Dear Disreputable Zine Publisher

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Title: Dear Disreputable Zine Publisher
Creator: Merryish
Date(s): March 6, 2003
Medium: online
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External Links: Dear Disreputable Zine Publisher
Dear Disreputable Zine Publisher, Archived version
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Dear Disreputable Zine Publisher is a 2003 post by merryish. It has 205 comments.

The topic is Agent With Style, a zine publisher and zine agent.

Some Topics Discussed

The Post

Dear Disreputable Zine Publisher:

Thank you very kindly for your sixth letter of sycophantic praise for my four-year-old story, and for your praise of my blog, which I hope you find a pleasure to read today. I am flattered by your excitement at finding my email address (which has not changed in four years, and which is the admin email address of a list which I run and of which you are a member).

While I am happy that you enjoyed the story, assuming you've actually read it rather than simply calculating its popularity and possible profit margin, nothing has changed since your last request to put this story in a zine. As I said then, I still find you morally reprehensible -- a parasite upon the back of fandom rather than a participant in fandom -- and I still wouldn't let you publish another story of mine if you were the last zine publisher in an ever-expanding zine-starved Universe. Though it is true that you haven't cheated and lied to every single writer and artist I know, I am confident that this is merely an oversight on your part, due most likely to time constraints for which no one could hold you responsible.

Still, thanks for checking in! I promise to alert you to any change in my value structure significant enough to allow me to work with you (though in that event I may be too busy holding all Middle Earth in my dark thrall to respond to email in a timely fashion).

Please address any further correspondence to someone who actually did just discover fandom yesterday.

No love,

--Merry

[edited to add: you can find a link to the entire long, long, long LONG discussion that followed this post here. Comments on this post are now disallowed due to the fact that there were waaaaaaay many of them and I was getting bored.]

Current Mood: amused

Current Music: no one knows the truth, there is no future here

Excerpts from Comments to the Post at the Post

There were 205 comments.

General

[tzkikeh]: Merry, I have wished I had the cojones to post to every list I'm on about her for years. Her dealings with J alone are enough to make me spit nails. And because so many newer fen have no idea what has gone on with this zine agent, I feel somewhat ashamed for not speaking up sooner. Of course, I haven't seen anyone else really step up to the plate either, though I hear J is making some small ripples (and about damned time).

So, I'm so proud of you for taking the first step. Perhaps the word can really begin to spread. I remember at Escapade a few years ago, S said "the biggest problem in fandom is that we shun badly". Maybe we can start to shun well.
[sanj]: Amen, hallelujah, shout it from the highest tree. And thank you again, two and three years later, for keeping me and mine away from her "zines."

[kassrachel]: What she said. Especially since I'm one of the "hers" who you helped keep away from that woman's publishing enterprise. *shudder*

Well-written, cogent, and funny. Man, your lj rocks.
[zortified]: I wish there was some way we could require all persons in fandom to know this. Sigh. So many zines I will never read, because they are agented through her....

[ cesperanza ]: They pick up the poorly Xeroxed stuff and assume that's how the zine creator wanted it to be, instead of how MF messed it up.

I want to testify to this; at one point, I replied to one of MF's solicitation letters and sent her a story, figuring to be a mensch; luckily, she sent me the story back to review before printing. I was skimming it and I was--well, at first confused, and then angry. The anthropologist? The smaller man? She'd taken out my names and my nice clear verbs (is and says) and put in epithets and "exciting!" verbs like "yowls"--okay, not yowls, I don't remember what she put in, but she put in things for "said" which flipped me out. So I pulled the story from the zine, but the thing is--what does this mean for the newbie fan who doesn't realize that she's being edited poorly? or doesn't feel she has the right to complain? Addendum to say: the "this" that I want to testify to is a level of shoddy work or carelessness by Mysti that can be attributed to the story writer, artist, or zine creator.

[Mysti Frank]: cesperanza (or Francesca, as I knew her, also a pseud [1]) said: she sent me the story back to review before printing. I was skimming it and I was--well, at first confused, and then angry. The anthropologist? The smaller man? She'd taken out my names and my nice clear verbs (is and says) and put in epithets and "exciting!" verbs like "yowls"--okay, not yowls, I don't remember what she put in, but she put in things for "said" which flipped me out. So I pulled the story from the zine, but the thing is--what does this mean for the newbie fan who doesn't realize that she's being edited poorly? or doesn't feel she has the right to complain?

My response: In December, 1999, you sent me a story. I edited it and did point out several things I preferred you tone down, such as 29 'fucks' in a 20-page story, including using the word 5 times in one paragraph. I did suggest variations of 'the smaller man,' 'the anthropologist,' etc. just to get away from your constant use of 'he' and to identifiy the character. As *you* said at the time, we had different visions for the story, and while I had every right to edit to fit the style of my zine, you had every right to refuse the suggestions. I agreed. You pulled your story, and I deleted the listing for it from my internal table-of-contents that I keep for on-going zines. You in no way displayed anger; you simply disagreed and we both acted like adults.

As for my current editing policies, I realized that not everyone could see the red text of my changes and suggestions in their story, so I have since begun to put them in [brackets] so that they still stand out even if the text is all black. As with you, any new author who doesn't agree with my suggestions and we can't come to a compromise, is free to pull her story. That's the same with ANY editor.

[Mysti Frank]: thebratqueen said: Also some people don't realize the quality of zines when they start out. They pick up the poorly Xeroxed stuff and assume that's how the zine creator wanted it to be, instead of how MF messed it up.

My response: Since you're talking in general, rather than stating any specific zine, as you must when maligning someone without proof, I can only say that each zine we print is from a master provided by the editor and is no better or worse than an original zine from that editor. We make no changes in masters and if you don't like the zine, then the editor of that zine is who you should talk to. If you think *my* zines that I publish are 'poorly Xeroxed,' I can only point to our printer, who uses a docutech, a machine that produces beautiful copies from electronic files. I'm really not sure how it *could* produce a bad copy. Now, if you want to talk about specific zines, please list them and I'll be happy to discuss it.

[deannie]: I want to testify to this

I do, too! I was just getting into online *fanfic* (as opposed to *fandom*), and I got one of the standard irritating emails (which, as a newbie to the whole net/zine thang, didn't strike me as irritating at the time), and sent off two stories, one slash, one gen. I got no edited version back, and given that I'm a little psycho/anal about editing myself before sending things for printing, I figured there were no problems.

[rant on] I got the slash zine and opened it eagerly to my story. My first zine story... And the very first sentence had been rewritten! It had a nice repetitive quality to it when I wrote it ("waiting to be waited on") and she blunted the feel of it completely! I was so mad, I could hardly think! I believe I did confront her on it, and she said something vague like "oh! I was sure we sent you an edited copy..." Whatever.

This made me eschew zine writing at all for years. This last year, however, I've had two lovely experiences, with Devin at Green Dragon and with Cinda and Jody at Neon Rainbow. Lovely girls, who all sent edited versions and actually let me keep the things I wanted.

Have to say, also, that I and mine try not to buy from MF and sweat major karmic buckets every time we do (which has been, I believe, four times in the last five years).

There are good editors out there (those above-mentioned, and also Lisa at Vision Quest Press, who I've heard of favorably from many). We should steer people toward them. If we had the start up costs, this house would be a press--because I think people deserve to have their fics be published in labors of love, not labors of income.

[Mysti Frank]: Deannie ranted about my having changed her story in a zine back in March, 1999.

