Zine Fest – Advice?

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    Chris M

    So about a month ago, I attended my first zine fest, and it was… overwhelming. I brought a bunch of zines for trading, but after doing a couple of meandering laps around the hall, I ended up leaving without interacting with anyone. Now, I’m a pretty shy person in general, but I also didn’t do some basic research that would have put me more at ease and could have possibly changed my negative experience into a positive one.

    Is it (typically) acceptable to offer trades to people tabling, or is that rude? I’m not sure if that would come off as insulting to do that.

    Also, if anyone has any other general advice for introverts on how to enjoy a fest, feel free to drop some wisdom nuggets here!


    Hi Chris, Sadly I cannot help. I am in the same boat as you. I always feel like the old dude at a zine fest, and I am hard pressed to interact with anyone even with they make eye contact with me.


    I can’t speak for everyone (who can?) but I’m always down for trades at a fest. I’m kinda old school and honestly prefer trades or stamps over cash or PayPal or whatever. I’m an introvert, too. It can be exhausting, but you just have to ask if they’re into trades. If they say “no” no big deal. Move on.


    Great topic for discussion! I’ve gone to many zinefests, as a tabler and as a dude just walking around.

    What is awesome = Making a new friend, and trading zines with them.
    What else is awesome = Trading for a zine that is really great

    What sucks = When someone pressures you into trading for a zine you don’t want.

    Every tabler is different. Some are broke and need the money. Some would rather just have a new zine. For me, it depends on what’s being traded. For example, some of my smaller zines I’ll trade all day long, but for my book, which cost a lot of money to print, I don’t accept trades.

    here’s what I do, I say, “Hey, I really like this zine of yours. If you’re interested in a trade, I do a zine too. If not, I can pay you the cash, just let me know which is better for you.”

    That way it’s an easy out either way. If they don’t want or don’t like your zine, just pay cash. But a lot of times people want the trade.

    As for the shyness, I’m not sure what to say other than most of the people at zinefests are introverted as well. Maybe wear a button that says, “I”m an introvert, please talk to me.”

    Kari Tervo

    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.


    Oh BTW!
    Hi Chris, I thought of something else. I always print “$2 or trade” on the cover of my quarter page zines. That lets anyone looking at the zine know that I am open for trades. My fancier art zines, which are always very limited runs, I do not.
    Oh and thanks Kari for all the good advice about zine events. Very empathetic and well thought out.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Ed.
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