To edit a fanzine, you'll need the proper equipment. Back in the olden, golden days of fandom (and I'm talking about fandom in general, not just this one), folks used typewriters to spread their opinions across the land. A few still do, but trust me, you don't wanna go that route if you can avoid it. Here's what On-File suggests you use...

1. A computer. You can get by with as little as a 386 with Windows 3.1, but generally, the better the machine you have, the faster and more fun it will be to create your fanzine. A Pentium 100 should more than suffice... I couldn't give Macintosh users an accurate estimate, but one of those new iMACs with the crazy colors should do the job as well.

2. A printer. For both speed and clarity, nothing beats an inkjet printer. I've had a great deal of success with Hewlett-Packard's LaserJet 5L myself. A dot matrix printer will do, but your copy quality will suffer as a result. Don't even bother with a daisy wheel printer, unless you're some crazy Coleco ADAM fan who insists on using yours for more than a doorstop.

3. A desktop publisher. Yes, you can get by with a simple word processor, but take my advice and don't even try. Desktop publishing software is specifically designed to create newsletters, making them much more convenient for this purpose than standard text editors. Writing a fanzine with a word processor is akin to pounding a nail into a block of wood with a wrench: sure, it'll get the job done eventually, but it's slow, clumsy, and most likely very painful.

On-File personally recommends that you use Microsoft Publisher 2.0 for your fanzine editing needs. There are other DTPs available, but none have the balance of versatility and ease of use that made this gem famous (although I'm sure the Microsoft brand name didn't hurt). On a budget? Download a shareware desktop publisher instead... you'll lose some of Microsoft Publisher's nifty features, but anything is better than writing your fanzine in Wordpad.

4. A copier, or access to one. In the unlikely event that you actually own one of these monsters, you have it made... just run off as many copies as you see fit and mail them out. If not (that's what I thought!), shop around for the best price and print quality, and pick a place which will allow you to make double-sided copies (sadly, some places won't).

OPTIONS: You don't have to own any of this stuff, but it'll make fanzine editing a lot more fun. First, pick up a scanner if possible... they're relatively cheap right now, and scanning makes your work look much more professional than if you cut out pictures and pasted them on each page. A font package, or several, is also a good idea. Extra typesets can help you better express yourself and make your fanzine look more attractive. I'd also look into getting some emulators so you can include snapshots of your favorite (older) games, and a paint program to refine, edit, and create artwork on the fly.

You've got what you need to begin, so now it's time to take the necessary steps to make your fanzine a reality. Here's a handy guide to publishing that first issue... just remember, I'm making suggestions here, and not all of them will apply to or work for everybody. Don't be afraid to deviate from this plan if the need to do so arises.

1. Play games! You're going to need something to write about, so take a day out of the week to just go bananas and rent everything in sight. Invite a few friends over, and get some munchies to keep everyone in good spirits when it's not their turn to play. Play good games, play bad games; heck, drag your old 2600 out of the closet and play that if you want, but play, play, play!

2. Get ideas. Now that you've experienced sensory overload, it's time to get that crazy jumble of thoughts out of your head and into a notebook. Your fanzine will need reviews, editorials, and the like, but think about how you can approach them from a different angle. Did you and your friends have some rude things to say about the biggest turkey you rented the other night? Write them down... they could very easily evolve into a hilarious article. If you had deep thoughts about the video game industry amidst all that chaos, include them as well. Every little bit helps, so write as much as you can down and build on it later.

3. Read fanzines. Send out for a few fanzines (I'd be happy to supply you with the addresses of my favorites), then sit down and read them from cover to cover. What did you like about them? What would you have done better? Ponder this for a while and add your thoughts to that notebook of ideas I'd mentioned earlier.

4. Ask for advice. Get in touch with the editors of the fanzines you liked most. Send them a letter telling them what you thought of their work, and ask them any important ideas you may have about fandom. Float some of the ideas you had earlier by them while you're at it. They're sure to have suggestions you'll find useful.

5. Start writing! It's time to begin work on your fanzine. Brainstorm a bit... think of a cool or clever title, then sit down and write an opener that's sure to make a good first impression. Look it over a few times, and be objective about it. Would it leave the average reader wanting more... or just wanting some aspirin? Keep working on it... when you're satisfied with the results, it's time to move on to the next step.

6. Get contributors. The friends you partied with earlier could become valuable allies in your quest to publish a great fanzine. Ask them if they'd like to help you write a video game newsletter (at this point they'll have no idea what a fanzine is), and share your ideas and a copy of the fanzine's first page with them. The ones who aren't interested probably never will be, so keep them as buds but forget about them as contributors. Continue to talk to the rest about the fanzine and figure out who should do what- for instance, the obnoxious guy with an opinion on everything is a natural for writing reviews. That shy girl in the back of the class who spends most of her time filling her notebook with fantastic drawings of dragons and unicorns should be your first choice as a cover artist.

7. Network. Next, you'll need a reader base... here's how to build one. Send mail to the editors of your favorite fanzines and ask them to either supply you with their reader list or run a classified ad announcing your debut as a fanzine editor. If you have to run an ad, be sure to include your name, address, the title and price of your fanzine, and a brief description of it. After all is said and done, you should have twenty readers, including yourself, your friends, some fan-eds, and a handful of paying or otherwise interested readers.