My response: she's completely right. I made some changes and suggestions, sent the story back to her and didn't hear from her. I don't know if the e-mail got eaten or didn't get to her in time, but for whatever reason, she either didn't get the e-mail or didn't have time to respond. In lieu of her response, I did go ahead and publish the story as edited. This was wrong and completely my fault. I apologize to Deannie and am sorry that this experience turned her off submitting stories to zines. I don't have a defense, but can only say that I was feeling EXTREME pressure to publish the zine because everyone wanted it NOW. I shouldn't have caved. I should have waited for Deannie's response. However, that was nearly six years ago and I have long since learned my lesson. NOTHING, since that fateful day, gets published without the author's express approval. Without it, the story doesn't get printed.

[timberwolfoz]: I also wonder if there's been reluctance to actually a) say anything and therefore be the first up to the plate to make accusations or b) believe and therefore actually admit that The Person Who Was The Answer To Your Zine Sale Prayers was ripping you off, big time. I noticed that with Bill Hupe out here... quite close friends were not listening to others' warnings on how they were being dealt with.

Very strange.

[ jacquez ]: ...really - my life would be so much nicer if someone, ANYONE, had warned me about her before I gave her any stories.

Well, not *much* nicer, but some nicer.
[ ljc ]: I made the mistake of agenting a 'zine through her once--*shudder*. Took me 6 months to get my cheque to cover printing costs, and then I found out what she did to a friend of mine--which consisted of re-printing said friend's 'zine (after said friend had said NO) badly (from a xerox instead of the master) and lying about it (even after getting caught selling one of the pirated 'zines) and keeping the damn money--and that was IT as far as I was concerned.
[cesperanza]: I agree that there must be some way to get the message out honorably, that not only doesn't she make good zines, but that she runs her "business" extremely poorly.

[owlrigh]: How terribly amusing. I was once part of the anti-Whatserface movement; we set up a webpage denouncing her and everything. Examples of her ill-bred behaviour abounded and whatnot, but eventually we took the webpage down after enough people convinced us that it wasn't in our best interests to do such a thing. Thinking back, I wish I hadn't caved. It could have snowballed a movement. Maybe.

It's so damned unfortunate people still do business with her. I know some who were ripped off by her and otherwise mistreated and they still sell their zines through her because there isn't any other distributor (or so they say). Someone who makes her living from selling fanzines. Sheesh.

I'm ever so glad I knew about it, though, because I once wrote a really horrible Jim/Rafe story (in TS, naturellement, back in my early days) and next thing you know one of her sycophants was panting to have me write for some Jim/Rafe zine this personage was going to do. I don't think it ever took off the ground, but to a) have proof of my inability to write if my life depended on it in circulation forever and b) get done over by Ms Whatserface ... no.

Plus the whole charge-people-extra if they have credit cards thing! Ha! It's becoming legal to do so in Australia, but at the time she started it wasn't legal in the US. No idea if that's still the case.

Hmm. All of this makes me wonder if there isn't some smidgen of that anti-Whatserface website floating about on some disk somewhere. Something somewhere has to educate the newbies.

[Mysti Frank]: owlrigh said: I was once part of the anti-Whatserface movement; we set up a webpage denouncing her and everything.

My response: Wow. First I've heard of this. Would have loved to have seen it. I've never had a whole webpage dedicated to the sole purpose of denoucing me.

owlrigh said: one of her sycophants was panting to have me write for some Jim/Rafe zine this personage was going to do

My response: Um, I don't *have* sycophants, and certainly none that would ask anyone for a story for one of my zines. I alone do that, because they are MY zines. If someone asked you for a story for one of my zines, they didn't have my permission. Had I actually wanted a story from you, I would have contacted you myself. The fact that I didn't speaks volumes.

owlrigh said: Plus the whole charge-people-extra if they have credit cards thing!

My response: When AWS started taking credit cards in July, 1998, it was my first experience doing so. I didn't realize that there was a fee attached to each payment and hadn't even thought about factoring that cost into the price of the zines. SOMEONE had to pay the fees and I thought it was unfair for me to have to swallow all of them when using a credit card to order zines was a CONVENIENCE for the fans. After another publisher, who also had begun taking credit cards, pointed out that it was indeed illegal to make the fans actually pay the fees for using their credit cards, a period of about two months, I recinded this policy and have been eating the fees for the credit cards ever since. The fees usually run about $200.00 a month, sometimes more when there are more orders, like around MediaWest in May. What's not commonly known is that Paypal ALSO charges a percentage per payment sent to us, and we eat THOSE fees, as well. Between both Paypal and the credit cards, we routinely pay about $350.00 PER MONTH. Which I would have been happy to have told you had you simply asked me rather than accusing me of gouging the fans. It would actually SAVE me money NOT to take credit cards. But imagine the howl that would come from all the fans used to the priviledge if I announced we weren't taking them anymore. I would happily point them in your direction...
[loreleif]: There's always an answer. Mail order. Friends who are going to a con selling your zines from their room. Orphan zine tables. As a plea to zine-producers everywhere: don't do business with Mysti. It's more trouble than it's worth, and there are many people who won't buy any zine that she agents.

[cara chapel]: Speaking as an author who's been fucked up the ass without lube by Mysti Frank, I tell everyone I know who's even faintly ready to lend an ear precisely what she did to me (and is still doing, for as far as I know, she still refuses to stop selling the single zine BlackRose and I were so unfortunate as to agent with her back in our own days of innocent fannish youth).

I would not do business with this woman again if I could never read another word of fan fiction as a result. It was one of the most pleasant moments of my congoing experience when I cornered her and told her off to her face-- I suppose I was fortunate that there were no equally aggressive minions handy at that moment.

If, as the gloomsayers continuously predict, copyright law ever comes down on fanzines with a sledgehammer, I hope it makes its first savage impact right on top of her lying, cheating head.

That said, your letter was spot-on. I laughed so hard I nearly snorted soda through my nose.

[Mysti Frank]: cara_chapel said: she still refuses to stop selling the single zine BlackRose and I were so unfortunate as to agent with her back in our own days of innocent fannish youth

My response: On May 21, 2000, just 4 days before MediaWest, BlackRose overnighted a CD to me that contained the master of L'HISTORIE D'OBI, a Star Wars: TPM zine. There was no paper master sent, and thus none to return later. The zine-on-CD was saved in Quark Xpress for Mac. I had a PC and no hopes of opening this CD. So I took it to Kinko's, the only place in town that could open the file. They opened it and charged me $1.20 PER PAGE WITH COLOR on it (which was almost EVERY page) to print it out. The master cost me $130.00 to produce. From the paper master, I had 20 copies printed up for MediaWest. The zines came out beautifully, much better, I can only assume, than the last time BlackRose herself printed out the zine, as her description of her own zine in her e-mail says, "They looked scrubby, like they had sandpaper rubbed over them." The zines we produced were crisp and clear and in COLOR. The zine was sold for $20.00 per our agreement with BlackRose. At some point, she decided she didn't want to have us agent the zine and asked for the master back. The CD was mailed back to her the following week. We continued to sell the remaining copies of the zine, as I told her in an e-mail, because we had paid to have them printed up and deserved to get back even a PORTION of the staggering cost we had already outlaid. Once the last zine was sold, in September, 2001, we sent the last accounting statement to the address we had on record for you, a P.O. box. The statement was returned, marked that you had closed down the box. If you still want the accounting statement and check for the last zine, we will be happy to mail it to whatever new address you supply. We also pulled the listing from the webpage when the last zine sold. The listing has been down for over two years, we have no copies of this zine left, and no one has bought this zine from us since that time. Without even checking our webpage , you say that we're STILL selling your zine. Well, I can prove that we're not (and snapshots of our webpage from the WayBack Machine will corroborate me). At each con we go to, we do up a price list for that specific con. It lists EVERY zine we brought to that con to sell. I have price lists going back for more than three years and can SHOW you that we haven't been selling your zine. If you can produce ONE person who says they bought a copy from us in the last two years, please produce them. And their proof. Until then, I would ask that you STOP repeating this foundless rumor, especially since we never dealt with you, only BlackRose.

