Review: Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?

Did you know that BUST started off as a zine, before being the big magazine that they are today? As a simple start off point for wannabe publishers, making a zine is surprisingly simple, yet effective. Staple together (or fold) a stack of papers with your idea in it and you can get your message across to any audience you wish!

As one who came from the glossy publishing world of magazines, I loved the smell of paper hot off the press. I loved flipping through pages of my hard work and seeing the eyes of others lit up as they consumed each page. As I struck out on my own however, I thought that would mean the end of publishing as I knew it.

Boy was I wrong.

Although I knew that zines already exist, I thought that it was only for the cool kids who wielded the pen masterfully, or for those who were stellar storytellers. Not true at all — it turns out that anyone can put together a zine. Even lil ol’ me!

And the book that changed all that? Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?: The Art of Making Zines and Mini-comics from Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson awakened the low-laying zinester within me!

With contributions from more than 20 creators of indie comics and magazine, the book is jam-packed with information about zines. What’s a zine? What is it for? Who reads them? Can you get rich by selling yours? Everything is in Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine.

Modeled after a real zine (except this book was perfectly bound), the contents are not what you would expect from a book. Almost every page was hand-drawn, with scribbles and typewritten entries — even faint unerased pencil marks can still be seen among the pages!

My favorite section has got to be the one where they show you how to make a zine. There’s so many ways one can print, fold and produce a copy. Also, bonus points for informing readers about things to look out for when you’re at the photocopy shop (copier tricks anyone?)

The book also has useful information about how to go about distributing your zines, and where to send them to; so that their creation can hang out with other zines in a distro. Some stores in the directory need to be checked out as a few might have discontinued their operations, but the internet makes it easy to find out which old ones (and new venues) are in business.

Authors Mark Todd and Esther Watson are no strangers to the zine scene, having published quite a few notable titles themselves. Esther’s Unlovable zines are currently available as a compedium: Unlovable Volume One, and most recently Unlovable Volume Two.


Who is this book for?
Closet zinesters who need a push to start their own zines, curious crafters who want to try and spread some of their own message using a DIY method, and artists and illustrators who want to know more about the whole process.

Who wouldn’t want to read it?
Those who are afraid of getting their hands dirty (or those who are afraid of papercuts!)

If you want to read more about zines, here’s some other places to go to for more information:
+ Zine World: Zine resources
+ Zine World: Stores & distros
+ PDX zines: Where to find zines in Portland
+ The Stolen Sharpie Revolution
+ Small press professionalism: How to distribute your small press comic


13 thoughts on “Review: Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?

  1. Haha! I’ve been reading this! Its what prompted me to start my own zine which will be coming out later this month…and I was planning to review this book in in that issue.

    Brilliant review Amy. If I didn’t already own it I’d be running out to buy it right away 😛

  2. Glad you all liked it! It’s a wonderful book and it’s up there among my must have books for inspiration. This one gets me drawing in no time! 🙂

  3. This is AWESOME. I have always had a girl and some stories in the back of my mind that I hoped to make into a zine (of sorts) someday.. I need to pick up a copy of this!

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