Custom Zine

From Fanlore
(Redirected from Custom zine)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
See also: Zine
cover of an early custom zine
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Custom zine (or custom fanzine) is when a fan alters the original format of a print zine or creates a print zine out of online fanworks.

Collecting Installments

Sometimes a fan collected installments in a long-running series and combined them in an easier to read format. In 1988, a fan wrote: "For a few years now, I've been buying two copies of NOME each year for the express purpose of being able to take one apart and put all of the story together in a separate book. After spending scads of cash on back issues that were out of print and that I've obtained by outbidding others at auctions, I have finally succeeded in having all the installments together. And I've read and reread it several times." [1]

Collecting Favorites

Another fan in 1988 told other fans that when she came across a story she enjoyed, she made it easier to access, not unlike a modern-day online bookmarking system: "I have copied her story to put in my special book of favorite Trek stories. I know that I'll read it several more times. Trekking can always give me a lift when I'm down." [2]

A fan in 2011 wrote: "I've had a kind of hobby for a long time now, after I tired of buying fanzines and being disappointed with the contents, of creating my own "zines" out of stories I really like, adding pictures & coverart, & comb binding them with my own supplies/comb binding machine. It was a lot cheaper than "commercial" fanzines, and ensured that I liked all the content!" [3]

In 2014, a fan describes making a cover for a custom Pros zine, one for The Tangled Web: "I quite often print out lengthier stories and make them into zines for myself. This is the only one I've done a proper cover for though." [4]

Hard Copies to Read Offline

printed copy of The Hunting, a circuit library story, cover by digitalwave

The term is used more recently when it is applied to the old fan fiction practice that was introduced as more and more fan fiction became available online in the mid to late 1990s.

Many fans would print online fan fiction in hard copy to read offline. Most copies were for temporary use and then disposed of or given away.[5] A few copies were put into three hole punch binders. An even smaller subset was comb bound with color covers. (See images above and full gallery below).

Unique Bindings

Some fans and publishers created very unique physical covers while preserving the original content. See Unique Bindings.

Selling Custom Zines

disclaimer on a Highlander custom zine

While the majority of fans support printing for offline reading, many fans become defensive when those copies are then 'sold'. Some argue that you should only charge for printing and mailing costs so that no 'profit' is made from the freely offered fan fiction. Others feel that since the fiction was offered for free you should not charge for printing, but only for distribution (mailing) costs. And others feel that since the fiction was shared freely, you should not seek any reimbursement. This is interestingly contrasted with the circuit library in the Professionals fandom where it was routine to charge for both copying and printing costs and of course with published fanzines themselves where all publication costs are sought for and received.[6]

Zinelist discussions and fan recollections, as described in Morgan Dawn's notes:

"I recall the days of the "circuit stories" in Professional fandom, in which copies of single stories were distributed by mail and you made your own photocopies of those you wanted to keep. These copies might show up later in sales, usually for cost. I sometimes see printed out 'net fiction in sales the same way--for cost."[7]

Some creators of custom zines add notes or labels to their creations signaling that the custom zine should not be resold.

Disclaimer in Lauriezine 8
"Lauriezine is a not-for-profit, strictly amateur publication for the edification and reading pleasure of a certain fan on the occasion of her birthday. This fanzine does not intend to infringe upon the copyrights held by well, any of TPTB in the X-Files, Highlander, or Angel productions offices; nor the copyrights held on the original material by the authors. The stories within are the property of the authors: please note, I believe that if the authors did not want someone to download these stories and print them out for ease of reading, they quite simply should not have put them online. This publication CANNOT BE SOLD, it can only be given away. And if I catch anyone selling it, that person's life will not be worth spit. If you leave the fandom, give this 'zine to me or Laurie and we will find another fan to give it to."</ref>

Publishing Without Permission

When fans would place fan fiction into a more formal zine format (comb bound with color covers or, more recently in perfect bound paperback formats) the custom zine could often become indistinguishable from published fanzines leading to some sellers to accuse their fellow fans of 'stealing fan fiction and publishing without permission.'

Culture Clash

In 2009, a copy of a custom zine found its way for sale on eBay which then led to some fans to argue that all fanzines were a violation of copyright law and were 'putting fandom in peril' by introducing profit to fan fiction.

