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The Making of the "Grind Twelve" Skate Zine » Self-publishing in your spare time on a dime

Grind Twelve Zine logo View the issues »

I love the web. I can potentially reach every single person on Earth who has access to the internet and spam them with my sk8 rhetoric... presuming of course that they somehow find this page among the zillions of results spat back from search engines.

Despite the allure of the web and it's ease of access to information, there's still something sexy about hardcopy - the printed page. E-books may be an interesting facet of technology, but there's no way in Hell I'd ever sit in front of my computer to "read a book". I'm much more comfortable in an easy-chair with a glass of booze in-hand and a book in my lap... if only I could download porn in this scenario. Anyway...

Thrasher Magazine frequently runs a column in which they review various 'zines from around the globe. Put together with everything from Quark and PhotoShop to scissors and a Xerox machine, determined people with time to burn (and passion) churn out digest-sized magazines in the hopes of peaking your interest. For a dollar or two you can have your very own copy. Hot Damn!
This got my mind reeling about creating my own zine - a printed forum of my thoughts, rants and whatever else I felt like doing.

Suddenly I felt as though a door had been opened. What the Hell, I'm gonna start my own zine. But what is it's purpose? Who's going to read it? How do I distribute it?

Crap! There's more to this than I anticipated.

Getting Started

You first have to answer some of the questions I posed above.
Find a purpose - Why are you creating a skate zine? Primarily, I thought it would be fun and cool as Hell to do. But that's not enough of a reason to keep it going past the premiere issue - your zine needs to have a purpose. I decided Grind Twelve would help support a local independent skate shop (Nags Head Skate Shop in North Carolina - who subsequently went out of business, but the sk8 thang rides on).

I had worked there for the summer season and was completely stoked to be part of the only independent skate shop on the Outer Banks. They had a whole wall full of wide old-school decks and everything you need to rip it up in style. I wanted to help promote the shop. With that in mind, Grind Twelve took on the role of marketing promotion. I sprinkled it with the shop's name, website and an advertisement or two.

Then I needed to consider what sort of content to put in it.

Create Enticing Content

If no one cares about what you have to say, then you're going to have a tough time creating a following or readership. My stance on content was to write something that would not be read all at once in one sitting while creating content that seemed valuable enough to keep and not to be tossed in the trash after a quick perusal. But how?

I've tried to write three types of content... articles that explain something in a "how-to" fashion, articles that are ridiculous or funny in some way and articles that contain an R-rated semblance of pornography. With a teenage kid in mind - show them how to do something, make 'em laugh and then show them some porn - end of story... as far as Grind Twelve is concerned.

It's also a great way to push whatever I felt like pushing on my captive audience. Unless they toss the zine into the trash, I've got em for a few minutes at least. Music is always a good hook as is a centerfold of sorts. So, I put a nominally trashy bikini photo on the centerfold of the zine and lined the bottom with music reviews. I decided not to go with the latest released - everyone is sick of hearing about the same old crap thats been getting news all over anyway. I wanted to infect people with something they may not have heard before.
Enter my obsession with Juliette Lewis.

I was always drawn to her in movies, even though she wasn't particularly my type, but she had recently come off the Vans Warp Tour with her punk band "Juliette & the Licks". I wanted people to know that the whacky chick from "Natural Born Killers" was putting out albums, so I reviewed one. Then she got a signature shoe from DVS and she began appearing all over. Subsequently, she has made an appearance in each issue of Grind Twelve - and she will continue to do so until a better obsession comes along.

After doing Music reviews, Skate video reviews seemed a logical topic, so I incorporated reviews of whatever I was watching lately. Again not focusing on what was new and hot, just good videos. Other recurring topics included a Local Scene column speaking to whatever was going on at my local park and shop as well as a column focusing on Skater-girls. Not the annoying posers, but the true female athletes of the sk8 industry. Girls are so often forgotten unless they are in a bikini, so I wanted Grind Twelve to cater to the immature teenage guy who digs bikini models as well as the girls who tear up the local ramps. Its a hard line to follow without pissing off one or the other, but that's also how life works - ya can't please everyone.

I've found that the best topics are ones that you care about. Even if they are dumb and poorly written, passion will always show through and make for a decent article. People always seem interested in other people's opinions as long as they're real.

Design 101

Grind Twelve Zine cover, issue 1.1

I won't claim to know much about design, but I know "what I like" which I consider to be half the battle. Anyhow...

