Exude professionalism

Zines must be professional in appearance. Design matters—in fact, it's critical. Readers want publications that are well laid out, easy to read, and don't look cheesy or homemade. They expect zines to be delivered on schedule and to load quickly and easily.

Guerrillas want wide circulation for their zines. An unprofessional looking issue or one with even a minor inaccuracy can damage your credibility and your reputation.

Readers also appreciate ease of access. Provide a prominent link to a printer-friendly, text version of your zine on your Web site so subscribers can download and print it at their convenience. They will then be able to read your zine anywhere and at any time, and pass it on to others.

The professional image of your zine depends on consistency of editorial standards. Consider including a statement of editorial policies at the end of your zine. Be consistent in the following areas.

Whatever content formula you choose for your zine, use essentially that same formula and place features in the same place in every issue. Readers like the familiar, the predictable. Make your zine error-free. Always double-check facts, figures, grammar, report or book titles, and the spelling of people's names. Create a style sheet for your zine and distribute it to everyone who works on the publication.

► Frequency of Publication

Zines can be published on any schedule, including weekly, monthly, or quarterly. To maintain a continuous presence in your readers' minds, you should publish at least once per month. The trick is to strike a balance between maintaining visibility and inundating your subscribers with more than they want. In a survey by Quris, Inc., 68 percent of respondents cited "too frequent" mailings as their top grievance about e-mail marketers.4

As to what day of the week is best for publishing a zine, opinions differ among the experts, with little hard data to support their preferences. Pick a weekday, publish on that same day every time, and indicate in your zine what day that will be. You might want to indicate what time zone governs your publishing schedule, as your zine may appear on a different day in some countries.

Most zines are two to eight pages long. The length of your zine will depend on how much information will be regularly available to you and the frequency of publication you choose. If you decide to publish your zine every week, even one page will be a lot of work. For guerrillas, a tight, two-page zine is usually sufficient. Aim for the same length with every issue; don't mail two pages one month and ten pages the next.

Publish your zine in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) rather than text format or Portable Document Format (PDF). These days, 90 percent of browsers can read HTML, and your printer-friendly, text version will take care of those that can't. The HTML format offers significant advantages in design features and measuring and reporting capabilities.

Text format is harder to work with, has much less visual appeal, and provides no reliable way to find out how many subscribers are reading your zine. PDF looks better and preserves the format and graphics of original documents.

The HTML format allows you to track important data, such as how many readers actually open your zine (open rates), how many click through to your Web site from your zine (click-through rates), how many forward your zine to others (forward rates), and how many readers subscribe and unsubscribe.

Whatever format you choose, keep in mind that industry and readers' standards for e-mail publications are getting higher all the time. Subscribers will have little patience for zines that don't look right on their e-mail programs or don't correctly display on their monitors.

► Advertising Policy

Marketers frequently place ads in successful zines. However, like self-promotion, outside ads can detract from the image of your zine. They can also raise questions about conflict of interest on your part. Ads can defray the cost of producing your zine, but they may not be worth it in the end. Instead, propose link exchanges with reputable marketers of products and services that would be of interest to your readers. If you do take ads, identify them clearly as paid advertising.

► Subscription Fees

You will attract more subscribers if you don't charge for your zine. You may need to consider a fee if the expenses of designing and publishing your zine prove too great a drain on the resources of your practice. Some consultants don't charge for their zines, but give readers brief summaries of their articles in the zine, and then charge for access to the full text. Unless your full report is quite substantial, most readers will find this practice annoying.

If your zine is in great demand, you may want to charge a high fee for subscriptions to limit your audience to a select group. For most zines, though, free access is the best way to get and keep subscribers.

► Administrative Matters

You or someone in your practice must consistently attend to administrative activities for your zine. Make it easy for readers to subscribe, unsubscribe, put their subscriptions on hold for vacations or other reasons, change their e-mail addresses, and tell you what they think.

People expect speed, so respond to change requests within 24 hours. You want to keep the goodwill even of those who unsubscribe— they may be back. Don't ask for too much information from people signing up for your zine; keep it to a minimum. Send standard, but polite and personable letters to confirm any changes a subscriber makes.

For initial subscriptions, your confirmation letter should welcome readers, tell them when to expect your zine to arrive, and how they can unsubscribe. You also should refer them to your privacy and editorial policies. Stay on top of administrative matters to make a good impression on your readers.

Consistency with all the preceding elements will ensure that your zine gets the respect it deserves. Another way to improve the professional aspect of your publication is by outsourcing some of its production.

► Outsourcing

Guerrillas emphasize collaboration, and publishing a zine can be much easier if you have help. Do you have the resources to produce your entire zine in house? If not, many services are available to help at reasonable costs. The two most likely candidates for outsourcing are graphic design and list management.

Hire a talented graphic designer to translate your vision into an easy-to-use template for your zine. Many designers will help you through the process the first time or two and will set you up with Web-based tools that allow you to build your zine with ease, step by step. Some designers also provide services to help you find content for your zine. Design services are not that expensive and an appealing design is well worth the money.

Find a competent list management service to handle subscribe and unsubscribe requests, store your confirmation letters, host your zine, send it out on your signal, and keep statistics for you. A service will keep your subscriber list up to date; handle duplicate subscriptions, e-mail address changes, necessary interfaces with various Internet service providers (ISPs), bounces (returned or undeliverable e-mail); and allow you to send mail to subscribers with a click of the mouse. Good list managers are preapproved by the major ISPs (on what's called a "White List"), so your zine won't be filtered or blocked by e-mail programs as spam.

Guerrilla Intelligence: Outsourcing

Publishing a zine can be challenging; unforeseen problems always seem to arise. Once you commit, you have obligated yourself to continue publishing your zine and that can be hard work. Tb ease your burden, consider outsourcing the graphic design of your zine and the ongoing management of your list of subscribers. Find reliable sources of help and stick with them. Good help is hard to find.

List management services are economical and will free up your time for more important activities, like finding and writing the content of your zine. Plus, a service takes the most mundane aspects of being a publisher off your hands.

Outsourcing design and list management will add to the professionalism of your zine. You may want to consider outsourcing more aspects of your publication, but be sure to maintain editorial control. And don't get too far removed from your readers or your zine will not provide an opportunity to establish relationships with them.

> Get Legit

Add the stamp of authenticity to your zine by registering the publication with the appropriate agencies. Apply for an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) from the Library of Congress, and send copies of your zine to the Library's Register of Copyrights. Place a link in your zine to the statement of terms and conditions of use on your Web site. Include copyright and ISSN notations in your zine.

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