advent of low-cost printing and the widespread use of the internet
have radically democratized the publishing process and it’s now
easier than ever to self-publish and find yourself an audience.
been self-publishing zines of my photography and writing for years
and I’ve always found the process rewarding.
DIY ethos of zine-making has translated into my other creative works
and I’ve done a number of other projects in a similar way. I run a
gallery called B Rad out of the hallway of my house and I’ve curated
a number of shows in there and elsewhere.
in collaboration with Iklect, I curated the Grip Thumb show in
London, which was an exhibition of art on grip; an often overlooked
art within skate culture.
also run a skate zine called Radulthood, which I started as a
reaction to traditional skate media. Instead of having a magazine
filled with images of the biggest, hardest new trick at a notorious
spot, I wanted to create a zine which was tethered to the philosophy
of skateboarding and in particular the relationship between the
skater and his local skate park. All the collaborators, whether
visual or written, had strong ties to skateboarding and instead of
having glossy photos of tricks at the park, I chose to feature
illustrations inspired by the skate park space instead.
well as that, I’ve also recently released my first photography book,
Second Adolescence, which launched at Doomed Gallery in April. I
released the book through a publisher called Blue Monday Press that I
set up. I’m hoping I can use it as a platform to publish mine and
other artists work in the future. As I write this, I’m in a Blue
Monday Press hosted pop up shop in Brighton which is selling a
variety of zines, books, tees, and prints, and hopefully this will be
the first of many more.
enough background on me, back to the original question. Why self
publish? Well, there’s a lot of reasons really.
it’s easy. The hardest part of self publishing something is the
actual content inside and making sure it’s something you’re happy
with. The steps you take once you have your content are very simple.
you’re able to work at your own pace and to your own schedule. There
are no deadlines, except the ones you set yourself, and no-one is
telling you this needs to be done by a certain time. You are free to
release it when you are happy with your final product and it’s ready
as soon as you say it is.
don’t need any approval to self-publish something. You don’t have to
wait around for a publisher to give you a green light or edit your
work to someone else’s standards. It can look exactly how you want it
and you can put whatever you want into it.
set your own budget. This means you can decide how big your print run
is and how much you think your project is worth. Not only that, if
you’re fronting the money to get something made, you know you’re
going to really have to be desperate to put it out and you won’t
waste your time and money making a half-arsed project.
having a physical project makes you more likely to find your
audience. A physical object is easier to appreciate and a much nicer
way to experience a project than as a digital file on a computer
screen. A physical product is much more memorable too, unlike the
constant array of digital images we’re exposed to every day. An
object is likelier to stick in the mind.
you will learn how to create a body of work as opposed to a great
single image. Often in art, the emphasis is placed on one singular
great image but people are not taught how to construct a coherent
body of work. If you’re working within the confines of the book
structure, you will need to create a central theme or narrative that
will run through-out and tie everything together.
and very importantly, self-publishing will make you into a do-er as
opposed to a talker. There’s no point talking about that project you
wish you could do if you had the money if you never plan to back it
yourself. Figure out your budget and do it as best as you can within
that. At least you’ll have done something.
you’ve decided that you want to self-publish a project. What do you
do? Well, there’s no limit to it.
should make something you want to see that will combine your passion
and your craft. My first zine was called Concrete Canvas and combined
my passion for skateboarding with my craft, photography. I wanted to
publish my skate photography with an essay setting the context for
the images so they could be understood by a wider audience than only
skateboarders. I wrote an essay laying out my theories on
skateboarding in relationship to the urban environment, to explain my
view of skateboarding as an art of movement in reaction to the urban
space. Combine your craft with your passion to make something you
would be excited to see. If you love poetry and nature, write
yourself an anthology of nature poems.
should make something difficult. I’m by no means a natural writer and
I found it hard to write the essay in Concrete Canvas but it’s
important that you earn your project. If you’re not excited by what
you’ve made, why would anyone else be? Don’t just put out a zine of
some drawings you did, set yourself a hard project that you will be
proud to finish and share.
regards to my photography, I have two rules for photo projects. I
want each individual photo to have an implicit narrative and I want
there to be a narrative built into the zine or book so you take the
audience on some kind of journey from beginning to end.
narrative implied in the photo is very important to me. I like
photographs that have a mysterious past and future. The photo on this
slide is of an almost gladitorial scene. The lone skater facing a
huge crowd about to take his run. You don’t know how the scence arose
and you don’t know what happened afterwards but your imagination can
conjure up both. I like that in a photo.
within a project is important for me to. I dislike books or zines
which are simply a ‘best of’ album of a photographer’s work. It’s
much more exciting to see a photo book which reads like a book and
you can see characters evolve from beginning to end, even if it’s
simply the photographer’s journey from a to b. I find it also sticks
with me more if I read a book with a narrative. I find it easier to
describe it to someone else, as opposed to simply saying I liked a
certain single picture.
you’ve decided to self-publish, you’ve got all your content ready,
now what? There’s a few different ways to do it.
traditional way to make a zine is to stick your text and images onto
a piece of A4 paper, make as many pages as you like, then photocopy
it, fold it, and staple it. There you go, you’ve got a zine.
like to use Indesign to make mine because I like having the ability
to easily change the structure and images within a zine. Indesign is
a simple programme to learn and I’d recommend it for all prospective
book or zine makers. I will lay all my images out in spreads, export
as a pdf, then send that file to a printer.
of people print their own zines and I respect that a lot. I’m not a
very precise or patient person when it comes to doing repetitive
tasks so I don’t mind paying a little extra to have someone print and
fold my zines. When ready to print, always make sure you shop around.
Email a number of printers with your details (20 pages, color, 160gsm
stock) and see which ones give you a good price. I’d also always
recommend getting a proof. You don’t want to order 50 copies of your
zine only to find you spelt something wrong on the first page.
your first zine or self-published project, I’d definitely recommend
funding it all yourself. With a budget of £50 you can still get a
bunch of nicely printed black and white zines. I used Kickstarter for
my Second Adolescence project because I knew my budget, knew I could
deliver a nice product to my deadline, it was a project I had worked
on for a year and was proud of, and I knew I had an audience who
would be willing to back me. Fund yourself and make things until you
get to that big project that you’re excited to give to people, and
consider crowdfunding then but don’t do it until you’re ready.
what? You’ve published your first zine, you’ve got a box full of
copies by your bed, what do you do now?
some trades! Find people who are in the same boat as you, they’ve
made a few things, but they’re at a similar level to you creatively.
It’s awesome to swap your art for other people’s art and it’s lovely
when someone who’s work you like is excited to exchange it for your
work. Coming home to a trade in the post is a great feeling.
up an online shop for your creation. You might not sell much at first
but it’ll give people an option to support your art financially.
People can’t buy something that isn’t for sale so give them that
also should contact lots of blogs and magazines. People won’t know
that you’ve made something unless you tell them. You’ll build
contacts, build an audience, and spread the word about your work. Be
careful who you send your stuff to though and know their audience.
There’s no point sending a gritty street photography project to a
high end fashion magazine. Accept that your work isn’t for everywhere
and find the places that you fit.
and most importantly, get rejected and get better. If you want to
make things and keep making things, you’re going to need to learn to
handle rejection. People will say no, simply not like your work, and
there will be a lot of sent emails that never receive a response. If
someone doesn’t like your project, find out why and grow from that.
When I first started making zines I tried to get them in shops. The
paper was low quality, the images weren’t great and they said no. I
took that on board and I’ve been more considered with the stock of my
zines and the images featured.
a long and steep learning curve to get better at your art but
appreciate the journey and your next project will be your best yet.