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Subzines: The Publisher's Little Helper

by Jack McHugh

You want to publish but don't want to be bothered with publishing chores like collating, stapling and mailing a zine. Perhaps you can't afford to publish or don't have time to do more than write or gamemaster or both?

I have a suggestion for you, my friend. Do a subzine. Subzines are zines published in other zines. The category is quite large. It encompasses everything form columns of less than a page to my own 10-page-plus subzine ...And the Horse You Rode in on! in Doug Kent's zine Maniac's Paradise, and everything in between.

Subzines usually run no larger than 4-5 pages, and consist of everything you find in regular zines. A subzine can include, but is not limited to, games, articles, cartoons, whatever you want. The only limit is usually on the size, and that is negotiated between you and your publisher.

Just why would anyone want a subzine? They usually serve one of two purposes. The first is that of alternative gamemaster for games the publisher wants to either play in or run. Of course, you can't play in a game where you are the GM, so you bring in a subzine editor to run the game.

A good publisher knows when he has his hands full, and will not hesitate to stop GMing when his limit is reached. If the demand exists for more then he can handle, bring in another GM to run the extra games.

The second reason is when a publisher wants more reading material in his zine but doesn't have the time or energy to write it himself. In this case a subzine is more like a guest columnist who writes up an article for each issue.

What are subzines about? That is up the publisher and subzine editor. Perhaps it is about sports. You could write up predictions every month or two. What about politics? Many publishers like to balance their own viewpoints with their opposites. It can useful to show that alternative viewpoints are welcomed.

The key to a good subzine is being able to quickly get it into the zine it is to go into so that it doesn't get dated by the time it reaches publication, especially if you plan to run any game. In zines relaxed schedules, ala Vertigo and The Canadian Diplomat, this isn't a problem as the subscribers wouldn't be expecting a quick a turn around.

Personally, I use electronic mail to send my subzine to Doug. This allows me to have a deadline three days before Doug's and still get my zine into Maniac's Paradise, despite Doug's 24 hour turn around time. I usually upload my subzine the night before MP's deadline and Doug has it the next day.

First class mail from the US postal service is fine as long as you are aware it will take 3-4 working days and plan accordingly. However, this way your zine must be camera-ready so that the publisher can merely insert it in his zine. With my subzine, Doug is able to print out the file on his printer because we both have IBM PCs and use WordPerfect software. To use our e-mail method you generally need compatible hardware and software.

Another alternative is to publish a subzine every other issue of a zine. This will allow you not to worry about having to do the zine on the same schedule as the publisher. You will have more time to adjudicate the games and send in the results if your deadline is in between two of your publisher's deadlines.

The other useful purpose of subzines is that they usually lead to zines, and many publishers have begun as subzines. It gives a future publisher useful practice GMing and writing. Sub- zines turned into zines usually lead to more stable zines once they begin to publish on their own.

So do the hobby a favor if you're a publisher and sponsor a subzine. If you can afford the space, you'll be helping your zine and the hobby as a whole.

If you want to write, go ahead and write out a few pages and pass it around to find a publisher. More than likely you'll find a publisher and find yourself enjoying a whole new hobby activity to boot.