If you search through the zines on Etsy, you’ll find a variety of styles, genres, and prices. Prices are, of course, one of the details that stand out to me when I’m browsing, not just based on my wallet, but also the fact that as someone who writes and sells zines, I have to put thought into what my work is worth. In the past few years, I’ve started to notice zines ranging anywhere from a quarter to ten, twelve dollars a copy. Sometimes I’ll roll my eyes at those higher prices, sometimes I’ll be interested enough to overlook that and add them to my favorites, my someday to-buy list. My feelings on this topic have changed over the years, and they still change almost daily. In fact, they’ve changed a number of times as I’ve written
Part of me wants to scoff at higher-priced zines and believe that they shouldn’t be more than a certain price. (I mean, at that point, can they still be considered zines? It’s complicated.)
But the other part of me asks, Why shouldn’t zinesters, any zinesters, be able to make an actual profit off of their writing and art? It takes effort and time just like anything else you could get paid for without judgment. People online make money for plenty of other things, so why not zines? So I berate myself for being so hard on others.
I’ve always had this idea that zines shouldn’t be more than five dollars. I have no recollection of where that number came from or why I started to think that, but there it is. That magic number that stands out whenever I’m browsing for zines, and this elitist-yet-not part of me tends to side-eye a little bit at people with the gall to charge more than that for their zines, as if I know what they’ve put into it or the quality of the content or anything of that nature just from an Etsy listing.
Sometimes I’m kind of a jerk.
My personal feelings still stand that I don’t want to price any of my own zines higher than five dollars, partly due to the fact that I want my zines to be accessible to people. I have trouble justifying spending so much on zines sometimes, and other times I don’t have two dollars to spare for an order, much less ten dollars. I don’t want people to see my zines and feel burdened by the thought of not being able to order one that they want. (This is also why I’m enthusiastic when anyone suggests a trade—I just want my work out there, however it gets there.)
But I know it’s not the same for everyone. Some people can’t afford to give their work away. Realistically, I can’t either, but I also want my work to be available. It’s why I blog without sponsors, something else I have conflicting opinions about, and it’s why I hide my zines in public places. I want my work out there where people can see it and, hopefully, enjoy it. But not everyone wants to make that sacrifice and not everyone can and maybe not everyone should.
While on the one hand, I think I’m a little justified in my apprehension, if only because those lower prices are what I learned as a part of zine culture when I first began getting involved, I also know that maybe I just need to suck it up and stop being so judgmental.
I’m curious what anyone else thinks, because I know pricing is a big deal for a lot of my online friends with businesses, and people in general looking to buy, so please share your thoughts with me on this one.