8. Finish up. Now it's time to deliver the goods. Start working on the fanzine again, and prod your friends to do the same. Give yourself and your staff enough time to do a good job, but don't procrastinate! You should have the entire first issue completed in two to six weeks.

9. Mail 'em. Take the master copy of your fanzine down to a place with a copier... just about anywhere will do, but On-File personally recommends AlphaGraphics (it's a wee bit expensive, but the service and print quality are faaaabulous!). Once the copies are collated and stapled, either fold them in half widthwise and staple the ends together, or put each one in a manilla envelope (you can find these at the post office). Put the addresses you'd collected and the proper postage on each one, and drop them in your post office's out of town box. Personally deliver copies of your fanzine to your friends, and blammo! You're finished! Well, almost. There is one more step.

10. Keep an open ear... and mind. Someone's bound to have something to say about your entry into fandom, and your friends will obviously have first crack at it. Get some input from them, and don't get too angry if they criticize your work... after all, as the saying goes, a friend is someone who warns you. Likewise, listen to your fellow fanzine editors and accept their constructive criticism (even better, act on it!). Forget the insults and namecalling if there happens to be any... they are of no use to you. Most importantly, don't get discouraged if the response isn't all positive. If you have talent and the will to continue, your fanzine will only improve as you publish more issues and become more experienced.


There are all kinds of ways to edit and design a fanzine... here's a fairly straightforward example, based on my own past work. Remember, your fanzine's look is limited only by your imagination- or the lack of it- so be creative, and use this as an inspiration for your own newsletter, not a template.

 1. Title. Generally located at the top of the first page. Make it large, distinct, and attractive so the reader will want to check out what's inside.

2. Basic Information. The issue number and price. This helps keep your readers' collections organized, and reminds the paying ones to actually pay for their issues (sometimes they, er, forget).

3. Cover Artwork. Hunt down a good artist (use yourself if you'd like) to come up with something original for this. Avoid press release art... the world doesn't need another Tomb Raider cover (unless, of course, it's a parody).

4. Feature Text. This gives the reader a brief description of the contents of the issue. This should be enthusiastic so as to get them excited about the issue.

5. Colophon. The colophon includes general information about the issue, such as price, release date, contributors, and your mailing address. Putting legal information here is generally good practice, too... you never know when a lawyer might pop out of nowhere! See the fine print on the bottom of On-File's index page for an example.

6. Opening Editorial. If this is your first issue, there's no better place to introduce yourself to fandom than in the opener. Just describe yourself as if you were talking to another person, including hobbies, favorite systems, your motivation for joining fandom, and whatever else you'd like to mention.

7. Letters Column. You probably won't have enough letters to include this section in your fanzine's first issue, so skip it and include a nice, bombastic opinion column here instead. That outta generate some response!

8. Reviews. You can make them long or short, and use any kind of rating system you'd like... just be sure to include this information with every review: game title, game type (fighting, sports, etc.), system, manufacturer, and review author.

9. More Reviews. Game reviews are the backbone of most fanzines. Be sure to include a good amount of them in every issue of yours.

10. Fanzine Reviews. Now's your chance to evaluate the work of other fan-eds! Remember, be honest but fair, and criticize, never flame.

11. Comic or Other Artwork. These spice up your layout and can make your fanzine more dynamic and entertaining.

12. Humor Column. Remember, you're having fun here, so act like it! Take a stab at the video game companies that really bother you with a sharp parody, or just write something that's just so weird you can't help but laugh.

13. Miscellaneous Articles. Toss in something that's hard to catagorize just to keep your readers guessing... if you've got another hobby, talk about that. If you prefer, you can look at video games from an angle nobody's ever considered. Originality is key here.

14. Back Page. This is a good place for last minute updates and continuations of articles that just wouldn't fit on one page.

15. Return Address. If you mail fanzines by folding and stapling them instead of using a manilla envelope, this is a must.

16. Mailing Address Box. Make this large enough to fill in any address on your reader list. Print clearly so the fanzine can reach its destination.

17. Stamp Box. Not a necessity, but these can be fun. Just put a nutty message inside, then cover the box with a stamp.


Having trouble finding the stuff you'll need to get started? Before you lose your temper and chuck your computer out the window, I'd strongly recommend you try these sites:


This comprehensive site contains everything from games to desktop publishers to font editors (yes, really!), and the downloads are all free! If you plan to edit a fanzine but are on a tight budget, this is the place to go for all your software needs. Just remember... you may have to pay registration fees for some of the titles offered, but heck, it's still cheaper than buying their commercial counterparts.


Don't ask me what the name means... all I know is that this is a fine place to hunt down all kinds of fonts. You're not going to believe some of the crazy typesets offered on this site... there's even a Klingon font specially designed for fans of the long-running science-fiction series Star Trek.


HotMail was my first Internet mail service, and I'm still using it today. It's easy to use, has loads of options, and best of all, it's free! What more could you ask for? Well, it is a little slow, and I get way, waaaay too much junk mail (this happened around the time the company was sold to Microsoft... hmm...), but HotMail still beats the pants off all the pale imitations that have been popping up on the web lately.

AOL Instant Messenger

The preferred method of reaching your friends, family, and other fan-eds. It's cheaper than a phone call but much faster than a standard E-mail message. This has proven so invaluable to me that I have to recommend you download this handy chat program.





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