or, you know, things i won’t miss once these last few packages are finally mailed (72 down, ten to go)…
5) people who failed to update their paypal address information the last time they moved. so they have to e-mail me separately to give me their current address. i don’t print out postage directly from paypal, so this was always less of a big deal for me than for some other online sellers, but it still aggravated me. especially if i was really on the ball about packaging orders & didn’t get the corrected address until i’d already addressed the envelope. paypal even gives you the option of confirming your address before you submit payment, so these kinds of mistakes won’t happen! once, i had a week where i got thirteen orders. ELEVEN of them were from people who had to send e-mails with corrected addresses. that was a terrible week.
4) people who order zines one by one. this kind of orderer took two forms: the person who perused the catalogue & ordered ten zines, one at a time, over the course of an hour or two (not that common, but infuriating, because paypal takes a separate fee & percentage out of every single transaction, really eating into the meager profit point on zines), & the far more common variety of person who would order one zine at a time, maybe once a week, for months on end. i never minded small orders, not at all. but if you think you might want to pick up that other zine you’re thinking about five days down the road, JUST GET IT NOW. because every one of these orders involved separate paperwork, separate packaging, a separate trip to the post office…argh! i had one woman who ordered almost everything in the catalogue, one zine at a time, over the course of a couple of years. she finally stopped ordering from me after i wrote a zine about having an abortion & didn’t care to hear her treatises on how “in 99% of cases, abortion is the wrong choice.” i told her she probably wouldn’t enjoy my zine if that’s how she feels, & i didn’t care to be her 1% exception to her woman-hating anti-choice rule, & she never ordered again. i felt relieved.
3) people who e-mail me to ask if i received their order, &/or if i shipped their order. this is totally acceptable in those very rare situations when an order has gotten lost in the mail (either en route to me, or en route to the orderer), but this is why i have a TRACKING PAGE. & this is why the tracking page is linked from the main page of the distro site! if people would just peruse the tracking page, they would see, “oh, great, she did receive my order on thursday.” it would save them the effort of writing me panicked e-mails, & it would save me the effort of saying, “look at the tracking page.” & nothing is more obnoxious than getting a breathless e-mail from someone who wants to know where their package is when the tracking page clearly states that it was just mailed yesterday. mail sometimes goes missing, but for the love of god, be patient! at least give it a chance to go missing before bombarding me with e-mails!
2) answering stupid questions, non-stop, constantly, with no end in sight. examples include, “do you have this zine in stock?” (answer: is it on the website & does it have a paypal button? then it’s in stock.) “i want to write this zinester a letter. this is the address on their zine. is that the right address?” (answer: write them the letter & find out. i’m not their keeper. you could even try googling them before bothering me.) “do you know if such & such a zinester is working on anything new?” (answer: ask them yourself. how am i supposed to know?) “i ordered zines from this other distro & i haven’t gotten them yet. do you know what’s going on with them?” (answer: now i have to answer for OTHER DISTROS taking too long to mail orders? are you kidding me?) “i really want to to order $75 worth of zines. but is there any way you could sell them to me for like $20? because i’m really strapped for cash.” (answer: hell to the no.) “i’m putting together this art show & i was wondering if you have any zines you could donate? like maybe one of everything in the catalogue? for free?” (answer: hell to the NO.) “i sent you a PDF of my zine. did you want to distribute it?” (answer: HELL TO THE NO.)
an aside: obviously, one of the things i hated most about running the distro was all the time that was devoted to answering unnecessary e-mails. you don’t even realize how much time it eats up until you sit down at your computer one morning & suddenly it occurs that you have spent an hour & a half answering unnecessary e-mails from people who easily could have answered their own questions, every single morning, for the last three years, for no pay or recognition. & then you want to die. (or in my case, shut down your zine distro.)
1) receiving e-mails from people whose zines i had rejected, asking me if i wanted to distribute said zines, & if there was any way they could possibly talk me into it. i used to receive A LOT of zine for distro consideration. i actually picked up maybe 10% of what i received–probably a little less. i had a well-deserved reputation for being exceptionally choosy. most of what i carried were zines by long-time zine friends, or zines i had sought out on my own. i relied a lot of recommendations from zinesters i already carried. occasionally i’d stumble across a gem that was sent to me for consideration, that i hadn’t otherwise heard about, & that was always awesome. but more often than not, i wasn’t too excited about what i received for consideration. a big chunk of it was stuff that just wasn’t right for the distro–comics, poetry, music zines. the kinds of zines i specify as not appropriate for the distro in my submissions info. most people who sent it in were people who sent copies to every distro they could find, without reading the submission info. most of those people never bothered me again, but the ones that did were the most tenacious. they seemed to think they could browbeat me into sending them money for twenty copies if they just tried hard enough. i don’t like being mean to people & having to cut them down & say no in an ice cold way…but sometimes, that’s all that works. i had to do that a few times.
then there are people whose zines are perhaps topically apppopriate for the distro, but weren’t really all that appealing to me. i got a lot of these kinds of zines from people who actually ordered a lot from the distro, & for that reason, it always broke my heart a little to have to reject them, but…if i carried every zine by someone who ordered from the distro, i would have had a 2000-item catalogue (at least). mostly i turned them down because the writing didn’t grab me, or the layout was sloppy, or the zinester was still finding their voice–very subjective taste issues. most of these people were very understanding & didn’t bug me to reconsider. a lot of them also sent me later issues, which i did distribute.
& then there were the folks whose zines were completely wrong for the distro, but they had sought the distro out anyway. it was always distressing to get a painstakingly hand-written letter that had my name spelled properly & everything, with a sales pitch about how they thought my distro & their zines were going to make a great team, & it was obvious to me that the zine could not have been more wrong for paper trail. these folks were the most pernicious & absolutely devoted to establishing a zine partnership. a few of them even went so far as to just mail me a stack of unsolicited copies & then ask for payment. hell no!
rejecting zines is one of the worst parts of running a zine distro, but rejecting people who won’t take no for an answer is even worse. & then you have your fall-out–the people who then feel the need to blog about being rejected, or malign you (directly or indirectly) on the internet. even after you have provided them with as clear, concise, & respectful a rejection as you can muster (even in cases where they really don’t serve that kind of care & consideration), they’ll find some way to elude responsibility for their own shortcomings. i’ve seen zinesters who were barely literate insist that they were unfairly rejected because of “a few typos” or because i’m a “grammar nazi” (nothing wins an argument like minimizing the holocaust). there are folks who insist that their writing was too “edgy” & “transgressive” for me to handle, when the truth is that it was sloppy, boring, & poorly-executed, full of retrogressive political ideas & uninspired rhetoric. i think there is an upswing in the tendency of people to perceive of zine distros as some kind of zine scene authority figure, & to rail against them, which would be a lot more convincing if folks weren’t getting so obviously defensive & uptight about being rejected.
anyway. there are other things i disliked about running a zine distro, & maybe i’ll write about those things eventually. mostly today i am just really pleased that that chapter of my life is behind me. i’m totally going to make a cross-stitch of a sea monster holding a letter in a bottle, & the letter is going to say, “haters gonna hate,” because it’s totally true. (& i say that as a semi-professional hater myself.)