starting a new zine fest

Things to Consider When Starting a Zine Fest

This document was created by zinesters & zine librarians from across the U.S. (see credits at the end). We encourage your additional ideas/tips via the comments.


  • What will your zine fest include? Tabling and selling, trading, exchanging zines? Workshops? Speakers? Music? 
  • More broadly, what is the goal you wish (or need) to accomplish? 
  • Generally, what are the rules you need to follow, and what rules need to be shared with attendees? (This may depend on the rules of the hosting organization, so for example, school rules or library rules). 


  • When will your zine fest take place and how much time will it take?
  • Give yourself lead time to allow zinesters to have made zines for the event and register to table there, for you to confirm/set up everything that will happen, and to publicize the event. 6-9 months minimum is recommended if you are working with a team. 
  • Look at an events calendar for your community and try not to book on the same day as another art festival. 


  • Who will help you put on the event? Think local libraries, local universities, or nearby arts organizations that might want to help with a zine fest. They can offer space or host a workshop during the fest. 
  • Who is on your team of zine fest organizers? 
    • Consider how long these organizers are committed to the fest planning – a year, 6-9 weeks, etc. Who will carry over info from this year’s fest, to next year’s? Will next year’s fest organizers be new or will some organizers stay on until next year?  
    • Does your team represent your community with regards to race, gender, sexuality, age, economic class, etc.? 
  • Who will be tabling at the event? 
  • Who will attend the event? 
  • How will you ensure a diverse set of participants in tabling and attending?
  • Will you have any guests of honor or featured guests? 
  • Will you have workshops or presentations? Who will be hosting them? 


  • What is the location of your event? 
  • Who is the hosting organization of your event? Who owns the venue?
  • Will there be a fee for renting the space? 
  • If you are renting a space without a co-host, you will likely need to buy Event Insurance, you can do this easily online. 
  • Since this will be a public event, you’ll want to understand your host/venue’s policies that cover emergencies and when security/police might be called. Questions to consider: what if there’s a medical emergency? What if an attendee behaves abusively? Where are fire exits located?
  • Is the space is ADA accessible? What kind of information can you provide in advance to disabled tablers and attendees? 
  • If zines are being sold, is there an ATM available at your location?
  • Is there wireless access at your location? This is useful if people are using apps such as Paypal, Venmo, Square, etc. 
  • Is your location close to food and drink? If not, you might want to build some snacks and beverages into your budget or try to get a food truck to participate in the fest. 
  • Does your location have a public restroom? Are there gender neutral restrooms?
  • Do your venue’s policies align with the mission and vision of your zine fest? Will your venue be a comfortable and welcoming environment for tablers and attendees? 


  • What do you need to make this event happen? So, for example, do you need money to make the event happen, or donations (of food, materials etc.)? 
  • Your city or town might require an Assembly permit or a Trade Show license, check this in advance or you might get a surprise expense. 
  • If you have folks tabling with their zines, who provides the tables and chairs and sets them up? If your venue does not provide table and chairs, you’ll need to rent them from a party supply place and arrange delivery & pick-up. 
  • Is there already an existing zine community in your town? If not, you might want to build up to a festival by hosting some workshops and zine clubs to build engagement. Many people do this in partnership with a public library, school, or other community organization. If so, how can you build partnerships with existing networks?
  • How will you publicize the event? 



Working with a team is essential for a successful fest and organizers who don’t want to burn out after the first year. Here are some of the roles that can contribute to a successful fest. You might have more or less, depending on the size of your fest and other factors. 

  • Tabling organizers who create the registration process, track fees (if your fest is charging tabling fees), promote important deadlines to the public, and answer questions about the fest for those interested in tabling (note: this is a big job so you might want a team to work on this together). 
  • Someone to create a table layout map.
  • People to help with setup and take down for the fest. This is also a lot of work, and you’ll want multiple people to help. 
  • A promotion team to promote the fest, create flyers, press releases, social media posts, etc. 
  • A workshop coordinator to help with workshops, evening events, kickoff events, etc. 
  • Someone to solicit donations, if needed. This can include money or in-kind donations of food and beverages for the fest, items to raffle to raise money, etc. This group of people might also create some fundraisers ahead of time to raise money for the fest. They can also send thank you notes to donors after the fact. 
  • If you want to have a paper schedule to hand out, you’ll need people to work on that. It’s fun! Highly recommend this strategy. 
  • A volunteer coordinator to rally folks who want to volunteer with less commitment. Volunteers can flyer around town, help with setup and take down of the fest, pick up food or other things needed, help set up workshop rooms, take pictures (with consent), etc. 
  • A note-taker for meetings (this role can rotate). 
  • A meeting facilitator (this role can rotate). 
  • A treasurer to keep track of budgets and funding needs.  
  • A webmaster if you decide to have a website. 


  • Pretty soon after the fest, you might want to take some time to evaluate the fest. Maybe you distribute an evaluation form for folks that attend the fest, folks that table the event, and folks who help coordinate the event.  
  • You might want to collect statistics (how many attended, how many people tabled, attended, etc.). These can be used if you decide to apply for grants or need to show the value of your fest to some entity.
  • It’s a good idea to have another meeting within a month after the festival. Organizers might be tired and want a break from fest planning, but it’s important to evaluate as a group what went well and what could be adjusted for future years while it’s still fresh on the brain. You can review any feedback from tablers and attendees at this time and also share your observations about the fest from an organizer’s perspective. 
  • Throw a party for your volunteers! 

Plan for Next Year!  

  • Set a date to check in for the next fest. For the Olympia Zine Fest, we typically set a meeting date a few months after the fest to give ourselves some recovery time. For example, if we have the fest in September, we reconvene with a meeting in January. Then we do it all over again. 🙂
  • Consider reserving your venue and announcing dates as soon as possible.

If all of this seems like a lot—it is! But it can be a lot of fun, especially if you have a bunch of zinester friends to help. Unless you have a lot of help, keep it small to start and just do what seems manageable to you. 

Collaborative document created by Cathy Camper (Portland), Kelsey Smith (Olympia Zine Fest), Kelly Froh (Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, Seattle), Liz Yerby (Portland Zine Symposium), and Violet Fox (Chicago Zine Fest)

One thought on “starting a new zine fest

  1. Very stimulating article! It has me thinking about organizing a small zinefest in July at the Cincinnati-area convention of the National Amateur Press Association, which is the world’s oldest zine and amateur journal exchange organization in the world. (Begun in 1876.)

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