[deannie]:copyright law ever comes down on fanzines

If this ever happens, it will be, in part, *due* to her, I think. I've talked to others who do zines, and... Well, let's just say she doesn't seem big on the fair use clause, okay?

[copracat]:Oh. Well. All the comments here explain something I've been wondering about but was never too concerned about to get off my arse to ask about.

Back in the day - 98 maybe - I had a short scene published in a zine of missing scenes. Go me. A couple of years ago (and ten minutes ago when I checked the website) I saw that it was still in print but being sold by Agent With Style. The original publishers don't appear to be in fandom anymore. I'd had this vague idea that the licence to publish the story would revert to me after a couple of years. That seemed to be fan practice.

There you go.

[Mysti Frank]: copracat said: I had a short scene published in a zine of missing scenes. Go me. A couple of years ago (and ten minutes ago when I checked the website) I saw that it was still in print but being sold by Agent With Style. The original publishers don't appear to be in fandom anymore. I'd had this vague idea that the licence to publish the story would revert to me after a couple of years. That seemed to be fan practice.

My response: Your story was in one of the MISSING LINK zines that we agent for The Presses, the editors of the zines. It is with their permission that we have the zines listed our site. And The Presses is still turning out zines and have absolutely no plans to leave fandom. AWS has no control over The Presses' policies of what you can or can't do with your story. We only agent the zine. But I happen to know that it IS their policy that all stories revert back to the authors upon one year of publication, which is pretty standard throughout zinedom. If you want to go post your story, go post it! If you want to roll it up into a candle and light it, you can do that, too. AWS has no involvement one way or another.

[lorelief]: [A requirement to wait a full year before zine-published fic can be posted to the internet is] generally what zine publishers agree to now, but it's a relatively new phenomenon, zines being much older than the 'Net. -g-

When I submitted my story to Mysti, she had not specified how long she wanted the delay to be. Months later, after she had accepted my story, she stated on a mailing list that stories in the zine would never be on the Web (some publishers did do this; don't know if any still do). I wrote her, basically asking WTF? She confirmed that since her zines were always in print, the stories would never be allowed on the Web or anywhere else; she retained all publishing rights forever. This had always been her policy, she said.

Gee, that's interesting. Especially since an author had stories in an archive I ran, and these stories had appeared in earlier zines in the series. And Mysti was on the mailing list for which this archive was run. I told Mysti this, and pointed out that the standard delay was one year. I also pointed out that I objected to signing all rights to my story in perpetuity, which even pro writers aren't asked to do when writing for profit.

I waited for a response. I mailed again, and waited again. Lather, rinse repeat. I finally wrote her saying that I would wait one year to 'Net publish; if she had a problem with this, she should relinquish rights to my story. She wrote back rather snootily informing me that she'd replied to my earlier e-mail messages and didn't know why I hadn't got her response, but that that would be fine.

Of course, as the story she published bore only some resemblance to the actual story that I had submitted (and I never got an explanation or apology for her altering text without informing me), I felt no qualms about posting it on the 'Net several months after the zine saw print.

[Mysti Frank]: loreleif said: When I submitted my story to Mysti, she had not specified how long she wanted the delay to be. Months later, after she had accepted my story, she stated on a mailing list that stories in the zine would never be on the Web (some publishers did do this; don't know if any still do). I wrote her, basically asking WTF? She confirmed that since her zines were always in print, the stories would never be allowed on the Web or anywhere else; she retained all publishing rights forever. This had always been her policy, she said.

My response: Your story appeared in CHALK AND CHEESE 18 in November, 1997. When you asked me about the delay in posting your story, the idea of putting fanfic on the net was brand-new to me. I had no idea what to say, so I said "Never'. It was a kneejerk reaction, but no better or worse than all the other zine editors also floundering around for an answer to that question. Within a couple of months, I came to realize that 'never' wasn't fair. After talking it over with several other zine editors, we all came to the conclusion that one year seemed fair to everyone, and that has been my policy ever since. It says so right on my webpage, and has for many years. Some other editors chose eighteen months or two years, and some have stuck to that time period, but my time limit is, and shall continue to be, one year. Which is what I said to you in an e-mail, which I can reproduce to prove it wasn't anywhere close to 'snooty'. I do believe I even thanked you again for sending me your story in the first place. I'm still grateful, because it was a funny story and I enjoyed reading it.

[danakujan]:

Been there.

Told that.

Did what I wanted after a year.

And I always found the "but my zines are always in print" argument a tad lame. A zine premieres, many people in its fandom buy it, sales decline. That's the life cycle. I can't see how returning the author's rightful claim would hurt sales after a year. In fact, if someone reads a "free" story on a website, and the author notes that it appeared in such-n-such zine, it may even toss a sale the agent's way because the reader liked the "free" story so much she wants to read the others that appeared in that zine.

[Jean Kluge]:Lorelei said: "When I submitted my story to Mysti, she had not specified how long she wanted the delay to be. Months later, after she had accepted my story, she stated on a mailing list that stories in the zine would never be on the Web (some publishers did do this; don't know if any still do). I wrote her, basically asking WTF? She confirmed that since her zines were always in print, the stories would never be allowed on the Web or anywhere else; she retained all publishing rights forever. This had always been her policy, she said."

Mysti has always been greedy beyond belief. When she first came onto the scene as a publisher, I remember looking at a friend's zine and goggling in stupefied disbelief at her contributors' guidelines. She was expecting huge amounts of input for a single free copy of her cruddy zine, whereas the standard in fandom at the time was "you contribute (*anything*), you get a zine". The standard was also that all rights reverted to the writers and artists (usually stated as "copyright (date) for the writers and artists") upon completion of the first printing, not once the zine went out of print. People allowed subsequent printings of the zine containing their creative work as a courtesy. And waiting a year to put something on the 'net is a more recent courtesy fans give to publishers who are deserving of it. That would obviously exclude Mysti.

Also, someone mentioned Bill Hupe. I dealt with Bill as an agent for my Trek prints years ago, then parted amicably because Bill just had too much on his plate. He put out horrible zines, bless him, *but* he was scrupulous and honest. He made mistakes from time to time, but always tried to make good on them. He meant well, and for the most part ran his huge empire well, considering its volume. His biggest mistake was in kindheartedly but misguidedly turning over his empire to Peg Kennedy when he was ready to "retire" from it all. Peg had no business sense, was perpetually broke, and had always been terrible at handling money. But even she, despite using zine pre-order money to support herself and foolishly hoping it would all turn out all right sometime in the hazy future, never seemed to me to have the malicious bent, the truly calculating, deliberate intent to do wrong that She Of Whom We Are Speaking demonstrates, IMO, again and again.

[Mysti Frank]: Jean Kluge said: I remember looking at a friend's zine and goggling in stupefied disbelief at her contributors' guidelines. She was expecting huge amounts of input for a single free copy of her cruddy zine, whereas the standard in fandom at the time was "you contribute (*anything*), you get a zine". The standard was also that all rights reverted to the writers and artists (usually stated as "copyright (date) for the writers and artists") upon completion of the first printing, not once the zine went out of print. People allowed subsequent printings of the zine containing their creative work as a courtesy. And waiting a year to put something on the 'net is a more recent courtesy fans give to publishers who are deserving of it. That would obviously exclude Mysti.

