Chicago Zine Fest didn’t go well. People keep asking me if it did. I sort of cringe because the only thing I can be is honest. After lugging a giant suitcase full of zines and books around the city for three days, I left with the suitcase just as full as it was when I came. The five or so zines I sold were replaced by the five or so zines I bought from others. There are a number of potential reasons as to why I had a table at one of the largest zine fests in the country and hardly sold anything. Here’s a sample:
- the size of the fest itself was the culprit. I was a small fish in a very big pond.
- my table was in a bad spot. I was tucked away on the top floor and in a small, middle hallway that folks seemed to hover all around but not walk down
- my stuff didn’t fit in. CZF is practically 50% perzines and 50% comics. I make weirdly specific art zines and books about things like sports cards.
- I didn’t engage attendees enough. I’m shy and awkward in situations such as this and people need a reason to stop at your table when you’re 1 in 300.
- I didn’t have any cookies at my table
- My table wasn’t laid out well enough.
It’s impossible to tell which of things was the killer. It was probably a combination of all them. The fact is, Chicago Zine Fest just didn’t go very well. As a result, I was bummed out the entire day. I went to a really rad workshop but didn’t engage with anyone. I walked through both floors of the fest but only checked out a handful of tables. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. Three quarters of the way through, my partner was crying because I hadn’t sold a damn thing yet. The only reason I wasn’t crying with her was because I knew it would scare away potential customers. I worked so fucking hard for CZF. I spent three restless weeks printing, cutting, and binding. I skipped classes. I didn’t work at work. I didn’t hangout with anyone. This was supposed to be my coming out party. My big break.
Sometimes you get slapped in the face.
The best way to deal with getting slapped is to take it, decompress, write it out, and learn what you can.
So here’s my learning. I’m going to look at all of those things that caused me troubles at CZF and change the things that I can and that I should. I’m gonna experiment with smaller fests. I’m gonna work with organizers to ensure better placement. I’m gonna table at events with different audiences and see how different people respond to my stuff. I’m gonna force myself to come out of my shell and TALK TO PEOPLE. Or I’m gonna hire one of my buds to help me out. I’m gonna bake cookies. I’m gonna make kale chips. I’m gonna grow carrots. I’m gonna experiment with different table layouts. I’m gonna see what gets people to pick up my stuff.
I’m gonna look at this as a process rather than each event being a culmination of a mass amount of work. I’m gonna breath. I’m gonna slow down.
What I am also gonna do is write about every single one of my tabling experiences in 2013 and compile them into a zine at the end of the year. Chicago, I’m comin’ for ya next year.