One thing to remember about zine fests is that, absent some snooty cliquey people, many zinesters are from marginalized communities or loners or socially awkward in some way. It’s a triumph of social will for many of us to attend and table at zine fests. So, don’t worry too much about what anyone is thinking of you–many people are feeling awkward and in the spotlight themselves. It’s great that you are putting yourself out there in the first place.
As for trades, if you see a zine you might like to trade for, show the creator your zine and say, “Hi, my zine is about x, y, z. Your zine seems like something I’d be into, and I’m wondering if you might like to trade yours for this one.” Some people are enthusiastic and go for it right away (that’s typically me!). Some people are reluctant, but say yes. Some people refuse politely. Some people are downright bitchy, but it has nothing to do with you.
No matter the reaction, you haven’t done anything wrong for trying. Most likely, you’ll end up with a nice selection of trades. And if you have a few awkward moments, so what? You’ll see that awkward moments are just moments; the discomfort won’t kill you.
A general tip for zine fests: Zine fests are very stimulating! They are loud, they are hot, they are crowded, and there’s a lot to look at. For some people, that over-stimulation can lead to anxiety, so prep with self-care in mind: bring snacks, water, and ear plugs. Layer your clothes so you don’t get too hot. If you feel your temperature rising, step out for a breather. If you feel stuck in too much conversation, say, “It’s been nice talking, I’m going to go check out some other stuff now.” It’s manageable if you have a plan in mind.
Also, don’t forget: it’s okay to skip zine fests if you’re not into them. There’s plenty of trading, buying, and selling to be found through the mail and online. Maybe zine fests aren’t your thing. It’s okay. You rock for checking it out.