Excerpts from the July 2009 "PSA to Fanfic Writers":

"If you are a Fanfic writer or Artist please go to this ebay site doctor_beth2000 and check to see if YOUR fanworks or someones you know and like are being sold as Fanzines for profit in what appears to be a very lucrative and active operation."[8] and "I've never charged anyone for my fan works and actually turned down an invitation to a fanzine because I disliked the idea that anyone would have to pay for my creations, even if it was purportedly just for production costs. Seeing the 'real' fanzines listed for sale in that Ebay store just adds to my personal reasons not to participate in such projects."[9]

The fact that fan fiction had existed solely in fanzine format prior to the Internet and that reimbursement printing costs was necessary in order for the fan fiction to be shared was conveniently overlooked. It was as if Internet fans were throwing away 30 years of fannish traditions in their desire to protect the rights of fan writers to control the distribution of their fan works.

"Publishing and selling a fanzine is not a crime. It is not (although this is arguable) a violation of copyright (see 'fair use' defense). Publishing and selling a fanzine is no greater of a copyright violation than publishing your fan fiction online (in fact, more and more courts are skipping over the exchange of money when applying the fair use defense, so free online fan fiction does not necessarily get greater legal protection). Fans have been publishing and selling fan fiction in the form of fanzines for over 30 years. Let's not try to rewrite history to fit current flashpoints in the copyright debate."[10]


The belief that fan writers should have absolute control over their publicly shared work is not new to fandom, however it was historically most often tangled up with the rights of fanzine publisher's to control the distribution of their fanzines. But even after the fanzine publisher's interests have been removed from the debate, some fans have been very blunt in their assessment of the 'absolute control' argument:

I believe that if the authors did not want someone to download these stories and print them out for ease of reading, they should not have put them online.[11]

However, in recent years more and more fan writers are arguing that even if their fan fiction is freely available to be read online, printing it for offline reading or converting it in a pdf or eBook format for offline reading without permission is a breach of fannish ethics.[12]

"speaking of odd, did you know, there seems to be some sort of small groups of fan, who thinks, its wrong to save online fics to your harddrive!"[13]

Restrictive Copyright Practices

In many ways, some might argue that fandom is increasingly folding some of the more restrictive copyright practices of the book publishing and entertainment industries into their culture. Common misperceptions as to the legality of fan fiction overall often lead to a chilling effect dissuading fans from participating in fanzine publications.

Compare these discussions about the legality of fanzines:

"I'm pretty sure that what doctor_beth2000 is doing is illegal on quite a few levels. It is a violation of copyright law to make a profit off of someone else's work without permission. Fanzines normally are given for free or nominal cost - because of this rule. The original creators of the work could sue them, and the fanfic writers could potentially sue."[14]


"While it is permitted to create a fanzine and to sell one, you have to get permission from the owners of the work first. IF you do not, then you are in violation of Copyright Law"[15]

with the fair use and legal discussion in 'Interesting copyright infringement issue', Fandom Lawyers, dated July 29, 2009.[16] It is not surprising then that this leads to the following negative attitudes towards fanzines in general:

"I do not charge for what I'm creating for my fandoms. In return, all I ask is that no one else charge for my work either."[17]
"I've often thought about making zines of some off my BtVS fic. Online archives are fine, but there's nothing quite as satisfying as holding concrete proof of your literary efforts in your hands. Stuff like this, though, pretty much ensures I'm never going to do it. I guarantee that the updates and clarifications are not going to spread half so far across the net as the original accusations."[18]


With easier ways to self-publish, custom zines nowadays can look like real books. In April 2013, someone printed a "best of" anthology of Steve/Tony comics fic, promised to give away five copies and make more available on a print on demand site, sold at cost.[19]

Fundamental Stony.jpg
So, for reasons I don’t feel like explaining right now, I have 5 copies of a book, 770 pages long, that consists solely of Steve Rogers/Tony Stark fan fiction. That is four more copies than I actually need, so I figured, giveaway time…?

Though it does not near cover the vast amount of well written Steve/Tony fan fiction, it takes a scratch at a few of the best, ranging in length, subject, and universe. These books contain nine fics, as listed below, and are left largely unedited to reflect “fan fiction style” (such as using no indentations and having on-page chapter separators). Also, before you ask, yes, it contains porn. Graphic, hot, gay porn. You know, the usual.

To enter, like and reblog, but only once! Because seeing a giveaway spam on my dash pisses me off and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Giveaway ends April 15th, when I will pick winners. (Assuming, you know, more than two people like this on a whim.) Shipping is free, just leave your ask open!


(I had to throw out When The Lights Go On Again by seanchai and elspethedixon due to page number constraints, which completely gutted me because it’s one of my personal favorites. GO READ IT! IT’S SO GOOD! GOOD GOD, JUST GO!)[20]

People were excited, but then the authors found out and the majority of them had not given permission, nor had they been contacted.[19]

Frowny faces were made. Also the print on demand site had in it's ToS that you had to be the copyright holder, and you could not include porn. Also she'd used NaNoWriMo tickets to get the free copies, which isn't fair to NaNo.