My response: My guidelines haven't changed in more than a decade. They have a remain thus: 'to get a contributor's zine, your story must be at least 4 (of my) pages long in the US/Canada. Five pages overseas. Less than 4 pages (5 pages) will get you half off the price of the zine in which your story appears. One full color cover illustration or three interior pieces will get you a trib. Less gets you half off the zine in which your work appears.' The discrepancy between US/Canada and overseas is that it costs roughly twice as much to mail a zine overseas, so I thought 1 extra page was fair. This is not a 'huge amount of input' to get a trib. It's actually pretty middle-of-the-road. I've seen some zines that ask for ten pages or more to get a trib. One even asked for 20! When zines were averaging around 100-130 pages, doing 'anything' might net you a copy. But when even a 4-page limit means I have over 20 tribbers per zine, the triple-digit cost of which I absorb, a four-page story in return for a 200-page zine seems pretty fair to me. As stated previously, once the zine has been in print a year, the authors are free to do with their stories what they like. So that WOULD seem to include me after all.

[ Virginia Sky ]: Sorry to say there is no standard practice with rights to stories and the length they are held.

I have two stories wrapped up with another publisher that I doubt will ever see my website. I don't think its a point of greed I just think its a point of the life span of zine.

My lesson...up front I will find out the rights I have with my story before I submit it to any zine editor.

One year...two years...three years...I have heard them all.
[yonmei]: Um... In order for the zine editor to have "rights" over your story, that you wrote, you have to sign a contract, and the contract has to include some monetary exchange, or it isn't a legal contract. Otherwise the zine editor has no rights at all - it's your story, you own it, you can do exactly what you like with it. Waiting a year after publication date to put your story online is a courtesy: it's not a legal obligation.

[noelql]: luckily, she sent me the story back to review before printing

Boy, were you ever lucky. I was NOT so lucky with my last story that she published and many things were changed without my knowledge or permission. She also failed to include the citation for a song that I used in the piece, which annoyed me greatly.

However, the straw that broke this camel's back was when she held onto one of my stories for over two years while continuing to insist at each con that the zine really would be out for the next con. I finally pulled my story and sent it to another zine. The zine in question of hers did finally come out last year, some SIX years after the original submission deadline.

I also would like to beg zine editors to NOT have her agent your zines. I won't buy from her which definitely restricts my zine buying. There are a few zine editors that I've convinced to let me buy from them directly, but otherwise I just don't get the zine. That benefits no one. Sell your zines online with paypal instead! Please!

[Mysti Frank]: noelql said: she held onto one of my stories for over two years while continuing to insist at each con that the zine really would be out for the next con. I finally pulled my story and sent it to another zine. The zine in question of hers did finally come out last year, some SIX years after the original submission deadline.

My response: It took me several years to get enough stories TO publish the zine, WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU, SAM! 6. QL is a very small fandom and getting together enough stories for a zine was difficult, especially once it was no longer on Sci-Fi. I'm sorry I took too long and that you felt you had to pull your story. The instant I had enough submissions, the zine went to print, just as promised. The next time YOU do a zine, please don't let things like not enough subs hold you back. Go ahead and print blank pages. I'm sure no one will mind.

[noelql]: Mysti, all I ever wanted was an answer. You never told me during those two years when you had my story that it was a problem of insufficient submissions. You just kept telling me that it was almost done and would be out at the next con. It was the lack of communication that frustrated me. Hopefully, if deannie and I ever do get the time and money to publish a zine, we'll be able to get enough submissions to put it out in a timely fashion....

If you don't KNOW when your zine will be out, SAY you don't know.

[castalianspring]: I'm sorry to say that I've bought zines in the past from Agent with Style, only once when I was very young in fandom. I wish I'd known that I was overpaying and helping to keep this publisher afloat.

They were crap zines, too. There have been zines they have that I've wanted - stuff by Sheila Paulson, Brenda Anders, James Walkswithwind, among others - but I won't buy them from her.
[yonmei]: It's a tradition in fandom: no one names names. You learn by getting burned. I got wary of strange zine publishers way back when (um, 1986) when I sent a story ("Heart's Desire") off to 4-M Press, who were trawling for B7 fluff. It got published in Vila Please! and I have no problems with the quality of editing it received (none, but none is better than bad). What I did have a problem with was that editor Marnie never bothered to tell me she'd accepted my story, and never bothered to send me a tribber's copy until - since I'd heard through two people who'd bought the zine and who wrote to tell me they liked my story - I wrote to her (twice) to ask her what was happening. Then she sent me a copy from the second print run. I suspect that if I hadn't known people in US fandom who were buying the zine and who told me I had a story in it, I'd never have got that tribber's copy. Resolved never to deal with Marnie again, and never again to just assume that all fannish zine editors would deal with me honourably, regardless of distance. (Admittedly, Marnie proved an exception: I've only ever had problems with two other fans, and both times were because the fan in question was having RL problems, not because of any intentional dishonesty.)
[castalianspring]: I can understand bringing back old zines so that fans can have access to fic that's not published on the net. Plus, some people just like to have fiction in print. But her insistence that she have full rights, no internet publishing, is ludicrous. I hate that a lot of the old unspoken fandom dos and don'ts are being forgotten or lost.
[yonmei]: Not all zine editors (or agents) deserve to be judged by Mysti Frank. The reason why we hate Mysti Frank so much is because she stands out as an inglorious exception to the usual rule. (Yes, there was Marnie, who also stank.) The worst you can say of many zine editors is they are mediocre: very, very few are actually dishonest. (It behooves us to be wary, but not actually paranoid.)

[wickedzoot]: Wiser now. Several years ago, I forget how many, Ms. AWS contacted me about 'zining my Sk/M from XF. I was, needless to say, flattered, and agreed. Strangely, these had already been put out on the web, but she wanted them anyway. The last one was.....interesting, and the problems with it I've generally ascribed to a total lack of communication between two writers and my complete lack of interest in communicating with Ms. AWS. I let the other writer create a frame that made me unhappy. Not that it was her fault, precisely, since I had abdicated all responsibility because, frankly, the whole thing was making my brain melt, but it was as a result of Ms. AWS's instigation. In spite of this frantic effort to make the thing work for Ms. AWS, the damn thing was a mess, even if I did actually rather like the cover art.

I've never been asked by anyone else to contribute to a 'zine (except for this publisher) and have never wanted to do so again. While I never had the problems that others have had, and certainly wasn't aware she was living off the proceeds (I mean, that house!), I've mentioned to a few people that I'd pass if I were them.

[JiM]: Wow, I am astonished.

What DID she do?

I have contributed to two zine with her, as my co-author is a friend of hers. I was never impressed one way or another by her, either as the Source of All Evil or as an especially marvelous zine producer.

I am not, in general, a fan of zines at all, preferring the free access of the Internet. You've all made me curious... if I promise never to submit to her again, will someone explain what's up? [2]

[Mysti Frank]: Mpoetess said: I find it hard to believe that she could still stay in business, if *everyone* she's currently agenting for is someone who hasn't been screwed over or who for some reason is willing to take the risk -- there's got to be a fair percentage of newbies with each zine, no?

My response: I have people I've been agenting for for over five years. If I was *truly* 'screwing everyone over,' don't you think they'd all leave? Instead, I have both new and old agentees alike and am proud to take their zines to all the cons I go to.

Not one -- not ONE of you -- has tried to do the agenting at the level I'm doing it at. And the FIRST PERSON who does and then still agrees that you can actually *live* off the "profit" of zines, I'll happily give him or her every single zine in my collection, because I'm obviously not doing it right.

[Jean Kluge]: Mysti said: We make no changes in masters and if you don't like the zine, then the editor of that zine is who you should talk to.

