Yes, yes, I realize that October 1 was more than a week ago. But I’ve been thinking about Support Our ‘Zines Day (SOZD) a lot since then.
To quote Damien G. Walter (SOZD’s creator):
‘zines need support. Professional ‘zines rely on subscriptions to pay their staff and the writers who make the stories. Smaller ‘zines often rely on donations just to cover their costs. But with the speed of life in the 21st Century it can be difficult to remember to renew subscriptions or make donations to the ‘zines whose work we enjoy.
Damien included everyone in this, from Asimov’s and F&SF down to Shimmer and Sybil’s Garage to Kaleidotrope and Brain Harvest. He knows that in a traditional zine sense, many of those publications are not zines in the traditional sense, but he feels that they all need our support.
I agreed with this idea. It sounded great. Go out and support short-fiction venues. Of course I would get behind this. It stayed on my mind as I got renewal notices for three magazines—Fantasy & Science Fiction, Zoetrope, and Realms of Fantasy—and had been considering subscribing to Asimov’s. As I tallied up the subscriptions, it became quite a financial commitment.
Then my assistant editor made a brilliant suggestion: you could offer to volunteer as a means to support.
What a great idea. Everyone’s asking you for money in some fashion or other. Everyone wants you to subscribe/renew/donate and there are lots of people who just don’t have money to spare no matter how much they want to. But, they have time they can offer to help out a magazine that they enjoy. I felt the idea needed some flashing out, however.
I get offers from people looking to volunteer all the time, but often the definable work I have require someone close to me geographically (e.g., stuffing envelopes, filing). Or it’s such a huge project that no one, including myself, has the time to commit to it. I initially thought it would be nice for people to have an idea of the type of work they wanted to do before they volunteered, but that’s not realistic.
If you’ve never worked on a publication before, you likely have no idea what sorts of work needs to be done. I think the onus falls on the publisher/editor to be able to direct potential volunteers to work. Yes, I know, I just told already busy publishers/editors to develop work and tasks for potential volunteers who may never materialize.
But there are some things that could be done by volunteers that would help. Are your stories indexed? Even by just title and author? It wouldn’t be that difficult for someone to create an index for you. Does your website need any work? I’ve often thought about converting to WordPress and have just never had time to look.
What about a street team? You could have people put out flyers at conventions, wear t-shirts/buttons, hand out copies/samplers, etc. Bands do this all the time when they’re up-and-coming. You’d need to be careful with this since it could come across negatively if people feel you’re getting in their face. However, Night Shade Books did this for a number of years where they handed out t-shirts to people at convention. All of sudden you’d find everyone at the con had a Night Shade Books t-shirt on. Of course, Night Shade did more than just hand out shirts, they also published high-quality books.
How about you? What ideas do you have?
John Klima is the editor of the Hugo-Award winning ‘zine Electric Velocipede.