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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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.
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