Portland Zine Symposium growing pains…

Greetings from my shift at the Independent Publishing resource Center!

Today we looked at the last of about half a dozen potential 2011 Portland Zine Symposium sites. It has been a rough year looking for space for our event. I now have a greater appreciation for other zine event organizers who weren’t blessed like we had been with a free space.  I don’t know if that fact about the early Portland Zine Symposium was known?We used to get a free space.

The first 9 years of the Portland Zine Symposium we got the space for free by working with student groups at PSU, this is no longer and option for us for reasons I won’t get into. The first symposium was in the PSU Science Building, the second in the cafeteria, and 3-9 were all in the Smith Ballroom. Last year was the 10th and it was the first that we had to pay for the space. We had the money, but just barely. We had been operating with a bit of a slush fund for years using it for buying and printing shirts, stickers, and the coffee mugs that still haven’t made the money back. We also needed workshop supplies, money for printing programs and one year we even tried paying people to do workshops. We were able to keep the table pricing super cheap because zines were cheap and we wanted the event to be affordable.

Last year was a bit of a wake up call. We realized that our biggest problem was our success. We had grown from 30ish tables at the first one to 60ish tables for the second and 90 tables in the ballroom and we had to severely limit the full tables available because so many people wanted space and BECAUSE our tables are so much cheaper than other zine events and comic shows. Last year we paid to use the PSU Gym but we still we not charged for tables. We had 130 tables and almost 200 vendors! So, this year we have to pay for not only space, but tables and chairs as well. i don’t think most zine events are the size of ours… I don’t think the symposium would have gotten this big and unwieldy has we needed to pay for the space and the chairs. The Portland Zine Symposium is arguable the largest and best zine event.  It’s a HUGE task to organize and event of this size with tables, workshops and extra curricular events and I’m so thankful to work with the awesome people I have been working with for the past few years but the stupid money issue is starting the wear on us.i

After we left this new space Katie and I got to talking about how we need to revamp the way we look at fund-raising for the Portland Zine Symposium. I mentioned that we are working on an antiquated model from a decade old economic system where we got a free space. That’s not our reality anymore and we are really struggling with how to cope with it. We are applying for 501(c)3 in hopes that we can apply for grants in the future to help offset the cost. It is just really hard to start steering this boat in a different direction after a decade, ya know? We don’t want to raise table costs and we don’t want corporate sponsors. It is a fine line we walk.

Next week we vote on artwork and hopefully a venue as well. Please be patient with us!


2 responses to “Portland Zine Symposium growing pains…

  1. Wow… Life is tough all round. I didn’t know that the previous spaces to last year were free but it help explain how such incredible growth was possible over that time. An ecosystem with one of the largest natural predators to a DIY event (viz. location cost) nowhere to be seen – priceless.
    I don’t know if there’s anything we can do at the end of the world but I’m sure I’m not the only person in Australia who thinks the PZS is worth working hard for. I’m putting my hand up to help if I can.
    We are here and we are watching. 🙂

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