Before we proceed, know this: While this will be the umpteenth time I’ve defined a zine (say it with me: “ZEEN”), given the creative impact they’ve made in my life and the lives of countless others, I’m more than happy to keep doing it.
For those not in the know, a zine is a small-circulation photocopied micro-publication with an extraordinarily limited run (think less than 1,000 copies). Zine-making embodies the do-it-yourself (DIY) aesthetic popularized with punk rock culture and, in particular, the Riot Grrrl feminism movement of the 1990s.
Zines are commonly written by one person, or sometimes by a small group of like-minded folks writing around a theme. It’s kind of like a blog you can carry in your pocket. Zine subjects include music, politics, veganism, social theory, pop culture, and sex, among many others. Well-known zines include Cometbus, Dishwasher, and Maximum Rocknroll. Why do people write zines? For the same reasons that most people write books: it’s a subject about which they are knowledgeable and passionate, or a topic they’d like to explore more in-depth.
Zines are ephemera and, thus, can be hard to preserve. Luckily, many public and academic libraries have established zine archives – such as Duke, Barnard College, and the University of Iowa. However, zines are not relics. Quite the contrary: even with the seemingly infinite number of blogs and websites online, zine culture continues to thrive to this day, with annual festivals all over the United States and beyond, as well as a number of distributors (or “distros”).
Sage Adderley-Knox opened Sweet Candy Distro in 2004. Formerly based in Georgia and Pennsylvania, Sweet Candy HQ is now in Washington State. The Sweet Candy site features over 200 zine titles, as well as books, one-inch buttons, bumper stickers, and much more. The zine writers are from all over the world, and write about topics like art, body image concerns, feminism, fiction, food, mental health, and parenting.
In 2013, Sweet Candy Distro added the words “And Press” to its name, with Adderley-Knox jumping into the publishing world. The company has released an assortment of titles, with Michael A. McLellan’s Civil War-era novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, being released this year. Adderley-Knox also runs Sage’s Blog Tours, virtual promotion on book blogs for authors.
In addition to running a distro and small press, Adderley-Knox is also the mother of three, and the author of the zines Marked for Life (about tattooing) and FAT-TASTIC! Her first novel, the YA book Invoking Nonna, is now in its second edition.
MBS: How did you become involved with zines? How and why do they matter in 2017?
Adderley-Knox: In 2003, I was taking some creative writing courses at Kennesaw State University. I became intrigued with the idea of publishing a literary magazine. I was online searching for information about self-publishing and came across a zine community on LiveJournal. I started scrolling through all of the posts and instantly became fascinated with zines. I didn’t quite understand what they were, so I decided to order one. A zine writer had put up a post about her personal zine that she was selling for one dollar plus a stamp. I sent them off and waited for the zine to arrive. When it did, I was not disappointed. Looking back, I can’t even remember what the zine was about, but I will never forget the way it made me feel. I was amazed that I could send someone a dollar and, in return, receive a handmade booklet of their secrets. I hopped online to find more zines to order, and here I am thirteen years later, collecting and writing zines.
Zines matter because they give people a voice. They can be used as a powerful tool in our communities.
Zines matter because they give people a voice. We are living in a scary time with this current Presidential administration. People are being lied to, silenced, and bullied. We need to document what is happening. We need to create zines to help people through this time, both mentally and physically. They can be used as a powerful tool in our communities.
MBS: What is the difference between a zine distro and a small press? How does running a distro also inform running the small press?
Adderley-Knox: A zine distro deals with the distribution of zines, where a small press focuses on the actual publishing process. I think running the distro helped me define and strengthen my work ethics, which carried over to running a small press. I had many years under my belt of communicating with a wide range of people in the literary world. I understood the importance of good communication with writers, setting boundaries, as well as being transparent about finances and the process of running a business. I was definitely confident in transitioning into the publishing community.
MBS: Tell me more about Sage’s Blog Tours. How does it work? What services do you provide? Why did you start doing this?
Adderley-Knox: My most popular service is blog tours – virtual book promotion for authors. I create a tour schedule for authors where they visit book blogs for a week or longer. The author might participate in an interview with the blog owner or submit a guest post to be featured on the book blog. Many times, the blogger will receive a copy of the author’s book in advance, so during the blog tour, they can feature a review of the book. In a nutshell, I coordinate the stops and make sure everything runs smoothly. Blog tours are perfect for the author who is unable to travel on a traditional book tour visiting bookstores to promote their book. It also works best for authors who are only publishing digital books.
There is such an awful stigma around self-publishing, that the books will not be enjoyable. In my experience, these indie authors just need the guidance and support to help them through the process.
I was reviewing books on my blog and read some incredible stories written by indie authors. The downside was that quite a few of the self-published books suffered from not having a good editing job, a captivating book cover, or a synopsis that matched their book. I wanted to help them. There is such an awful stigma around self-publishing, that the books will not be enjoyable. I understand how that stigma started because like I mentioned, many indie books lack the basic things that earn respect from readers and critics. In my experience, these indie authors just need the guidance and support to help them through the process. I don’t think they skip these critical steps in the publishing process because they don’t care. Some writers become overwhelmed or may not have the resources available to polish up their work.
MBS: Any upcoming zines/books/blog tours to promote?
Adderley-Knox: I am releasing the second edition of my YA novel, Invoking Nonna, next month. It has an updated layout, edit, and cover. I am really excited about it. I am currently going through the first draft of my second novel, the follow-up to Nonna.
My small press will also be releasing a historical fiction novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael McLellan. Even though it a historical fiction story based in the late 1800s, it is very timely to some of the issues our country is facing now with racism and oppression.
MBS: Where can zinesters expect to see you this year? Any fests, conferences, tours, etc.?
Adderley-Knox: I will be participating in a literary event in Olympia, WA next month at the Lacey Timberland Library. I will be reading from Invoking Nonna and doing a Q&A about self-publishing. I am hoping to make my way to eastern Washington and participate in a zine reading in Spokane. I will be tabling this summer at the Portland (OR) Zine Symposium and of course the Olympia Zine Fest in October. I am one of the co-organizers of the event and will also table Sweet Candy Distro and Press.
MBS: What does literary citizenship mean to you?
Adderley-Knox: To me, literary citizenship is the role you play in the literary world. I like to think that my role in the literary community is to help provide a platform for authors to publish their work, guiding writers through the process, and distributing their work through Sweet Candy Distro. I am the librarian for the Little Free Library at my son’s school, and I plan on building a Little Free Library at my home with books for all ages. I think making books accessible to everyone is vital.