People were angry.

I changed my permission statement.

The OP apologised very prettily and took everything down.

Many people forgave her.

Yet the storm on tumblr continues. Either FOREVER or until next Tuesday. Whichever comes first.[19]

It soon turned out that the OP was a teenager who wasn't aware that what she was doing would anger the authors she admired and she took the whole thing down.[19][20] She apologized[21] and people calmed down again.

"Thank you for the apology, and for removing the book from CreateSpace. I’m truly flattered that you liked my fic enough to want it printed; gods know I’ve burned out printers for the same back in the day. Hopefully, this can all die down and we’ll move on."[22]

The reactions were mostly wary about the for profit aspects of self-publishing through commercial channels and in favor of more traditional zine ethics.

If you want to publish copies of said fic as zines and sell them for $$$? ASK FIRST.

I will probably say yes provided you're doing it as a for-cost zine instead of for a profit and aren't doing something likely to get all of us sued by Marvel/Disney, like publicly listing it for sale on Amazon or Lulu, but still, please ask. If nothing else, I might have a clean, all-in-one-word-document file of the fic to make your life easier. (Also, it's usually considered polite in zine-making circles to give contributors copies of the zine)

Actually, let me mention that sued by Marvel/Disney part again. Disney is infamous for the rabid psychotic intensity with which they defend their copyrights. Listing Avengers fanfic for sale on widely-used public sites like Lulu, Createspace, Smashwords, or, god forbid, Amazon, is probably a good way to risk facing a C&D letter if the wrong team of corporate lawyers somehow notice it.[23]

"I feel bad for her. Also, a 'Zine of Steve/Tony fic would be pretty cool, if done in accordance with the Ways of Our People."[19]

"Thank you for this! I appreciate the prompt and gracious apology; and for that matter, I’m flattered you liked my fic enough to want a hard copy. If anyone is interested in producing zines, they might want to check out the Fanlore article: to see how it’s traditionally been done without fandom uproar."[24]

Example Custom Zines

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Cover Gallery


  1. ^ from a LoC in Nome #11
  2. ^ from a LoC in Nome #11
  3. ^ Burned out on Harry Potter, until the next movie, at least!, comment by ynathesrith, May 14, 2011
  4. ^ CI5 hq, Archived version, see other fans' comments
  5. ^ See comments to "Labeling Your Fan Fic", Morgan Dawn's blog dated July 17, 2010.
  6. ^ See "Labeling Your Fan Fic", Morgan Dawn's blog dated July 17, 2010.
  7. ^ Fanzines and Fan Fiction Are Not Crimes, July 26, 2009].
  8. ^ petzipellepingo, dated July 29, 2009, Archived version.
  9. ^ cited in 'Interesting copyright infringement issue', Fandom Lawyers, dated July 29, 2009); reference link.
  10. ^ from 'Fanzines and Fan Fiction Are Not Crimes, Morgan Dawn's blog dated July 26, 2009.
  11. ^ Disclaimer from 'Lauriezine 8', a custom zine, see gallery.
  12. ^ See ebook discussion in comments to "Labeling Your Fan Fic", Morgan Dawn's blog dated July 17, 2010.
  13. ^ comment in Fanzines and Fan Fiction Are Not Crimes, Morgan Dawn's blog dated July 26, 2009.
  14. ^ petzipellepingo, July 26, 2009[1]
  15. ^ shadowkat67, July 26, 2009, Archived version.
  16. ^ Reference link.
  17. ^ danceswithgary, July 25, 2009, Archived version.
  18. ^ rahirah, July 26, 2009, Archived version.
  19. ^ a b c d e muccamukk. In case you're wondering what just happened..., 10 April 2013. (Accessed 30 May 2013); reference link
  20. ^ a b Reblogged post with commentary by tsukinofaerii, April 2013. (Accessed 30 May 2013); reference link.
  21. ^ I want to apologize to everyone, 11 April 2013 reference link. (Accessed 30 May 2013)
  22. ^ thank you for the apology, Archived version.
  23. ^ elspethdixon. Zines, 11 April 2013. (Accessed 30 May 2013); referernce link.
  24. ^ Valtyr's tumblr posted dated April 10, 2013; reference link.
  25. ^ This custom zine labeled "Bascon Zine Library" contains printed internet fan fiction. The net fic was bound by convention organizers and offered as loans to fans to read during the convention. This was helpful since not all attendees had internet access. By 2010, almost every fan was online, so the Bascon zine library was disbanded and the collection dispersed. From Morgan Dawn's notes, December 3, 2010.