In fact, when AWS zines are printed from masters produced by the zine's creators, those zines do print up well. Mysti's printer does a fine job, but Mysti does not always give her original masters. As for Mysti's own titles, I cannot comment other than to say that "shoddy" is not an inaccurate term for the final results, IMO. I had seen the quality of most AWS zines prior to warily agreeing to Mysti publishing/agenting Changes in 2000, and shuddered, so I wisely sent my own master and insisted on using a printer I trusted for the art as a stipulation. However, on the occasions that I have seen Mysti's unauthorized reprints (of Changes, several Motets and other Keynote Press titles), they have clearly been printed from Mysti's own copies of the zines in question (or others' copies) (as she several times asked my permission to do, and to which each time I responded with an emphatic "no", not realizing she had already done so, claiming those copies as "a found box" of the then out-of-print first edition of Changes. Yes, I do have two copies of that bootleg edition, and yes, the buyers will testify as to buying them from Mysti in direct result of an ad offering those "found" copies for sale. I also have a copy of that email ad.)

The rest of my dealings with Mysti Frank were, overall, a nightmare. Bootlegged zines, misrepresentation of her own inflated printing quotes as the *printer's quotes", refusals to let me see the printer's records/receipts, tacking on $5 to copies of my zine sold at cons (buyers informed me of this), trying to intimidate buyers who complained directly to me about problems with their copies of Changes or with receiving their orders, offering copies of the zine's art as reparation for a problem with an order, later threatening to sell my pre-printed zine illos as art prints without my knowledge for her own profit when I was considering putting the story online due to anemic sales, under-reporting the number of Changes she printed and sold (our conservative estimate, calculated from the discrepancy in the number of copies of pre-printed illos remaining after Mysti returned the masters/illos to me -- a number that could not even remotely be attributed to mistakes by the printer, a printer who has never made any mistakes with the illos for Changes when doing the zine for *me* currently -- was approximately 65 copies). In order to get my master returned, I had to hold a commissioned piece of art hostage, then eventually deny Mysti all printing rights (which I always own on all of my work, including the cover of Textual Poachers) when she simply continued to deny any wrongdoing (as she seems to be doing now.) My own perception, after what I've experienced and seen, is that she lies constantly, bootlegs whenever she can get away with it (which is often), uses artists' work shamelessly (my own prints came back from her all sticky -- with what, I shudder to think, and another artist had her artwork returned damaged and written-upon -- when it was returned at all) -- something that makes me unquestioning of the many writers who've posted here regarding her changing their work without permission.

Quite simply, after my experiences, I don't believe a single word she says, as I caught her in fabrication after fabrication.

Incidentally, at least two (probably more; I've forgotten in the subsequent 2 years) other agentees of Mysti's have reported circumstances almost *identical* to mine, most notably in the areas of bootlegging and under-reporting of quantities printed/sold. And printer quotes; nearly forgot that.

Oh, did I mention she threatened to sue me when I wouldn't cave? The things I've mentioned above are only a partial accounting, because, really, who has time for this shit? (I do still have all the tedious emails, though.) I *lived* through it once already. And giving out the info does little good -- people still buy her poor-quality (and frequently-shady) zines in droves, *knowing* full well (from first-hand accounts) how many people she's cheated. But there's a fraction of my experience, for all the good it will do.

[Mysti Frank]: Jean, I, too, don't wish to get into all that crap again. You and I have never agreed on what happened, but you happen to have a bigger yap, so more people heard you. That's fine. But do admit that you didn't hold the artwork back to get the masters. I had agreed to give them to you at MediaWest months in advance, and did so. The artwork took you two years to complete (or so you said), even when I paid the full $500.00 to you up front. And you didn't give me the artwork and *then* deny me print rights. You did that when you handed it to me. And I wouldn't have paid ANYTHING if Candy Apple hadn't convinced me to buy a commissioned cover from you for a novel she promised me. After I paid you, but couldn't print the cover, Candy then pulled the novel and posted it. So I have a $500.00 piece of...art...that I wouldn't have paid $5.00 for if I saw it in the artshow. You guys double-teamed me good. Terrific work.

I have also heard horrible stories from other people who have paid you for commissions and gotten nothing from you *years* later, so it's not just me. If I seem to repeat bad times, apparently you do, too.

[Jean Kluge]: Candy got caught in the middle of a situation you brought upon yourself. She received nothing out of this but a lot of stress. You screwed *yourself* out a what would have been a very, very profitable zine for you. Other people have received commissions from me meant to be used as fanzine illustrations later (but just to make it clear to the general fannish public, people are not paying me for the zine contribution; they're paying me for an original piece of art and the work it entails) and I have extended the courtesy of printing rights for the specified zine publications, usually with no limits on number of zine reprints. This is because those people treated me with respect and received the same in return.

As to what you think of my art, I suspect it's a *wee* bit of sour grapes, as you had actively solicited my art on many previous occasions for your zines.

[Mysti Frank]: twistedchick said: few years ago when I got back into fandom, I was invited to one of AWS's 'parties' by someone who apparently went to them each month. It was a gathering of fen who did all the collating and put all the zines together, and did other work for her as well. I tend to lean toward the free-market idea in terms of such things as agenting -- personalities aside, it *is* possible to do the job in an honest and honorable way -- but I can't support someone who is using unpaid labor to put together zines to sell for a living. It seems to me that there was some clause in the amendments to the Constitution about use of unpaid labor, wasn't there? I realize that everyone there is a volunteer, but it still tastes unsavory to me.

My response: Excuse me, but I have no idea who you are, and you apparently never volunteered to work with me, because if you had, you'd know that I have NEVER had ANYONE collate a zine for me. That's ridiculous when the machines at the copy shop do it automatically, and for FREE. I've had people do accounting for me, type in table-of-contents of zines for my webpage, help me do inventory on the over 2,000 titles we have, make up mail orders to go out, but I have NEVER had a collating party. These went out sometime in the Eighties, I believe, and THEN, it was a FUN thing to do. People actually did invite friends in for the express purpose of collating a zine, and sometimes even 'spooning,' which is using the bowl of a heavy spoon to bend the prongs on a staple shut because the zine is too big to fit into the stapler (which had to be opened and laid flat on the zine to staple). I've actually been to a few collating parties in my day, but I've never held one myself. I've never had to. The gatherings I held every month for several years were simply get-togethers with friends (or whom I *assumed* were friends). It was pot-luck: I supplied the drinks and a main dish. Others brought chips, desserts, etc. We sat around and talked, or watched a tape, or read zines. At least once during each gathering, someone would ask to go through my zines, so we'd all troop down to the basement and people could pour over the shelves. At no time during these gatherings did anyone do ANYTHING like work.

But when someone had a few hours free and wanted to volunteer, they were always welcome to come over and do whatever needed doing. And in exchange, they earned two 'zine bucks' an hour, which could be redeemed for any zine we carried. Work five hours, earn a $20.00 zine. Pretty fair for volunteering. And as with everything else, that was several years ago. I haven't had a gathering in over three years, and Donna and I do EVERYTHING ourselves now. And anytime you want to step up and take over, sending out 1,500 zine orders a month world-wide, going to more than 20 cons a year, putting out over fifteen zines a year and not really having a life, I'd be more than happy to trade with you. Just say the word.

[Jean Kluge]: AWS said: And anytime you want to step up and take over, sending out 1,500 zine orders a month world-wide, going to more than 20 cons a year, putting out over fifteen zines a year and not really having a life, I'd be more than happy to trade with you. Just say the word.

Ooh, ooh, is that the sound of the world's tiniest violin?

And did Mysti just offer to give up her zine empire to anyone willing to trade their life for hers? Cushy!! Does that include the house? Any takers? Bueller?

