How to run a zine without dying: Part 3, Production


Your artists are lined up, and it’s time to get in that artwork—learn to organize check-ins, deadlines, and what else to expect from production season!


  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. Welcome the fresh blood

Your artists are selected, and it’s time to get them on board! You may have picked to communicate with the artists either via Discord or email. Here’s a quick run down of the pros and cons of each:

Discord channel

  1. Pros: More active and closer community. Easy to ping everyone rather than type email addresses. Encourages more frequent WIP posting.

  2. Cons: May feel less professional. May require a community moderator. There are sometimes cases of gossip or drama that can be very stressful to deal with if not prepared.


  1. Pros: Reliable communication. People are more likely to read and respond to emails than @everyone Discord pings. No drama due to lack of livechat.

  2. Cons: No sense of community. No WIP posting outside formal check-ins.

Whatever method you choose, people are now through the doors, so it’s time to organize check-ins!


2. Check-ins

The production period will tend to last between 1-3 months. Throughout this time, there are points where artists send their current WIPs to let the organizers know that they’re making progress. These points are called check-ins.

Check-ins are usually divided according to the art progress. For example, there’s often a sketch check-in, lineart check-in, then final submission.

Here’s the general timeline of a check-in:

  1. 1 week before check-in - send a reminder of the check-in deadline to the artists.

  2. 1 day before check-in - send a reminder of the check-in deadline to the artists.

  3. Day of check in - post a notice that the check-in is today.

  4. 3 days after check-in - note any artists who haven’t submitted their check-ins, and contact them asking for an update.

  5. 1 week after check-in - if no extension is requested or no progress is given, drop the artist.


3. Organizing everything

But how do you keep track of everything and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks?

I like to run a master spreadsheet to keep everything organized. I’ve found that Airtable is extremely useful for keeping everything in one place. You could always run a Google sheet instead, but here’s what I like about Airtable:

  1. It’s prettier.

  2. You can share specific sheets rather than the entire document.

  3. You can sort according to categories, and create different views with different sortings.

  4. You can create forms that input directly into the spreadsheet, without making an actual separate document for the form.

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Here are the sheets I recommend you have (though this will vary depending on the needs of your zine):

  1. Artist lineup. Have columns for their name, assignment, and a checkbox for each zine milestone. This will give you a birds-eye view of who has completed their work, and who you need to contact. Columns: Name, Email, Social Media, Assignment, [Checkboxes for Milestones].

  2. Check-ins. If you are running formal check-in forms (as opposed to people just submitting their works in a Discord channel), then have sheets for each check-in. You can generate a form for people to submit directly to the sheet by clicking on Views > Add a View > Form.

  3. Shipping / Profit Info. This is the sheet where artists provide their shipping information and Paypal address (if the zine is for profit). Columns: Name, Paypal Email, Shipping Information

  4. Profit Needed / Accounting. This is the sheet were you calculate the cost of production for your zine. Calculate the bare minimum you need to break even on the zine project. Columns: Item, Vendor, Quantity, Price, Total.

  5. Income log. This is the sheet where you list all the income you receive related to the project—take fees like Paypal fees and credit card fees into account here. We are looking at the raw income that you’re receiving in your bank account. Columns: Date, Vendor, Customer, Amount.

  6. Expense log. This is the sheet where you list all your expenses. Some zines choose to make this public so people know that their money is not being stolen. Columns: Date, Item, Vendor, Amount.

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Quick note: On the free account, Airtable does have limits. You can have 1,200 rows per “base” (entire spreadsheet), or 2GB storage per “base.” As a result, I would not recommend holding artist applications or final submissions via Airtable, as they will bloat your rows or attachment space. Other than those limitations, Airtable is an amazing tool. In the entire Seasons Zine project, we did not surpass 323 rows, so unless you’re an absolute madman, you should have more than enough rows.


4. The final submission

Your check-ins are over, and you’re ready to receive pieces! There are several methods to do this:

  1. Method 1: Google Drive. Tried and true. Create a shared Google drive for artists to drop their pieces into. Everyone has a Google account so this tends to be easy. The only issue is that someone has to host it and bloat their drive space.

  2. Method 2: WeTransfer to the mods. You can have artists send the files via a file emailing service like WeTransfer. This keeps out any drive bloating, but do note that the storage space is temporary as opposed to Google Drive.

  3. Method 3: Airtable. If you’ve been using Airtable for everything else, you can have people submit via Airtable. Do note that your entire base has only 2 GB of space.

Whatever method you choose, let the final artwork roll in! It’s very exciting to see everything starting to come together.


5. Dropping artists

At some point, you may run into a situation where an artist has gone MIA or has not abided by the given deadlines.

This is always tough to deal with and stressful, but I’d like to encourage you to be clear and firm. Everyone may deserve a second chance, but if they ignore it or abuse it, you should not keep them as contributors.

Remember that you’re not dropping artists to be a bad guy; you’re dropping artists to protect the other contributors from significant delays or a dropped zine. A good organizer is someone who will make the hard decisions when they need to.


Artwork GET!

Congratulations! You’ve gotten through one of the hardest parts: herding all the cats! Your zine now has all the artwork complete and is well on its way to production. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for organizing this endeavor. Stay tuned for the next part—preorder season and marketing.

Happy modding!

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