The Realities (Response)
by Dok Kaper
excerpted from Punk Planet
1. If you want
to get your zine onto the racks of the chain & most independent
bookstores and newsstands you're going to have to go with the
system, if you're happy with limited distribution through record
distributors and direct to individual outlets then the rules
are much more flexible. If you can get a magazine distributor(s)
to handle your title it's going to be on their terms, not yours.
The mainstream magazines float their boats and they know it.
The day that a major distributor gives a better deal to Punk
Planet or Ben Is Dead than they do to Spin or Raygun is the day
that the major distributor has slit their own wrists. The system
in place is set up for mainstream publishers, publishers who
make their money from advertising, and they're quite pleased
with it. The mainstream retailers like the system, the distributors
like the system, the mainstream publishers like the system.
2. Here's what
the buyers want to see from you. They need all the information
possible about your 'zine, who's reading it, where, why, how
often, what's being said about it, blah, blah, blah. Why do they
need this information? The buyer has to figure out whether or
not your title will work for their customers. The back issues
are helpful because buyers want to see the evolution of your
'zine. It needs to get better with each issue. The difference
between Giant Robot #1 and #5 is astounding. The better that
your 'zine gets and the more regularly that it appears will help
to improve your distribution tremendously.
3. Being consistent
with your production schedule is vital to your growth as a publisher.
When you're finished with this article your assignment is going
to be to go and check out a big newsstand. Here's what you'll
see: racks bursting at the seams with titles. Racks that are
way too crowded for their stock. If you're not consistent with
the timing of your new issues you'll just lose your space on
that rack when a new issue of something else comes in. 70 percent
of a magazine's sales come in the first two weeks after it hits
the newsstands. The newsstand managers know this and they live
buy it. After a couple of weeks your prime display is gone, and
if you don't get removed from the rack entirely at this point,
you'll at least be sent to the back part of the display.
4. It's fine to
call the buyer on the phone, but don't make a pest of yourself.
Always be polite with the buyer, they have all of the power in
this situation. If they reject you don't get mad, but do ask
them why. Most of the time you'll receive an honest answer: "The
world needs a another indy music magazine like it needs a hole
in the ozone." "The content was great, but have you
heard of a word processor or saddle-stitching."
5. Never sign a
60 percent off contract with an individual distributor (if you
have a National Distributor, one that handles all of your distributors
for you, then you'll sign a 60 percent off contract). Individual
distributors are entitled to 55 percent off, or the equivalent.
The larger ones will ask for 50 percent off and a reship allowance.
You may be able to haggle on the amount of the allowance, but
they'll get it, and it's on every copy they ship for you, not
just the ones that sell. Again, this is a grim reality of playing
in the big leagues. Accept it and be nitpicky with details.
6. OK, secret revealing
time. Here are the reasons why distributors have affidavit returns:
The chains have central returns centers. In other words, all
of the Barnes & Noble and Borders stores send their returns
to one place for processing! Each week the returns center then
sends a returns report to the distributor. The independent stores
do send the covers back to the distributors themselves.
This article appeared in Punk Planet #16, January/February 1997. Dok Kaper lives for zines. He eats them for breakfast, lunch & dinner and observes them from an insiders point of view. Due to his need for anonymity, he can be reached through Punk Plnet.
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