How to run a zine without dying: Part 2, Applications


So, you’ve got your super awesome zine idea! What’s next? Why, the fun part—applications, of course!


  1. Part 1: Planning - Clarify your idea

  2. Part 2: Applications - Assemble your avengers

  3. Part 3: Production - Herd your cats

  4. Part 4: Preorders - Get that bread

  5. Part 5: Shipping and Fulfillment - Now make it

1. Assemble your team

Chances are—especially if this is your first zine—that you’ll want to work with a team to manage a zine. Not only does this help share the burden and split the duty, but it also helps give everyone experience in working with teams and management.

You can create mod applications with a Google form, asking for people’s contact info and related previous work experience, and tag @Apps4Zines and @zineapps to spread the word.

Common mod positions are:

  1. Graphic design mod — A graphic designer in charge of creating promotional graphics for social media posts. If the zine involves both writing and art, they are also usually in charge of layout design and proofing files for print-readiness.

  2. Finance mod — An admin in charge of managing the income and expenses of the project, contacting and ordering supplies from vendors, calculating bundle costs, and setting bundle prices in order for the project to break even and be successful.

  3. Shipping and fulfillment mod — An admin in charge of packing and shipping out orders. They must have previous experience with packing and shipping out packages, and experience with shipping LOTS of orders; this is one of the most important parts of the zine and cannot be mishandled.

You can open as many or as few mod positions as you like. The pros of getting lots of mods is that you can split the work so it isn’t overwhelming. The cons of getting lots of mods is managing team dynamics and compensating everyone.


2. Decide your grading rubric

So, your admin team is assembled, and you’re ready to welcome on artists. But first, there’s something important you need to do—decide how you’re going to decide artists.

It’s time to make a grading rubric.

I didn’t do this for Seasons Zine, because silly me, I thought it would be “obvious” what I was looking for. But as we received applications from artists who were extremely talented, yet the focus or mood of their pieces was not what we were looking for, it became obvious—I should have been more clear on what people should have included in their portfolios.

You should be very clear on what your top priority is. Are you looking for cute styles? A large variety of styles? What about focuses on environment versus focuses on character? Styles with backgrounds, or styles with solid graphic design? Think about what would best fit the theme of your zine.

Here’s a few samples of good info statements to include to the artists who are submitting their portfolios on your grading rubric:

  • “We are looking for strong portrayals of ensemble casts, or light-hearted ensemble pieces.”

  • “We are looking for styles that handle detail simplification and colors well.”

  • “We are looking for epic scenes with a great scope in environment.”


3. Application season

Alright, you’re ready to send out applications! Throw up a form for artists to submit their contact info and portfolios, and spread the word on social media.

Applications tend to last between 2-6 weeks. Generally, submissions will spike in the very beginning when it’s announced, and at the very end right before the deadline, so don’t be worried if you run into a dead zone in the middle.


4. Sending results

Your results are in, you’ve sifted through the applications, and you’re ready to welcome your artists! It’s time to send the results.

Accepting Artists

Accepting artists is the fun part! Send a congrats email, a gif, a bunch of emojis, anything to celebrate! Also be sure to include the artist’s next steps—do they need to join a Discord server? Fill out a registration form? Give their immediate next step, as well as the first approaching deadline so that they know what to do next.

Rejecting Artists

Now for the not-so-fun part: writing a rejection email. There’s a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when writing a rejection email:

  • Don’t beat around the bush. In the first two sentences, state that the applicant was denied. People are anxious to see the results.

  • Don’t explain too much. This may feel counter-intuitive, but the more you try to explain why you rejected the applicant, the more it sounds like excuses or sugarcoating.

  • Don’t give critique unless requested. It may be tempting to justify your decisions by explaining exactly why you’re denying the applicant, but refrain from this. They’re applying to join a project, not applying for a competition or an apprenticeship. Just like companies don’t tell you “your people skills suck” or “your resume has nothing” when they reject you, keep your thoughts to yourself unless specifically requested by the applicant.

  • Encourage them to continue on their journey as an artist. Regardless of what you thought about their artwork, it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there as an artist, and that alone deserves respect. Leave an encouraging word to let them know that this rejection has no bearing on their value as a person and an artist.

Now, time to send these babies, except—

DON’T FORGET BCC. Really. Don’t.

When sending rejection emails, remember to use BCC. I can’t stress this enough. It can be awkward or even humiliating for artists to be able to see who else got rejected in the To area. By using the BCC field instead of the To field, you conceal who else received the email.

Fun Fact
BCC is short for Blind Carbon Copy,
while CC is short for Carbon Copy.
This refers to carbon paper creating a
copy of the message.


Onward we go!

Congratulations at making it this far! You’ve wrangled through application season, and you’re now ready to make something super cool together! Stay tuned for the next part—managing production season.

Happy modding!

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