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Creating a Collaborative Art Zine

Red Flowers

A how to guide and cautionary tale…

As many of you know, back in June of 2015 I created fēlan.

I had been absorbing modern day zine culture for some time. Collecting, submitting to, following along with We Make Zines and Zines A Go Go, etc. I decided I wanted to make my own as a way to give artists and poets a reachable platform for their work. At the same time I wanted to keep submissions free while maintaining a professional, aesthetically pleasing print publication. As I truly believe emotion in art is so important and can be a very interesting way to relate to one another – I chose to have an emotion word as the theme of each issue.

Before going public with my new venture, I planned a few themes with corresponding colors, designed a logo, created a website, facebook, twitter and instagram (well instagram may have come later as I’ve had a difficult relationship with it in regards to felan, but my mind is not remembering the exact timeline here), chose which fonts and timeline I would work within, found places to share calls for submission, and put together a social media strategy that involved posting daily to truly get out the word of the first issue.

Since that June, in the two years to follow, I’ve released 11 issues of felan. It’s been a largely pleasant experience, through which I’ve grown and in no way do I regret doing it. That said, running something like this is a ton of work. For each issue:

Throughout this process there are many email inquiries to handle as well. And I also held a guest judge open call at one time.

I’m very proud of how felan grew from the first few issues getting 12 – 20 submissions, to the last few receiving 50 – 80. That said, I was never as good at the marketing side and if I were to begin this venture again or start something similar, that’s something I feel I’d need to explore more.

I’ve received so many overwhelmingly rewarding messages since taking a step back from felan in the last month. But throughout the process there’s criticism and let down as well. From artists wanting the entire platform changed, not liking the themes, etc. to printing errors and mishaps on Blurbs side. As for the latter, I considered many other publishing/print on demand services. For one, I wanted a service like blurb’s so that I’d have a store front. Alternatively I could have used a service like etsy, but in trying to create high quality magazine like prints, I would have had to find a print shop and order in bulk with no guarantee of sales. Blurb allowed me to have a print on demand set up, where I only had to assure one proof order. There are other platforms like this – like Lulu and Createspace, but lulu’s print and ship cost is much higher, and Createspace’s international shipping is very limited. So, even with some errors with Blurb along the way, I never did manage to find a better alternative.

In my break announcement I said I just couldn’t keep up with felan like I once was able, and in truth I always had a hard time with it. I have a full time job, an art practice, a family and a social life, and as I said felan could be quite rewarding, it was also always overwhelming. As with everything there are pros and cons, and I think it’s important, in ventures like this, to be able to delve all in, and right now I’m just not all in.

So in all this I say, please do start a collaborative zine, you may love it more than anything, but go into it knowing what to expect, and with a plan on how to handle the mountain that’s before you.

Thank you to each of you that read, supported and submitted to felan along the way.

For those of you who are just learning about felan, you can check it out here. While I won’t be opening submissions again for the time being, all past issues are still available, and artist interviews for the most recent issue are continuing to post daily.

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