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The Basics of Printing
by Marcelle Karp, Bust magazine

Choosing a printer
Choosing a printer is like choosing a therapist, boyfriend. lawyer or mattress — it has to be a good match. As a zine publisher, you want to make sure your printer is going to make your zine look as remarkable as you envisioned it. After all, you will be spending yours (and your subscribers if you have any) hard earned cash. If you are as much a control freak as most publishers are, you will probably want to do a little bit of homework, so that the end result is a dreamboat instead of a nightmare.
You will want to choose a printer who you can work with, who understands your needs, and who will invariably take all of your phone calls (kind of like a therapist, boyfriend and/or lawyer). I suggest having a face to face meeting with the printer. If they live in another city, speak to the printer at length on the phone. Ask lots of questions. Stupid questions especially. If the printer doesn't speak English very well, do not assume they can not understand you. Have every detail of your phone conversation printed on hard copy and faxed to the printer for clarification. For instance, I have worked with an amazing printer, Linco's, for 5 issues of Bust. While Anton's English could be a little ambiguous, his thoroughness, his professionalism and his high quality of production has kept Bust coming back for more business, as well as highly recommending Linco's to my fellow zine publishers.

Get Samples
Before you go to press with a printer, ask for sample copies of their work — past zines, newsletters, what have you — they may have printed. Not all printers print zines, so you may want to ask for newsletters, catalogues, menu books, whatever. It is important to see what else they print. If you look at the materials and like it but don't love it, call one of the prior clients and ask them what their experience was like. If you don't have the time for that, make the time. It will be worth your while to do the homework, which means checking all the options in terms of paper stock, paper quality, production schedule and cost.

Whenever you deal with a printer, get your price quotes up front and have the printer fax you that quote. It is in your best interest to get a quoted figure on paper, so that if you need to call the printer back, you get the same quote twice. Confirm with the printer at every juncture what the price quote is. If the printer does not fax you the price quote, make a written transcript of your conversation, and fax it to the printer ("As per our conversation...."). Don't let the printer throw different prices at you after a final quote has been given. If you have your hardcopy fax that the printer sent on over, or vice versa, there won't be any funny business. Be assertive with the printer. Remember, it's your business they want back. They need your business more than you need to do business with them. So, have the printer give you quotes for different page counts, in case you need to make a fatter issue than you originally anticipated, get different quotes for different paper stock, etc. Explore every option you so desire financially. You are most likely going to be fronting the cost, so you may as well have as much information as possible.

Paper quality
There's a bunch of different types of paper you can print your zine on — recycled, newsprint, glossy (or should I say, "sell out"?) — and paper comes in different weights (30lb, 40lb, 50lb) thickness, color (white paper, white gloss, newsprint, etc.). You need to ask yourself what kind of paper is best for you and what can you afford. Hint: the lighter the paper, the cheaper your long term cost (especially when you start mailing your zine out — the post office weighs each piece of mail, and charges you accordingly. But more on that in the mail section). You may want to go glossy, but you may not be able to afford it, on the typical shoestring zine budget. So, when shopping around for a printer, collect all the kinds of paper stock that may seem like an option to you and figure out what you can afford.

Always insist on seeing the proofs/bluelines before you go to final printing. When you deliver your zine to your printer, you will probably hand over a disc (Syquest or whatever they request of you) and the hard copy paper version of your zine (this is usually your zine, printed out, with little Post-its placed where the ads should go.) The printer takes your masterpiece and begins laying out your zine. Some shoot eight pages at a time under a camera, some don't, but they all end up with a proofed copy of your zine, also know as a blue line.
The blueline is what your zine actually looks like except the whole thing is in blue! It is the final hard copy proof of what the printer will actually hand over to you as a final product.
Usually, it takes a week for the printer to lay out your magazine and compile the blueline. There is a cheaper version of the blueline, an ink jet proof, that you can also request. It is not as slick as the blue line; it is more of a cut and paste job of your zine, as the printer has laid it out. Look over the proofs with a fine toothed comb. You may be able to spot some mistakes of your own, and you will undoubtedly find errors that the printer has made.
Don't be concerned that you are already five weeks late and you don't want to eat up any more time because you want to get the zine back from the printer so badly. Quite frankly, making corrections is usually a quick turn around. It is worth an extra day or so to make sure that the zine you get back is the zine you want, that all the ads are where they should be, and that there are no missing pieces of text in your stories. Printers can and do sometimes misread data — they will leave a crucial sentence out of the story, they will repeat paragraphs, they will re-print a story twice in the same magazine but in a different area. So go over your proofs. You'll be glad you did.

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