Being a fannish mogul *is* hard work. Just ask Bill Hupe. But Bill ran his empire with goodwill, good nature, and unquestioned honesty. And I imagine it is a huge undertaking -- hauling zines to cons, setting up tables with hundreds of titles, etc. Not to mention a huge expense -- the cons, travel, hotels, etc costs must be high. But a good businesswoman would make that clear in her accountings, and an honest businesswoman would spell out those extra costs of printing/publishing up front -- or explain the need for a price increase or whatever if she felt she had underestimated her costs, not do it on the sly, never report it, and therefore add to the items that her consumers and others felt were not on the up-and-up.

Funny, but I don't remember asking Mysti to do this great service for fandom. Did I miss the memo?

[Meghan]: I cannot comment on what has happened to others. In my case I bought a zine from Mysti a few years ago. Luckily I started reading it at the con and found that many pages were missing. Mysti was willing to allow me to exchange it at the con -- but I had to sort though the box of zines myself before I found one that did not have missing pages. I didn’t mind doing this -- but what bothered me was her unwillingness to remove any other defective zines I found or to advise others that they may want to check for the missing pages. She said that was the responsibility of the zine editor. In any event, a simple note on the table asking fans to check their zines would have been fine, IMHO. She did not do so. Most other zine sellers have sent out e-mail messages or alerts when they find they may have sold zines with missing pages. And since Mysti has her own announcement mailing list I was surprised she didn’t use that either. I am left with the decision to be very very careful before buying any zines from her again.

I want to also say that this experience has *not* soured me on zines or buying zines. Most fans are really kind and will bend over backwards.

[Mysti Frank]: I don't remember this encounter with you, but I can say that we've had several fans over the years come up to us and say that a zine was missing pages. The first thing we do is check the remaining zines to see if they are also missing pages. If they are, they get pulled immediately and are not sold until they can be fixed. This sometimes means we have to go back to the editor to get the missing pages, and sometimes that can take weeks (we've got about 30 zines sitting on our shelves right now that we can't sell because they're missing pages).

If someone finds missing pages, we always allow them to get a good version of that zine, or if that's not to be found, to either exchange the zine for another one, or get their money back.

If, as was the case with a recent zine, there are problems with the zine that don't affect the actual reading of it, we do make a note and stick in on the table. "SILK AND FLANNEL HAS TWO PAGE 77s." And I made a point of gesturing to the note each time someone picked up a copy. Then I explained that the printer, in trying to help, had renumbered one of the pages. All the text was there, but there *were* two page 77s, so don't be alarmed when you see it. And if you would rather wait until we can get home and fix the problem so that all the pages are numbered correctly, you can pay for a copy here and we'll mail it to you.

We have people notify us *after* cons, when they've gotten home, that a zine was missing a page. We offer to e-mail them the page, or mail it to them, punched and ready to be added to the zine, or they can send the zine back to us and we'll mail a good copy to them in its place. We also reimburse the fan for the cost of postage to mail the bad zine back to us.

I'm sorry your experience differed than the above and can promise you that it's never been repeated. We *do* bend over backwards to make sure the fans are satisfied. We've even taken back zines when fans discovered they had bought a duplicate. And stood there while a fan lambasted us about the quality of a zine we didn't even carry, then calmly point out the correct dealer and ask that she go talk with her.
[Mysti Frank]: Over and over again, I had to delve back YEARS in to my e-mail archives to find the exact e-mails from people doing the complaining. When I started Agent With Style, I had no one to ask questions of, no one to show the way, no one to point out how to do things. I had to figure them all out by myself, mostly through trial and error. But I think everyone can tell from the very fact that all these complaints are YEARS OLD, that I have actually learned a thing or two. That standards have settled down. That AWS is doing good work and making both fans and editors happy. I will FULLY admit I made mistakes. And I apologize to fandom at large for having made them. But I learned from them. I moved on. And if the worst thing you can say about me is that I screwed something up several years ago, then...I guess I'm doing okay.

Selling Slash Zines Too Close to the Talent

[Mysti Frank]: thermidor said: Last year I saw Mysti selling slash zines at a star con - Dragon Con in Atlanta. I was shocked and appalled that only a few yards from the celebs Mysti was set up. Unbelievably tacky.

My response: If you've ever actually gotten a table in a dealer's room at a con, you know that you have no control over where they put you. That's especially true at cons as big as DragonCon is. We could have just as easily been on the opposite side of the room instead of eight (yes, count them, EIGHT tables (and about 100 yards and more, since the signing tables stretched AWAY from us) away from where celebrities were signing autographs. Since we'd paid $400.00 PER TABLE, we could either blow off a $1,200.00 investment, or set up our zines. We put all the gen zines in front and slash zines in back, as is common for any con where there are mundanes or children wandering around. And even with the mostly hidden slash zines, we made sure no risque covers were showing. We were *very* circumspect, and as such, had absolutely no problems with ANYONE at the con. Apparently, except for you.

[thermidor]: We were *very* circumspect, and as such, had absolutely no problems with ANYONE at the con. Apparently, except for you.

First I think, Mysti, that you miss my point in part. The fact that you were at Dragon con at all was tacky.

Second, without browsing your table closely (I always stayed several feet away) I could see the slash zines. I realize that customers can leave things on the table when they are done browsing them, which only makes me feel more strongly that you should not have had a table at the con.

Third, I am not the only person who had a problem. Your table was pointed out to me by a group of horrified slash fen pals. Just because we didn't come marauding by like angry Vikings doesn't mean we weren't appalled. In fact, as I write this, I am sharing a room with 2 other slashers who share my feelings. (I will leave it up to them as to whether they want to join the fray in separate comments, but laurakaye and mandragora1 just told me they would be happy to be mentioned by name.

You may respond if you like, but it won't change the fact that there are many of us who will not be doing business with you and will encourage others to do likewise.
[laurakaye]: It wouldn't have mattered how close you were or weren't to the signing tables-- the fact is that you were *there* at a starcon. You were set up at a con where there were actors and various industry types present. You were very prominently displaying materials which, while perhaps not technically illegal, are certainly enough to spark C&D letters and bring down a whole host of trouble on fan writers and artists everywhere if the wrong person sees them. And while this may not have been the way you set things up, I distinctly recall seeing at least one zine with an explicit cover from where I stood-- and I stayed at least a few feet away from the table at all times. I didn't even know it was your table at first-- I was just horrified that there should be any zines at all there. I immediately decided that a zine dealer who would so blatantly disrespect and endanger her fellow fen was not the sort of person who would ever be receiving any of my business.

[Mysti Frank]: I'm so sorry that you and your friends were horrified to find zines at Dragon Con. Is this just a recent horrification or does it actually stretch back to the five years we've been going to the con? We've never had a problem with anyone. And while people do rummage through the zines and rearrange them, we periodically go through and *re*-rearrange them. If a slash zine cover (and even most of them are gen-like on the covers) is the worst thing you see at Dragon Con, you're doing great. I myself have seen leatherboys in chains and collars, being led around by saucy vixens wearing less clothing than I've seen on dressed-up dachunds. I've seen sex and nudity at every single con. I've seen books that are twice as 'naughty' as any zine cover I've put out. It's pretty much *everywhere*.

It's the one star con we do a year and if you're upset that we're there, I'm very sorry. But as long as we can afford the table fees (which may not be much longer as they're damned expensive), we enjoy the con and we'll be there. And once you've located us, there are about a hundred different ways of getting around the dealer's room without ever having to get near us.

