zine fiction as that when it's posted on your fiction site? I know folks are publishing "best of the net" anthologies -- are they advertised on the fiction archives so people who loved to read work in hand can find them? These things have worked in Starsky & Hutch.

To encourage "cross pollination" on the net and on paper, I posted my work in progress, Total Eclipse of the Heart, as I wrote it, on the SH slash archive, and then published it in its entirety with all its art on the net when I came out with the paper version. I continue to sell the paper version because people find it on the net and want to have it. I would not have sold nearly as many copies if I had not put it all on the net. I'm trying to do the same with my anthology zines, but Real Life has had me by the throat and I'm behind in getting this done. But it will happen. Some authors will never want their work published on the net (well, "never" is a really long time, let's say, not right now), so I have agreed, in my anthology zines, to not publish their story on the net, but to offer it on the website, in paper format only, to anyone who sends me a self-addressed, stamped envelope. In this way folks can have the whole zine even if a story or two can't be posted on the site. I hope to be bringing out a novel at Zebracon that the author has asked me to never publish on the net. I respect her request of course, so I'll do everything I can to produce this zine at the lowest possible cost that I can to make it more accessible.

In SH, many, many net fans are now publishing in both mediums. In fact, in the last two years we've had many more zines published in this fandom than in the two years previous to that. There were FIFTEEN anthology zines published in SH in the last two years, and SIX separate novel/novella zines published! And SH is not a huge fandom by any means, not compared to some out there. And there are quite a few zines being planned for the upcoming Zebracon. So there is no way that zines are dying out in Starsky & Hutch.

There will always be some writers who will only be comfortable being published on paper, and others who will only be comfortable being published on the net. I encourage fans who are uncomfortable with the editing process or with certain editors to consider self-publishing. It can be done in small printings for reasonable prices. You don't have to publish 100 zine copies at a time, publish 20! Print more if you sell those 20. One of my first fan titles was published in an edition of 15 zines. When those sold, we printed more. That title is still being sold, over 10 years later (and it is also on the net!). If you feel that strongly about controlling your own work, then do so! There are more publishing options out there than ever existed when I started getting published in Miami Vice back in '91, and couldn't wait to rant to my co-author about getting nominated for the Fan Q's when everyone had told me "slash never wins."