LA Zine Fest

“If you want to become rich, zines aren’t for you. If you want to share your story, show your art, create your own media, then you should make a zine.”
–Meredith Wallace

Zines—ephemeral publications, often self-published and with a countercultural edge—are undergoing a significant revitalization these days, and they are increasingly recognized for their vital role in contemporary culture. The definition of a zine can vary widely from person to person, and for zine aficionados it is often a personal and strongly held opinion. The world of zines is far from that of painting, sculpture, or printmaking. It comes with an entire mindset and ethos, and its proponents are often more interested in punk rock than in the art world.

Meredith Wallace is a founding member of The LA Zine Fest, a one-day event that got its start last year and had over 1000 people in attendance. Writer Daniel Rolnik recently sat down with her for an interview to ask about the tradition of zine-making, what recent zines she recommends, and what you need to know in order to make your own successful zine. The 2nd Annual LA Zine Fest is just around the corner, and with even more exhibitors bringing their zines, it’s expected to get a record number of visitors. So if you want to experience an up-and-coming cultural phenomenon, be sure not to miss it.

What are three of your favorite art-related zines? 

I love Yumi Sakugawa’s zines because she combines her art and narrative together in a really beautiful way. I also love the zine Pop Ook, which is a compilation edited by Hamo Bahnam. It’s filled with comics and weird art and has great handmade touches like a silkscreened cover and multiple inserts. I also absolutely adore the zine Shotgun Seamstress by Osa Atoe. Though it’s not a pure art-zine, Osa writes a lot about the art and music that has come out of black queer subcultures, which are often overlooked by mainstream publications.

A collection of zines by Raymond Pettibon being sold on the LIVE Auctioneers website with a starting bid of $3000.

Do zines ever go up in value?

If we are looking at value from a purely monetary perspective, then generally not so much. Though one exception I can think of off the top of my head is the work of Raymond Pettibon. I just saw a collection of his zines valued at $6000! But that is pretty rare.

There is a store in San Francisco called Goteblud that sells vintage zines marked up from their original cover price—but I still don’t think I’ve seen anything in that store for over $10. It has an amazing treasure trove of zines, covering at least three decades of subcultural history. I think that’s where the real value of zines comes in. Forget about money! If you want to become rich, zines aren’t for you. If you want to share your story, show your art, and create your own media, then you should make a zine. Because the true value of zines lies in their ability to be at once a creative outlet, a primary source for future academics, and a means of community building and connection.

The organizers of The LA Zine Fest.

What makes a zine different than a book?

So, so much! First of all, you don’t need an editor, a literary agent, a publishing company, or lots of money to make a zine. All you need is an idea, some spare time, paper and a photocopier. Your zine is 100% in your control. It probably won’t make it to the New York Times best seller list, but that being said, it doesn’t mean that creating a zine or DIY comic doesn’t lead to more mainstream opportunities. There are people whose zines or comics have brought their freelance careers a lot of success, or have even gotten them mainstream publishers. I feel like the path to commercial success tends to be a little easier with comics than literary zines, although I’m not quite sure why.

Once an artist makes a zine, how do they get it out into the public eye? 

Definitely advertise it on the Internet and get in touch with online distributors, but don’t forget about getting your zine out locally as well. Right now is an amazing time to be self-publishing in Los Angeles; it feels like the city is bursting at the seams with zinesters, artists, cartoonists and writers who want to make connections and collaborate. Almost every independent bookstore that I know of in LA has a thriving zine section, and oftentimes you can bring in your zine and have it for sale in the store that very same day.

If you don’t feel up to driving to every bookstore, desperately hawking your zines, just come out for the 2nd Annual LA Zine Fest on February 17th, 2013, at the Ukrainian Cultural Center. I’m one of the founders and organizers of LA Zine Fest, which is similar to a book fair, but strictly for zines and self-published comics. Last February, at our very first event, we had over 100 exhibitors and 1,500 attendees throughout the day. It was zinester heaven! We had panels and workshops throughout the day, as well as a keynote talk with Henry Rollins and RE/Search Publicaton’s V. Vale to round out the event. The response was overwhelmingly position, and this year we sold out of table space for our 2013 exhibitors in less than a day. Although we can’t add more official exhibitors to this year’s event, you can bring your own work to trade and you’re guaranteed to walk home with an armful of zines!

What are your thoughts about the rise in popularity of zine-making? 

What I know is that I am more motivated to make zines than to publish a blog. Something I’m seeing more and more is that people want their privacy back. One of the great things about zines is that you can choose to show it to only 10 people, or you can distribute it to 10,000 people. Using the Internet you don’t really have that option, especially considering how interconnected everything is with Facebook these days. Your boss probably won’t find your zine… but your blog? The Internet isn’t a refuge anymore, and I think people are turning back to analog mediums because of that. Also, zines already have a well-established offline community that fosters personal connections and communications. Bloggers don’t have that as much; they are subjected to the joys of Internet trolls and anonymous comments! For me, zines are the obvious choice.

The LA Zine Fest keeps everyone’s best interests in tip top shape.

In your opinion what makes a successful zine? 

Honestly, in my opinion, a finished zine is a successful zine. Having said that, I really recommend buying a copy of Alex Wrekk’s Stolen Sharpie Revolution if you haven’t checked it out yet! It’s a great guide to zine-making. It gives you many useful tips about layout and binding techniques, which are really important to the overall “success” of the zine. In terms of content, editing is important! Take time with your zine, but don’t worry too much about making it perfect. If it’s not up to your standards, just finish it anyway, make two copies, learn from your experiments, and start over again on the next one. Share it with people you know and trust, and use their feedback to help you grow as an artist or a writer. Whatever you do, just don’t stop creating.

For more information about LA Zine Fest go to their website, Facebook, or Tumblr.