(my view on selling zines)
How many months have I racked up standing on sidewalks selling zines? It's scary when I think about it. The different cities, the different reasons, seemingly the same people. Since I first started writing and printing my own stuff, I've also been out there trying to sell it to strangers. Considering that I could just write it and wait for someone to ask for it (like that none would ever work!), or that I could try selling it exclusively through stores (that would sell about 20 copies), I've decided to do it the old fashioned way... By hand. Most of the time, it's pretty fun. Standing there all by myself ,the menacing figure that makes people move to the farthest end of the sidewalk (because they know I want something). It's ironic that a lot of people equate selling zines with spare changing. Those are the people that either cut you off mid-sentence with "I don't have any" , or just ignore you. I hate those people! Anyway, it's some kind of strange formula or system that I get sucked into when I'm on the street.
The first hour can either make or break my will to go on. If it seems that every person I confront really hates me and wishes I would go away, then I'll probably do just that. I realize they don't know me, and I'll never have the time to tell them anything about myself to change their mind (I can't just say, "hey! I've got something worthwhile to offer you!). no, there's that huge lack of understanding that prevents any kind of connection. There's just the clothes, the hair styles, and the attitudes we have. That's it, except for the folded, stapled pages in my hand. As that fist hour goes by, my attitude slowly degrades. I go from the generic "hey, would you like to buy my zine for a dollar?" to all sorts of crazy shit that I pull outta'my butt, just to watch the results, "nude pictures of my mom, only one dollar!" . It's silly, but it actually works. People will walk past me doing everything they can to avoid eye contact, then I'll blurt something out and they'll make a u-turn. They'll come over and ask me what I said, then I'll level with them. Before you know it, they're digging around for a dollar and I've sold a zine. Sad really. On rare occasion, I'll "force" someone to buy a zine with this method, then later they'll come back and thank me for the introduction to the zine-world. I tell ya', it makes it all worth while. Anyway. I'm not bitching enough here.
One of the most unpredictable types of people to sell zines to is the "gaggle of girls" . They'll all be babbling down the sidewalk, giggling about boys or something, looking like they just arrived from spice world, and there I'll be. I'll yawp out my zine pitch and, surprisingly, half of the time, there will be one girl in the bunch who will buy one. Meanwhile her friends will usually try and look casual, like this happens all the time, even though there's a good chance this is the first time any of them have stopped to talk to some big scary punk rocker on the street. How exciting it must be for them. All those my-little-pony dreams start to mingle with nightmares of my assumed existence. Maybe they'll go to baskin robbins and talk about me, maybe they'll try and piece together the rest of my life from just seeing me for 30 seconds on the street. They could speculate about my creepy wild sexual antics with rat traps and fire, about my squat and all my used heroin needles laying around, about the gallon jug of hairspray I must have, then little strawberry shortcake gets thrown on the bug-infested mattress by gargamell and is given a little secret to keep from mommy and daddy. Meanwhile, the girl that bought my zine is quietly reading the truth. That I'm a fairly normal guy who just happens like writing and looking strange.
Sometimes I feel like I'm polluting minds with my words. But then again, a breath mint tossed in a toilet is pollution, if you happen the be the forgotten turd floating within. Maybe the infection I'm attempting to spread isn't so unhealthy after all. I know I've picked up a few zines here and there, In places I only went to once. zines that have had a strong impact on my life. We can't assume that knowledge only comes from teachers, preachers, actors, and rock stars. Most of the "wisdom" I've gained in my life has come from simple people that I've met. I cherish the thought that I can pass a little of that on to some stranger I met and liked.
One of my favorite peopleI meet while selling zines, is the day-long-best-friend. Usually a person that will stop and talk for a while because they want a zine, but can't afford it. After about 2 minutes I'll usually just hand them one and tell them that our conversation has been worth more than the price printed on the cover, and before you know it, they're hanging out with me for the day. We'll exchange a million stories and walk around together, then when it gets late I'll remind them that my address is on the back of the zine and that they should keep in touch. They almost never do, but I still remember them even if I never do see them again.
Another person I always like to meet, is similar to the best friend, but without the day-long part. It's the anti-competition. The other writer or artist that also self-publishes and wants to trade. Usually they don't really care to talk much, instead they run to some unseen place and grab a copy of whatever then return and we swap. Then they're off and I never see them again. At least it gives me something to do while I'm standing there. I like that.
The thing I just can't stand (not to repeat myself) are the people that feel the need to lie to get out of buying one. "sorry, I don't have a dollar" is the most common. That always comes from people that are entering whatever store I'm standing in front of. Sometimes I wanna'run in after them and yell over to the clerk "hey, this person doesn't even have a DOLLAR on them! They're loitering!" , but instead I just say "you know, you can just say you don't want one, I wont be hurt." . I think it sounds a bit rude, but is there any other way to say it? I'm not trying to make them feel bad, just trying to convince them that they don't need to lie to me none to make themselves none feel better. The response is always either, "okay, I DON'T WANT ONE!" or, "really, I don't have a dollar." . then they jingle away with a pocket full of bottle caps and dog tags(?). I know some folks don't like to read because they're used to having it crammed down their throats. All the required reading they had to do in school has probably burned them out. You know, I think most individuals only read when they absolutely have to. Street signs, job applications, mcdonald's menu boards, television commercials, maybe the comics section of the newspaper when they're feeling especially literate.
With as long as zines have been around, and with all the news reports that have been written about them (I even have one recorded from NPR), you'd think that people would know what one is by now. But I guess "zynes" are as rare as "vaygins" (zines & vegans). It's like so many people don't really know where their media comes from, and don't care. It's on the page, it's on the screen, it's something put there by the gods as far as they're concerned. They just look at it, feign interest, and it's over before they have to deal with it. Well, I LIKE dealing with it! I think the fact that I write stuff (weather it's good or not) brings me a little more in touch with other writings. I have the hardest time picking up a book, and I really think most classic literature should only be used to put people to sleep at night. I know it works on me! But, most of what I pick up and thumb through is of a DIY nature. You can feed into the hype of the latest best seller, just to find out what all the hub-bub is about, or you can pick up something possibly just as good, that virtually no one has seen other than you and a few other people. I've known a few poets that were top-notch. I don't like poetry, but these people were really good! The funny thing is, they'd do things like, writing a whole page of fine print, then just giving it away to strangers on the street. Those strangers probably didn't realize what they were just given. Not just some rambling on paper, no, in fact they have been blessed with the insights of a genius. And it came from the least likely of places. The sidewalk.
So while I'm out there, doing my best to make a crummy dollar by selling my heart and soul, understand that it's not always a bowl of cherries. Often time, it's just the pits. So watch out, or I'll spit cherry pits at you!
By the way,
Thanks for buying my zine.