I’ve been frequently asked about how to get started organizing zines, so at last, here is my FAQ on zines! Truthfully there’s no real zine 101 because every zine is different! These tips are just from my personal experience from having organized a couple of zines, and serve purely as a reference point for first time zine organizers. I hope it can help!

Getting Started

You have a passion project that you want to make into a zine! Now what? The first step to any zine is realistically deciding what is the scope of the zine you want to organize from a financial standpoint. Do some research on local printers, and find out:
1. how much they charge for printing booklets.
2. how that price changes depending on how many pages are in the booklet
3. what is their shipping price

Once you have that information, you will have a more concrete idea of how big of a zine you can manage! Remember it’s the organizers’s job to see the project to the end, so if for whatever reason your book does not break even and make all the money back, you should have a plan B for funding the project and making sure all the artists are compensated, and this usually means paying out of pocket yourself! I’m making it sound scary here because I find that finance is a common pitfall for first time zine organizers, and personally it’s the first thing I make sure I can handle before taking on any zine project.

Andy (@andythelemon_) has also written a very informative guide regarding budgeting for projects! Read up on it here.

Finding Artists

Now that you know how big of a zine you can organize, it’s time to find your artists! Decide from the beginning how many artists you are looking for. I usually do this by counting how many pages in a zine I can afford to print: if you’re printing a zine with saddle stitch binding (usually much cheaper than perfect bind), then the pages will have to be multiples of 4, so your zine will be 24, 28, 32… pages etc. Once I pick a page count (let’s say 28), I deduct the pages I will need to credit the artists (let’s say 2 pages if we squeeze a bit), so I’m left with 26 pages for art! That means I have space for 26 artists, if everybody does a single page illustration.

Putting out Calls for Artist on multiple platforms is usually a good idea! If you have Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram… use them and spread the word. Sometimes it’s a good idea to make a separate account just for the zine so all the information is easily accessible, and people can follow it as a point of reference for updates. Leave enough time for people to find the open call and apply, but mark down a clear deadline (usually a few weeks). Make sure to boost the post towards the end of the deadline so that people who might have missed it the first time see it!

Artist applications can be as simple as creating a Google Form for people to fill out with their a) portfolio, b) contact info. Once application period is closed, go through them all and see which artists are the best fit for your zine!

Once you’ve decided on your artists, email them! I find it’s helpful to ask for a reply to confirm that they can still participate, in case of any scheduling changes. If your project is very big then you may also want to keep track of a few backup artists, in case anyone has to drop out in the middle.


The biggest cost factor for running a zine other than printing is probably artist compensation! Small scale zines usually don’t make enough for meaningful monetary compensation, but personally the base line for artist compensation is: a copy of the artbook +all merch, shipping included. Calculate an estimate of these costs, and factor it into your break-even point to get a better idea of how many books you need to sell to compensate your artists!

Collect your artists’ preferred shipping addresses towards the end of the project so you can send them the zine. Using Google Forms again will easily help you keep track of all the info in one place.


Email is a reliable way of communicating with your artists. I’ve also seen discord gain popularity for quick Q&A and WIP sharing, and honestly anything goes here as long as you keep track of all your artists’ progress, and they get consistent updates from you!

At the beginning of the project, figure out a rough timeline for the entire project from start to finish. In the past I’ve always organized zines during school years, so I would work backwards and figure out when I need to hit each stage of a production if I need the project to be 100% wrapped up by April. Usually a few weeks for set up/artist applications, a month or two for artwork to be produced (it’s always good to throw in a secret week for extensions, someone will always need it), a few weeks for pre-orders, and then a month or two for production/shipping.

I usually keep a spreadsheet of all my artists, their contact info, and what stage of artwork they’re at (WIP, Finished, Submitted, Extensions etc.) and color code each stage. This way you can quickly get an overview of how the project is running along.

It’s important to never keep your artists in the dark! Make sure your lines of communication are open, and they can reach you if there are any questions. If you run into any delays with the project, whether it’s printing or other issues, just send a quick update so everyone is on the same page, everyone will understand!