Regarding Profit

[lanning]: As a point of possible interest, I'd like to mention that I've seen the house that Mysti purchased with the proceeds of her zine business. It's lovely -- a three-bedroom ranch with hardwood floors, fireplace, and sunroom on a couple acres of land in a nice suburban neighborhood. I thought the people who buy her poorly produced, overpriced and often pirated zines might like to know where their money is going.

[Mysti Frank]: lanning said: As a point of possible interest, I'd like to mention that I've seen the house that Mysti purchased with the proceeds of her zine business. It's lovely -- a three-bedroom ranch with hardwood floors, fireplace, and sunroom on a couple acres of land in a nice suburban neighborhood. I thought the people who buy her poorly produced, overpriced and often pirated zines might like to know where their money is going.

My response: Yes, when I invited you in to sit on my couch, I had no idea you were taking inventory. I should have given you all the papers that went with the house so you could have been a liitle more ACCURATE. And you should have warned me about the knife behind your back, but apparently I was so charmed by your false smile, I didn't notice. First, let's start with the house itself. It does indeed have three bedrooms, a fireplace and a long, thin sunroom (which is actually a converted carport, but let's not throw that truth into the lie, it'll just ruin it for everyone). The house sits on 3/4 of an acre, because if we actually had 'a couple of acres,' as you say, we'd also own the cows that live in that pasture behind us. That would thrill my dogs no end, but I'M not getting up at oh-dark-thirty to milk 'em! The cows, that is, not the dogs. Now, as for what paid for this house. Well, that was the BANK. It's called a MORTGAGE. And it's damned expensive. If selling zines would pay even a QUARTER of my mortgage each month, I'd be doing somersaults down Main Street in joy! Meet -- my partner. Her name is Donna, and between her, me, my mother, Donna's sons AND the bank, we managed to buy this house, where we, Donna and I, plan to live until we die. (And the bank is hoping that's longer than 30 years, because that's how long the mortgage is for.)

So...Lanning...where do YOU live? How much do YOU pay in rent? Where does the money COME from? What do you spend it on? Doesn't everyone here have the RIGHT to know?

[lanning cook]: I never for a moment doubted that you had a mortgage. However, banks do not offer mortgages to people without sufficient income to pay them. Since neither you nor your partner are otherwise employed, it is obvious that you were offered a mortgage based on the income from your zine business. The money that you take from your fellow fans is paying for your lovely house, my mistaken estimate of its acreage notwithstanding. I stand by my comment.

My only response to the rest of your uncivil and unbalanced rant is that THE ONLY REASON I SET FOOT IN YOUR HOUSE WAS TO HELP meri_oddities RETRIEVE THE ZINES THAT YOU HAD REFUSED TO RETURN TO THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNER, THE PUBLISHER, FOR *YEARS*, AFTER SHE TOLD YOU THAT SHE NO LONGER WANTED TO AGENT THROUGH YOU DUE TO YOUR UNETHICAL BUSINESS PRACTICES. Please do not misconstrue my civility to you on that occasion; it was not a social call. Please do not flatter yourself by attempting to give people the false impression that we have ever been friends, or even friendly; the only knife in evidence is the one you have been sticking into the backs of your fellow fans for years. Your greed and deceit disgust me. Go away.
[CC]: I had to wonder about her assertion that the income from her zine sales wouldn't pay even a quarter of her mortgage, when she later states that she sends out around 1,500 zines per month and pays $350 in just credit card and Paypal fees. Or that she does this 'part time', then later goes on about how it takes up all her time and she has 'no life' because of it. (And I've noticed that nearly every time she's done some sort of math in her replies, the totals have been way off. Odd.)

[Mysti Frank]: If you think I'm making all this money, hand over fist, I OFFICIALLY invite YOU to come to my house and stay here for a full week. You'll have full access to everything, every single piece of paper, every record. You'll get to watch Donna and me spend anywhere from eight to fifteen hours a night on the computer; spend like time putting orders together (in fact, we could use your help). Come SEE what we do and how we do it, THEN you can scream from the pulpit if you want. But I rather think you'll have a much different point of view on this side of mountain.

We're free in about two weeks. Shall we pick you up at the airport?

[Jean Kluge]: And, I'm sorry, but I have sad news for you. Any of us can comment if we choose on our experiences with you and the conclusions we've drawn from them. You don't get to dictate the terms of how and when we can make our opinions known. Thankfully, we still have the right of free speech. I only wish my "big yap" and its influence were as extensive as you seem to think.

In fact, I have quite a number of clues re: your business and business practices, as well as personal knowledge, experience, and observation of how *good* zines are produced, and observation of how good publishing/agenting businesses are run -- honestly and competently. I think Merry said it all quite well, though, in "Dear Disreputable", so no need for me to reiterate.

[copracat]: I'm such a fiend for figures.

sending out 1,500 zine orders a month world-wide

So that would be a conservative monthly turnover of $20,000 US on mail order? (Av zine price 10-15 US) An annual turnover of $240,000 on mail order alone? That's quite a business. I hadn't realised that zines were so big. Ah, web-blindness.

[anonymous]: (Even if it's only a dollar profit *per zine* a month] --that's still a good sum to live off of.

No other argument convinced me until I saw this, and from her own words. Now I remember why I *never* buy fanzines.

I think there's an important lesson in this--it's very, very easy for someone to place a disclaimer on a work only to turn around and *not* be enforcing what they claim. I don't pretend to know zine culture, I only know of original horror zines, and I certainly don't mind *them* turning a profit--However, having attempted to create a zine myself, I can say that the average cost of a zine from print to finish is about ten dollars Canadian--more if you use colour prints (which cost about a dollar each at a local Office Depot). However, while the print may be costly, it's also very fluctual--if she is selling over 1500 zines a month as is the claim, then obviously bulk printing would be the norm, and there are large discounts in printing costs for bulk.

Paypal charges 2.2% + .30 cents per transaction--It's not particularly terrible. If you factor in the possibility of a business tax break on top of it, well, it gets interesting.

I think there are a *lot* of people using this model to sell zines, and turn profits from them when they shouldn't be, but then most of the time those profits are marginal. Personally, I'm still not sure about the forgiveness factor on that one, when to me it's stealing the hard work of the authors and giving them only a passing credit. There's been a few 'anthologies' which look suspicious to me, and thus I refuse to buy them. If I want to read fanfiction, I'll get it online, or from the author themselves. If the prices of zines should go down, and it's all a labour of love as they say--then why not put the zines on CD and sell them for a dollar each to cover the cost of the CD itself (or since the cost to produce a CD is so neglible and it's that 'labour of love', then hand the things out free)? If profit is being made off of someone else's work (and it is, otherwise the zine would be just a series of empty pages), then it should be reimbursed if that's the case. Would I mind if my favorite fanfic author got a cheque for a dollar once a month for all those dimes in profit? Not particularly.

But then again, lawyers for whatever particular series would Looooove it. At that rate, the zines would be labelled the 'Kazaas of print!'

I don't think it's unfair to ask for an accounting breakdown or audit of zine creators (or con organizors, for that matter--I've heard some pretty unethical things about those arrangements over the years too) to ensure they aren't skimming off the top. I'm still disturbed by that 1500 zines a month quote--that just doesn't sound right, especially considering none of the authors gets anything out of this. There's a lot of grey areas going on in this department in fanzine productions, especially slash zines, and in the end my only decision can be to just not buy zines, under any circumstances, to protect both the authors' exploitation and my wallet.

[Mysti Frank]: Would you like to see the receipts from Staples and Office Max and Office Depot, where we routinely buy them out on tyvek envelopes, staples, no. 10 envelopes, paper (LOTS of paper), tape (LOTS of tape), address labels, etc., etc.? Everything it takes to get zines safely to the fans' homes. And for those who say that 'that's just the cost of doing zines and you should absorb that cost,' no. Not when you're doing it on this large scale. If *you* want to buy the supplies to send out 1,500 orders a month and donate them, I'd be happy to have them. I'm sure the mere pittance it would put on your credit card wouldn't strain it at all....

