This year I had my second zine fest tabling experience (and third zine fest experience overall), and I’m already making plans for the next one. Last year I shared how my first time around at the Pioneer Valley Zine Fest went, and here I am to do it again.
I spent Friday night collating, stapling, and folding a stack of zines, prepping my table display, and attempting to keep my excitement under control because sign-in and set up started at 9am, and I wanted to be ready. My friend Katie came with me to keep me company and cover the table when I wanted to browse, and that was one of the biggest lessons of the day: Having company makes a huge difference. Last year I spent the day tabling by myself, only kind of talking to the people around me, and as a relatively unsocial person, that made for a long day, but this year the time passed with enough activity, distraction, and conversation that the time flew by.
My favorite thing about this year, though, was that there seemed to be so much more activity. I felt like I spent a lot of last year in a fairly passive state, watching people walk by once in a while and mostly doodling on a scrap of paper I’d brought with me. This year, though, I was almost always either making small talk with someone stopping by the table or talking with people around me or even just talking to Katie. It felt much more active than I remembered last year being, and I think that was another thing that helped the day pass with so much speed and enjoyment.
Of course, I also snagged a great haul throughout the day, picking up somewhere around thirteen zines through both buying and trading, and I can’t wait to sit down and read all of them this week. (Plus I bought a Papercut Zine Library shirt! I always love getting to rep zines in simple ways, just like with my Chicago Zine Fest tote bag.)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed at all, but I kind of adore zines, and I think it would be great if everyone everywhere made their own and got involved, so to get you started on the zine fest route, I thought I’d share a list of advice and lessons I learned between last year and this year’s experiences.
- Be prepared for bodies. / With rooms full of tables, sellers, and shoppers, zine fests tend to get cramped. Smaller ones might have less shoppers at one time, but they might also be in a smaller venue, so keep in mind the potential for tight quarters as you’re walking around deciding what to spend you hard-earned money on, which brings me to…
- Cash, cash, cash–and plenty of it. / If you’ve browsed zines online at all, you’ve probably noticed that they’re usually only a few dollars apiece, so please don’t be obnoxious and pay everyone in $20 bills (someone did this to me on Saturday and it was a bit nerve-wracking), and you’re pretty much out of luck completely if you’re planning on just cash.
- Use the buddy system. / This one is merely personal preference, but I much prefer going to a zine fest with a friend. Not only does it give you someone to spend your time with, but I think it can take off some of the stress and pressure of being somewhere you maybe aren’t familiar with.
- Bring snacks and water. / You will likely be there all day, unless you just don’t feel like it or you run out of zines, so be sure to stock up on energy. I like to go with a combination things that are good for me and things that are just darn good: water and fruit, Snapple and Reese’s. You’ve gotta bring snacks that will both keep you going and keep you happy.
- Bring plenty of change. / This year I showed up with $50 in fives, ones, and quarters–and I still panicked about having enough change. For some reason, always having enough change is something I try to constantly be on top of because, especially at something like a zine fest, you’re going to need it when you’re buying and selling items at such low prices.
- Bring any booboo fixers you might need. / I tend to get headaches if I get too warm or stressed, so it’s good for me to pack some aspirin/ibuprofen for a zine fest. Tissues are good. Lip balm. Whatever must-haves you need to make yourself comfortable for six to eight hours.
- Make sure you have plenty of copies. / This is another place where maybe I go overboard (like with the change), but I’d much rather have too many copies than find I’ve run out an hour into the fest. I try to bring between ten and twenty copies of my own zines, and whatever I have in stock for the rest of the distro (usually about five copies each). Definitely bring as many as you think you’ll need, but make sure you feel like it’s enough.
I can’t wait to see how PVZF turns out next year, along with the Boston Zine Fest, which I’m considering tabling at in the fall. At the very least, I will definitely be attending.
Have you ever been to a zine fest? Are you interested in them at all? (Hopefully yes!)