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Chapter 7: Behind the Scenes
at Factsheet Five
by Mike Gunderloy
from "How to Publish a Fanzine"

While I was writing this book, I kept some notes on an issue of my own zine, Factsheet Five. While I don't think there's such a thing as a typical zine (and if there is, I'm sure FF isn't one), these diary entries might give you some idea of the scope of problems that a small publisher has to deal with. You won't have the same problems, but this chapter should at least give you hope that all sorts of problems are surmountable.

December 1, 1986: Got up early to deliver 1200 bulk mailed copies of Factsheet Five 20 to the post office before my first class.
December 3, 1986: Picked up the last 500 copies of #20 from the printers, after various and sundry delays. Paid my bill, after finding out that it was $150 higher than the estimate. I've never had a bill come in for less than the estimate.
December 5, 1986: Drove out to UPS with 15 packages full of copies going off to various distributors. Sent off 14 of them — the last had a Post Office box for an address so I had to spring for First Class US Mail. (I've tried Book Rate for distribution copies and had them get lost. Now I'm leery of it.)
December 9, 1986: Got the 42 copies going to Canada into the mail. Since they need to be put in envelopes and stamped, they take a lot longer. One hundred and twenty five pieces of mail have come in since the bulk mailing. Lord only knows how many of them are requests for samples.
December 15, 1986: Letters of comment are starting to trickle in. So far the response is overwhelmingly favorable. I begin to remember why I do this thing.
December 20, 1986: Mailed off another 52 copies to foreign countries. That's the last of the commitments that existed when I came off the presses. It's too bad that another 50 requests have come in by now. I figure that with the time lag between my issues, I'd better send off samples at normal postage rates, rather than wait for the next bulk mailing.
December 23, 1986: Sent a $50 check to the Post Office to renew my bulk mail permit.
December 28, 1986: By now I've settled into my normal inter-issue routine. Every day I open the mail and record what's in it. Incoming trade copies are noted on the master mailing list file. Incoming requests for subscriptions are noted on the FF ledger (and later transferred to the main budget) and set aside to be sent. Incoming albums and tapes are added to the music file where they will await assignment to a reviewer. Usually I spend about 45 minutes before breakfast processing my mail.
January 1, 1987: It appears that FF broke even last year. Amazing.
January 2, 1987: Trying to plan out my schedule for the coming months, taking into account both Factsheet Five and schoolwork. The goal is to have January 20 as the deadline for submissions, finish layout and get to the printer by January 27, and hit the mails around February 3. Even as I write this down I know it's too optimistic.
January 3, 1987: Sent off four more tapes of review music to my main music reviewer, who is doing time in Leavenworth. With luck, our smuggler will get them to him in time for the next issue to carry the reviews.
January 4, 1987: The pile of zines to be reviewed for the next issue is now up nearly to my shoulders, literally. I sorted it alphabetically and into miscellaneous categories (books, poetry, music, etc.). Started reading and reviewing with the Books pile.
January 6, 1987: My wife went off to Boston to work for a week, making this a good time to do some music reviews. Took a day off of work, rolled up my sleeves, and started doing some serious writing.
January 10, 1987: By now, despite working full time this week, I have reviewed 30 albums and tapes and about 20 books. Will be starting on fanzine reviews any moment.
January 11, 1987: Power outage. Threw off my whole schedule (I can't write reviews on the computer with no electricity).
January 12, 1987: Took a stack of fanzines to school and read them on my lunch hour. With luck, I'll find the time to review them tomorrow.
January 13, 1987: Reviewed a few things after getting home from school, but knocked off to get a bit of sleep.
January 14, 1987: Still carrying a huge stack of fanzines around on my back. Now writing reviews on the computer in my wife's office. Thank god we've got a compatible at home. I can work on this anywhere I can find the necessary silicon chips.
January 17, 1987: Have reviewed about 200 zines by now. Time to take a break and file some of them lest the Clutter take over my office. Besides, I need a break after all this reading. I figure I'm about 1/3 of the way through. Clearly, I won't be done with these reviews by my deadline of January 20th but then, I haven't been on schedule for over a year. This is typical of the small press. All I can do is drink more coffee and try to keep working.
January 23, 1987: Woke up in a cold sweat after a nightmare about having to review a cassette tape index in French that was a vital part of the next Factsheet.
January 24, 1987: A friend calls with some late news, worried that I'm almost done and it won't get in. Don't worry, I tell him I'll be at least a week late.
January 25, 1987:1 now have about $1000 set aside to print and mail this issue, mostly money that has come in for copies of the last one and money that I have budgeted out of my own pocket. An accountant would no doubt be horrified. My records exist on a mix of ledger sheets, computer files, and scraps of paper.
January 29, 1987: At last, the fanzine reviews are done, about 600 of them. Now it only remains to type the odds and ends that go around them. That's good, because at the end of the third week of the school term, I am now a week behind on homework.
January 30, 1987: I play around with a spreadsheet for a while, deciding that 5000 subscriptions would be enough to make Factsheet Five pay a decent salary to me. Too bad I only have about 500 now.
January 31, 1987: At last, finished typing, by dinnertime. A quick check of the size of the computer files suggests that I have about 80 pages of stuff. This isn't good, since my budget calls for 64. After dinner, I start proofreading and printing out. Four hours of work is enough to get about the first quarter of the printed columns out.
February 1, 1987: It's a good thing that this is Sunday, because it takes me from 7AM to 8PM to get the rest of the copy printed out. It will be 80 pages. I guess it's only money.
February 2, 1987: Layout. I spend the whole morning fighting with a reducing xerox machine that keeps jamming, and the whole afternoon rubber-cementing things in place on the page. But at least the finished product is looking pretty good to me. I get in touch with my printer and he estimates $850. Later on he call back, explains that he made a mistake, and it will really be $1000. Oh well.
February 3, 1987: I get a few minutes in the middle of the day to put page numbers on the final copy. Unfortunately, I skip page 25 and don't discover this until page 62. I finally get time to white out the wrong numbers and put on the right ones around midnight, and otherwise clean up the copy.
February 4, 1987: I finally deliver 80 pages of camera-ready copy to my printer. He looks it over and sees no problems for the press. We talk about delivery schedules, and he promises it by the end of next week, which will be the 13th. Now I can rest for a while and catch up on my homework.
February 9, 1987: I talk to the printers on the phone. They haven't started yet.
February 11, 1987: Another phone call. This time I talk to the production manager instead of the salesman. They still haven't started.
February 12, 1987: A full day of filing away the fanzines that have been reviewed to clear the decks for the next issue. I don't finish, but by the end of the day I only have two boxes full left to file. About the same amount has already piled up to be reviewed for next time.
February 13, 1987: Another call to the printers. At least now they've started the job, and are busy stripping the negatives, though the press run hasn't started yet. I am assured that they will be done by Monday afternoon.
And so it went. The February issue finally went in the mails on Monday the 23rd and the whole process started all over again. It's a nuisance, it takes a lot of time, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Copyright 1988 Mike Gunderloy. Posted with permission. To download "How to Publish a Fanzine," click here. To return to the index, click here.

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