There’s a plethora of different merch you can include in bundles with your zine, but as always, be realistic! Different merch will have different production costs: stickers and postcards are low cost to produce, whereas keychains and enamel pins are much more high cost. Consider setting a limit if you want to make more high cost merch, for example having a 20 limited bundles that comes with an extra keychain.

Make sure you have suppliers ready to go for all the merch you want to produce, and factor in the time they will take print! Stickers and postcards again will have much shorter turnaround time if you’re using a local printer, but keychains and enamel pins will need longer turnaround PLUS shipping time. Consider the time it’ll take for your merch to get to you, and order well ahead of time so that you can ship out your orders with no delays!


As far as I know, every single zine organizer has a different printer. This is because local printers will usually be much more accessible than overseas printers. Do your research on printing prices, ask for discounts where possible, and make sure the quality is good before you settle on a printer! I’ve worked with the same local printing company for all my zines so I more or less know what to expect from them in terms of quality/speed.

Printing companies will usually provide you a template for the zine pages, and a template for the cover pages. Make sure you pass on the template to your artists at the very beginning, so that everyone is working from the same specs! There’s nothing more tragic than having to crop a piece/have a piece that’s too small because the specs are wrong.

CMYK colors are used for printing so make sure your artists are working with that! Color conversion is a huge topic that I won’t cover here, so for now make sure your file is set to CMYK settings if you’re planning to print it. Hitting Control+Shift+Y while you have the color picker open in Photoshop will grey out the area of the spectrum that won’t print in CMYK.


Once all the artwork is done, all your merch is ready to be printed, and you’ve got a shop set up, you’re ready for PRE-ORDERS! (or regular orders, whatever works)

Key things here is to first make sure your shop works as it should. I once opened pre-orders on a project only to find out that my PayPal/checkout wasn’t working… so test run that stuff.

Make an appealing graphic to advertise the zine. Graphic design is not everyone’s passion and that’s ok, sometimes simple and clean is enough! Include some previews/photos of the zine if you ordered a proof copy, anything to get people hyped about the content!

You can ask your artist to not share their artwork until pre-orders have opened, this way all the traffic can be easily directed to the zine shop! Usually I ask artists to post cropped versions of their piece (~30%) so that people can get just enough of a preview to generate interest in the full piece! I honestly love this part about organizing a zine, because it’s when everyone’s hard work can finally be shared!

Specify a Pre-Order period (usually a few weeks) during which people can order. Specify the different bundles that you’re selling and what is included. If you are selling a PDF version of the zine, I usually wait until pre-order period is over to email those out! And ALWAYS make sure you’re emailing a version that’s not print quality to protect the artists’ work! This could involve changing the DPI from 300 to 120, and generally downsizing the images a little without losing quality.


You’ve got your pre-orders, you’ve got your printed books and merch, it’s time for DISTRIBUTION. Probably the most labor intensive part of the zine process.

Shipping can come to a surprisingly large cost factor in organizing a zine, so make sure you plan for it accordingly by charging for shipping along with your zines! The bigger and heavier your zine, the more it will cost to distribute via post. If local pickup is an option, make sure to list that down for your customers.

First step to all this is getting your materials. You will most likely need bubble mailers (for my Canadian readers, Dollarama sells them cheaper than most places), lots of tape, and a free weekend to bust through all the orders. You can print out shipping labels on regular paper and tape it to the envelops, it’ll save your wrists a lot of pain from writing all the addresses.

Second step to all this is honestly bribing a friend with food to help you. Goodness knows I’d never have survived the shipping process on most of my projects without my amazing friends helping me out.

Find out the rates from your local post office, items are usually charged by weight if they are packed like a parcel. Canadian friends can also look up ChitChats for overseas shipping as they’re a little cheaper than Canada Post. It’s helpful to weigh one sample from each bundle you have to figure out their weight class!

Final thoughts

This post ended up a lot longer than I thought it would and honestly still doesn’t cover all the things you can run into while organizing a zine. But I hope it’ll be of some help to get you started on running zines you can cherish! The zines I’ve organized with friends are some of my favorite things in the world, and I love flipping through them to remember all we did to get the final product! I hope you’ll have a smooth zine experience!