And of course, we shouldn't factor in con costs (tables, memberships, hotel, gas, etc.) or the cost of the webpage where people can place their orders. And I don't know what business tax break you're talking about, but apparently we don't qualify since we're a home-based business. Don't even *ask* about the amount of taxes we have to pay!

Can we add in the cost of making a place for all these zines while waiting to get bought? The number of zines we've printed up that HAVEN'T sold and yet the printer still wants his money? And speaking of printers, you only get bulk for having the SAME job printed xxx number of times. When you have three copies of this and eight copies of that and four copies of something else, bulk printing prices don't apply.

And that 1,500 orders number wasn't a flat guaranteed number every month. It's an estimate. Sometimes more, most times less. But don't let that get in the way of your guesstimation.

And I suppose that we also swallow the cost of lights (there are twenty-seven in the zine area alone), computers, postage machine, etc.

I'll tell you what, you take that supposed $1,500.00 and *you* run a business on this scale. I'll expect to see your business model and estimates of money expenditure tomorrow.
[CC]: I think she was talking NET income, here. If you NET even $1.00 per zine - that assumes the costs of all those things you mentioned - you're doing pretty good. There's more than a few people with business experience in fandom. Whining about the cost of tape and staples, etc. isn't going to impress them. The potential profit margin in zining, for someone who wants to work it that way, is vast. There are plenty who don't. The assertion by those who see your product/practices and your prices, is that you do. No, no one has seen your balance sheets. But we have heard your double talk, and draw our own conclusions. That's good business practice, too.
[Mysti Frank]: Not quite. We have a lot of digest zines that run anywhere from $3.00 up to $10.00, so that skews your figures quite a bit. And as I said below, that number was just an estimate. It's not guaranteed every month. And yet each zine, no matter how small, still takes an envelope, invoice, address label and enough tape to get through the US (or overseas) post office without being damaged, just like the big zines do.

[copracat]: No, that's true. If all you sold was $3 zines, at $3 a zine the turnover would be $4,500 a month and $54,000 a year. Still not chicken feed.

How estimate is the estimate? 1000 zines is $3000 a month and $36,000 a year.

Using the Fan Name of the Fan Discussed

[thebratqueen]: Well not to name names and co-opt Merry's desire to keep this anonymous, but honestly if we want people to know about it isn't referring to her like she was Voldemort really going to solve the problem? She presents herself as on the level. Fan-run cons let her into their dealer's rooms. How would a newbie fan know to differentiate her from any other zine agent out there?

Granted, I don't endorse lynch mobs or the like, but couldn't this be talked about in a way to rationally show one point of view and if she wanted to rebutt it publically she could be welcome to do so? B/c talking about this vaguely to people who already know what's going on is the definition of preaching to the choir. It's not going to change anything.
[merryish]: I really didn't think there were people who wouldn't naturally assume I was talking about Mysti Frank.
[thebratqueen]: Ahh. No worries. =) Actually I was legitimately confused as to the whole she-who-must-not-be-named thing since it was so universal in the comments I was wondering if I'd missed the memo saying why we shouldn't talk about her, esp when people were all gung-ho about educating the masses. The ideas seemed so strong yet opposed I figured I must have missed some fandom All Staff meeting ;)

[mpoetess]: ...well vented.

But TBQ has a point - anybody who would assume you were talking about MF, already *knows* about MF. There's a whole generation/wave/whathaveyou of fans out there who don't, and who are on lists that get spammed with her adverts, and maybe don't have friends (in my case zort and wolfling) who've been around enough to know. I find it hard to believe that she could still stay in business, if *everyone* she's currently agenting for is someone who hasn't been screwed over or who for some reason is willing to take the risk -- there's got to be a fair percentage of newbies with each zine, no?

[merryish]: I think we just get used to our own circles, where this kind of thing is really common knowledge, and it starts to feel strange to think that people aren't in the know.

Honestly, I think there are just a lot of people who don't care about how she does business, as long as their stories get put in print. And not everyone is aware of the actual costs involved in putting out a zine, and therefore they can't judge whether a particular set of badly (or not at all) edited Xeroxed pages is really worth the price they're being asked to pay. And even then, you don't really know what you're dealing with until you try to get an agented zine back, or your artwork, or a story, or try to get your real name taken off a story you never wanted it on in the first place...

[elke tanzer]: Well, I've been to two Escapades now, and have been reading online fic for longer, and I didn't know who you were talking about until I read the comments here.

*Elke looks around furtively, unsure if this means she still has [[newbie]] status or not*

I heard vague rumbles sometime last year about why I shouldn't buy from her, but nothing specific. Because they came from authors whose work I love and who seemed like rational slashers when I met them last year, I decided to take their wishes into account when ordering zines. But otherwise, I really don't have enough information to draw my own conclusions.

Fandom is a fairly hard place to start a Better Business Bureau, and that's probably what's needed.
[Mysti Frank]: Since everyone here knows my name, I think it's a bit cowardly for those of you using pseudonyms while making accusations, but since that's what you prefer, that's what I'll use.

Comments Elsewhere

Mysti Frank sounds very shifty when she writes about her profits as a zine agent. She's been attacked for sounding shifty. But I don't blame her for being shifty: I have myself before this always been extremely cautious about admitting to the various ways I have profited financially out of fandom, small though they are. I'm being open about this now partly because I'd like to discuss this, the issue of profits and fandom, running a fannish business, making money out of what you produce.

I don't like the way Mysti Frank runs Agent With Style. But I've bought from her at cons, because she has so many zines on her tables that I wanted to buy. (None of them were her own zines, for the aforementioned problems of white space, etc.) I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with someone making a profit out of doing business in fandom - whether that business is agenting zines or publishing them: and as a writer, I've self-published quite a few times. Running a business badly is not good: running a business dishonestly is really not good (and both charges are alleged against Mysti in the merryish thread, I do not know how accurately) but running a business to make a profit is, in a capitalist society such as the one we live in, simply what people do. Criticise capitalism as a system, absolutely. Shun people who bring the system into our noncapitalist world of fandom? But the system is there: we pretend to keep it out only by an elaborate system of defences similiar to that basket full of money by the exit in Valentine's home in Stranger in a strange land. Mysti's a capitalist. She runs a business. Criticise her for doing it badly, but not for showing a profit as she does so. [3]

References

  1. This statement may have, at the time, constituted outing a fan's pseud.
  2. Mysti Frank replied: "Since you chose to go public with a private e-mail, I'd like a chance to respond in kind. Aside from all the rumors you repeated about me, let me tell everyone of our *exact* transaction: I asked you for a story; you sent me a story; I edited it; you approved it (I have the e-mails to prove it); I published it in a zine; you got the promised trib copy. That's it! A 9-page story in a zine over SIX YEARS AGO! That's the sole basis for our relationship, and yet you feel that you can malign me with no further personal knowledge than that. I did indeed read the story I asked you to zine. I have read it several times and each time I enjoy it even more. I could care less if it ever sold well; I just think it should be in a zine for everyone who doesn't have computer access -- regardless of WHO puts it out. I still think you should reconsider this. And no matter how much you continue to malign me, I will STILL think it's a good story and continue to rec it. I'd also like to address each person's comments and accusations. It's only fair. Will you allow that or delete this message so your witch hunt can contine? Mysti Frank"
  3. excerpt from The Merryish and Mysti thread: profit in fandom by yonmei (September 3, 2003)