Writers vs Publishers

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Title: Writers vs Publishers
Creator: Flamingo
Date(s): May 3, 2002
Medium: online
Fandom: Starsky & Hutch
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Writers vs Publishers is 2002 essay by Flamingo.

It was posted to VenicePlace, a closed Starsky & Hutch mailing list in 2002, and is posted on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission.

The Essay

Kari, you're a good editor and you put out a nice zine, I'm sorry to hear you're having so much trouble getting submissions. You too, April -- the Fix is a wonderful zine and my collection of them is one of my greatest treasures. I'm sure there'll be another one! Don't give up hope. And Otter, you and I have talked about the joys of publishing so I know you're not exaggerating what you're saying.

However, editors who won't edit, and writers who won't be edited, have been with us since the first fan put pen to paper. The issues are larger than that. I feel that, unfortunately, this net-vs-zine mentality is still persisting throughout fandom, when it should've been buried a long time ago. The net has matured into a new form of publishing that not everyone is comfortable with. To others, zines remain some elusive, strange thing to fans who've never had the chance to go to con, or read a good zine, or see one produced like a work of art. But many zines, I feel, are not as good as they could be, and, these days are nearly mass-produced, often with more of an eye to profit margin than quality. Many of us are very tired of shelling out over $25 dollars for zines with huge typefaces, enormous margins, and thin, mediocre stories. Likewise, too, zine editors are exhausted by fans who demand so many different things -- warnings, no warnings, whole new definitions of terms that have been in use for decades, and some strident fans who insist that if every story in a zine isn't to their liking, they've been ripped off. Feelings run high on all sides.

I've always felt that while S&H didn't have a ton of zines produced yearly, what we had was always "choice" -- the quality of writing, editing, and zine production in this fandom has always been especially high. But all my friends are in other fandoms and they gripe consistently about the quality and expense of zines. They're very liberal in their tastes and want to support zines, but they're tired of paying so much for so little. I got some static on another list (devoted to zines) because I promoted simultaneous publishing -- putting a zine on the net at the same time, or very shortly after, the paper zine was produced. This form of publishing is not for everyone but, so far, (with my one zine experience) it works for me and I'll continue doing it. I think Candy Apple did well with her crossover Sentinel/SH story that was first published on the net, then later put in a zine [1]-- Candy, maybe you could comment? And I was thrilled to find the SH Slash Virtual Season is going to be on paper! I couldn't find the time to read those stories while they were being posted and it was only when I got a Palm Pilot that I was able to download them and read them on that, which was long after the season was over. I discovered that electronic readers aren't my thing, though they are for others, but the thought of finally being able to sit with the entire season in two zines and enjoy them in the comfort of my own bed -- the only place to read slash as far as I'm concerned ;-) -- absolutely joyful! So, I've got my credit card in hand for my copies, even though I've read all those stories on the net.

Total Eclipse of the Heart -- which was posted on the net as I wrote it, then edited, and reposted with all its artwork very shortly after the paper version was available, has always sold well. Even before it was finished, people were asking me to save them copies when it was put on paper. Since the whole thing has been posted on the net, it's been selling even *better*. At cons, when people look through the zine, I always tell them it's already on the net, and only one person that I can think of decided against buying and went to download it instead.

I plan to publish two zines in the near future, hopefully in time for SHareCon. Both zines will be on the net as well as on paper as soon as they come out (or as reasonably as soon as I can manage it). I don't think this form of publishing is for everyone, and I'm not saying all zines should be produced this way, but I think the market is basically made up of people who love and buy zines, and people who don't care to buy zines. People who love zines will read something on the net and want it more, and people who have no interest in zines, simply aren't going to buy them. However, if those people are exposed to more zines on the net, good quality zines with good editing and production values like we're used to seeing in this fandom, I think more people will be interested in having zines of their own. I know business is brisk on all the lists that support used and new zine selling, so clearly zines are not dying out.

I meet many net writers who feel, as Otter expressed, that they aren't "good enough" for zines. I had the delightful experience just recently of encouraging a writer who sent me a submission to the SH Archive to consider submitting her fine story to a zine first. She didn't think she was good enough. Net writers need more encouragement and they need to know that there are folks like me, and April, and Kari, and Linda, and Kath Moonshine among others who are happy to read new writers and steer them to the right venues. Net writers, think about publishing one of your stories in a zine. Take a chance. The worst that will happen is that it won't be accepted and then you'll post it to the net like you were going to in the first place! Net writers, if you do have a story accepted in a zine, ask the zine editor if you can put your web page addy at the end of the story so zine readers can find your net stuff if they want. Most of us follow favored writers -- we'd do that if they go on paper or stay on the net. And net writers, see if the zine editor is okay with your advertising the zine story on your website -- how to get the zine that your story is in. I do this on the SH Archives, telling people where they can find the zine this story came from, especially if it's still in print.

Right now zines are begging for stories. Zine editors, consider publishing a few stories that were originally posted on lists, too. Especially if they weren't officially archived and were only available for that posting. Most zine editors won't want a whole zine like that, but a few strong, list-posted stories among the "virgin" stories in their zines might not be so bad.

We all need to look at new ways to break down the barriers between net culture and zine culture -- it's all for the fandoms and the fiction anyway. I think we'll all benefit if we work at being open-minded toward new possibilities.


  1. ^ Outside Influences?