Branding seemed important - not sure why, it's just a sk8 zine. But I wanted readers to know what they were reading - Grind Twelve. I put the name and volume number on the footer of each page. The first issue had a silhouette of a skater, skulls that wrapped around the front and back of the binding and a logo I concocted using my favorite Tank Girl font. Branding - DONE! Well, not quite. I also used a blank deck image for all the article titles on each page. Ok, now I was done with that.

Now when I achieve fame and glory, I'll be recognized by my enormous fan-base. So anyway...

But getting back to not knowing what the hell I was doing...
I like PhotoShop. I know how to use it and it works well for me. Is it a page layout application like Quark? No. Should it be used for page layout? Shut up. I know where you're going. Like I said, I know how to use it. And that's more important than you may think.

Obviously, whether you use scissors and a Xerox machine or a computer and a printer, you have to have some clue as to what you're doing (I know I'm contradicting myself here). I decided to use PhotoShop to arrange each page and do the layout. I should have used Quark, or some real layout package, but part of the fun is diving in - not reading a computer manual. So I dove in and began stealing images and writing my articles.

Creating a zine in a "digest" size means you print 2 pages per sheet of paper (actually, its 4, front and back) in landscape orientation. I had to decide how prolific to be. Why? Each page of the zine meant I had to fill 2 sides of a sheet of paper - 4 pages in my zine. My first thought was 2 sheets of paper equalling and 8 page zine. It was too easy to flip through - not enough substance, so I continued to 4 sheets (a 16 page zine). That was my starting point and I was off and running.

Putting It Together

Having chosen to make Grind Twelve digitally on a computer, I now had to learn a thing or two about printing. Sure you just select Print from the File menu and out pops whatever, but not when you're making a zine... as I discovered.

In one week's time, I had the first issue complete. I was psyched. But it was still just a big file on a hard drive. Hardly the sort of medium for distribution.

There's this thing called resolution. At 72 dpi on the web things look fine. In print, they look like crap. That I knew and decided to make my zine at 300 dpi - the minimum for a decent printout. The layout alluded me big-time. I took 4 sheets of paper and folded them in half, making a blank mockup. I then numbered the pages and determined what should appear on each page. This is also how I figured out that page 3 and 12 would print on the same side of a sheet of paper and that page 13 is printed on the back of page 12... and so on.

Grind 12 production

These sort of logistics drove me up the wall. Not my cup of tea. This is another reason to use a page layout application. Then there was printing. Remember it's printed on both sides of the paper. So I had to figure out how the paper went through the laser printer. I printed the first side, then flipped it over and hoped for the best as the second side printed. I folded it in half and BEHOLD... Grind Twelve lives! I took copious notes on the facets of printing and was ready to do larger batches.

I began doing 20 copies of the first sheet, reloading the printed pages (upside down) in the printer and fired off another 20 copies. I did this swapping thing 4 times and had a stack of pages that could be assembled into a digest sized, center-stapled sk8 zine! But printing from PhotoShop was damn slow. The files were about 6MB per sheet and took forever. I converted them to PDF, reducing the file size to about 1MB and was set.

I arrive home with an arm-load of pages needing to be collated into the correct order, folded in half and stapled. Ahh the stapling... you can't use a regular stapler - not even a big one - the pages just don't fit lengthwise. Damn. I had to buy a center punch stapler that has an elongated arm that would fit the pages flat.

Grind 12 production

My problems were now solved.

Measuring the correct depth, I put the collated sheets into the stapler and banged out the first issue, folded it in half and was super-pumped. I was holding the first completed issue. Two hours later and I had the first 50 issues ready to be distributed. Ok, I found some spelling errors and such and tweaked each subsequent publishing run, but I was off and running. I could distribute my zine.

Distribution

So how do i get rid of all the zines I'd printed? I doubted I could get them packed-in with the daily delivery of the New York Times. Besides... is that really the right demographic? No, not exactly. The skate shop I worked in let me distribute them to anyone who seemed hardcore and worthy of my labor. I even dropped a few inside issues of Transworld Skate at the supermarket. Then I got aggressive and handed them out to any group of skaters I saw skating a spot.

Not long after, people came into the sk8 shop and asked for Grind Twelve. Damn! That excited me. Through handing them out at parks and skate spots, I slowly developed a following of readers who knew they could get the next issue at the shop. Of course I moved and the shop folded, so I'm starting again, but I did it once, will do it again and so can YOU!

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