Postmortem on Issue 001, Ripe Banana

What an experience this has been. I still don’t really know what the hell I’m doing “publishing” a “zine.” But it’s been fun, and the feedback has been enthusiastic and positive. At the start, my reason to do this was to share some of the creative output that I’ve seen trapped on Facebook. The first issue was a success judging by that criteria.

Another reason to publish a zine was to see if I would follow through with it. I did! I started making fantastic plans for my future publishing empire as soon as I created the initial page layout on my computer, before I had a single submission. But the first issue had to come first, obviously. “One issue!” I would say. Finishing one issue would quiet my doubts and set up guidelines so I could continue on a clearer path towards the second issue and beyond.

For someone with not a lot of spending money, the expenses for the first issue were just enough to get me sick once or twice, but not too much to discourage me. The initial expenses included a paper cutter and saddle stapler, which should keep me going through several issues, as long as I keep the zine to 28–32 pages per issue. 28 pages is right around the minimum number of pages to send the zine out as a periodical, which leads into…

Shipping out 90 issues cost about $70 including packaging, but that doesn’t include the 10 issues that were mailed but never reached their destination. Lesson learned: Listen to your wife, and tape up the “self-sealing” envelope after sealing. Furthermore, importantly, mailing out magazines at almost $1 per issue is clearly not the way to do this. I’m going to be looking into mailing future issues as a Preferred Periodical for non-profits. This looks to be much cheaper. That means that the magazine is shipped without an envelope, though, and I’m not going to wrap them in plastic, so I may have to add a cover with paper that can take some abuse.

The first issue, after most expenses were considered, ended up costing over $5 per copy. This is untenable, as the zine is given away for free. You can’t charge for a zine. It totally goes against what a zine represents.

I ran a small Ko-fi fundraiser that quickly brought in $300, so that helped pay for half of the expenses. It occurred to me, if I’m giving away the zine for free, maybe I could run this as a non-profit, and accept donations so I could continue to publish the zine and give it away, as I wanted. I also want to pay for submissions. I would need bigger fundraisers and not to depend on my awesome friends and family to support my media empire. And if I’m going to go after more money, why don’t I donate any extra money I get to other art and writing organizations? These are ideas that I am playing with for the future of the zine.

The folks that submitted their creations for the first issue were very enthusiastic, and it made the process a joy. They submitted exactly what I needed to create a 28-page zine. As much fun it was to see their art and writing, I know that if I start paying people for accepted submissions, I’m going to get a lot more people sending in things. Then I’ll have to turn down some submissions. I do not look forward to that. The maximum size of the zine is 32 pages. Some submissions will take up multiple pages. I estimate that each issue will be able to feature 20-or-so creators. I’ll have to make decisions based on aesthetics and content, value judgements on strangers’ work. I feel bad for my future self, because I know this will be the most difficult thing about editing a zine. But that’s the future, and this is supposed to be about the first zine. In this case, everyone was awesome, and I love the content in this first issue.

I discovered two typos and that I forgot to include our back-cover artist on the index page after the issue was all printed and bound. I fixed these issues in the PDF and website, but paper copies are notoriously difficult to edit once printed. I stuck a sticker in every copy with Melissa’s credit in the index, and I actually think that was a wonderful way to deal with the omission. It brought a little imperfection, a man-behind-the-curtain aspect to the issue. If I ever do a reprint, those things will be fixed, sans sticker, so it’ll be an easy way to see the “collectable” version of the zine. I can assume that the original copy of the first issue will escalate in price leading to a cryptocurrency-like run in value. No doubt.

I can’t thank the people involved in this first issue enough. I wrote out a thanks to some folks on the website, but I’m going to repost it here.

Besides the fabulous contributors, who went above and beyond to help with this project, Jonathan would like to thank Katherine, Allan, Rich(e)rich, AJ & UB, Dani, Marylou, Jennifer, José, Thom, Tom, Dave, Amy, K-lyn, Josh, and Hannah for their financial support and encouragement. Also, thanks to Alan and Chuk for their helpful feedback. Thank you, too, to KaiTheGreat and Jim S for donating through Ko-fi. I’m astounded and humbled by your generosity.

Some content contributors went above and beyond too, and I’d like to give an extra shout-out to PLUGO for the cover. The first issue cover art was serendipitous, and it makes an outstanding first impression. We’re working together on future covers, and I’m thrilled. Don, Racheal, and Chris, each of whom I’ve known since high school, but have connected again via Facebook, were early supporters of the basic idea of a zine, and, honestly, it was their replies to a kind of off-hand status update that clicked a couple of gears into place in my head, which released whatever neurotransmitter that makes things seem like good ideas, instead of silly, nonsense ideas.

I’m very excited about this silly, nonsensical project. I tend to dream too big, but the future of Monkeyshines Media is being approached with small steps that open into wider paths. I can’t wait to share this journey with you.