Tower treats zine people fairly well, but unfortunately it is big, and therefore inherently evil in the eyes of some.
The experiences you relate are new revelations to me. All of the Towers that I
have been to in the Los Angeles have a well kept zine section. As far as I know,
the zines are displayed clearly for the shopper. But it doesn't surprise me that
over centralization of the zines they stock is a problem. I always though that the
zines were requested by the individual store and not delegated by Tower at the
center. Given that the center monitors the success of zines, I would imagine that
it would only be beneficial to them if zines were successful in the big picture as
a opposed to selling well at certain individual stores.
I went to the two local Towers (West Covina, CA and Brea, CA) a couple of
days ago. Covina, as always had a fair selection of zines. They had 8 Track
Mind, Cool Beans, Crimewave USA, a gay fiction zine called Men in Underwear,
Gerbil, Tailspins, Infiltration, Monozine, and a couple of others I forgot the
names of (most of these were punk zines. One thing that I did find strange was
Monozine was misplaced in the adult section. Brea, on the other hand, had only
three zines 8 Track Mind, Monozine (not in the porn section this time) and one
punk zine I forget the name of.
Here's the source of the Tower and zines not selling well rumor, well I guess it
not a rumor since it's from Doug Biggarts mouth. He says, "zines sales are
falling as we get more particular in buying, at least it seems that way. Quality is
going up, and (the number of) customers is going down. I think (readers) are
getting bored and going back to the god damned tube." (Zine World #3, p 56).
So there you have it.
That was interesting. From all I've read on this ng, the Toronto Tower must
have the largest zine section in the world. It has three solid, well-lit,
well-exposed, well-organized racks full of zines, and the stock is constantly
Of the 40 or so different publications on the racks, I noted 2600, 8 Track Mind,
Among the Ruins, Bad Monkey, Blacklisted, Bunnyrabbit, Caught in Flux, Cool
Beans, Crimewave USA, Cygnals, Dagger, E.C.U., Infiltration, Lost Tequila
Weekend, Mazel-tov Cocktail, Monozine, Multiball, Orthophobe, Palindromist,
Stained Pages, Wingnut, and Wipeout. There were also a handful of zines from
the UK, including Bypass, Caption, Girl Frenzy, Space Age Bachelor, and Turn.
Almost all the zines in the Toronto Tower, except for the few Canadian ones,
have price tags which increase the original US or UK price beyond the normal
exchange rate. It's a pain.
You pretty much listed all the ones I forgot. Bunny rabbit, Dagger, infiltration,
Lost tequila, Orthophrobe, and Wingnut. All of these at the Tower in West
Covina. It's interesting to note that the Hollywood Tower on Sunset Blvd. has no
zines to speak of. That is if they haven't added any in recent months.
Does anyone think it would prove useful to lobby our local Tower zine buyers to
consider zines not from central? I mean, shit, we're planning on hitting the
Towers one by one with our zines (and the good reviews they're getting, woo
hoo), but we're getting a lot of this 'Why aren't you going through Sacramento?'
shit. Uh, because your boy out there basically told us to go fuck ourselves, is
And I've heard this persistent rumor about the head zine buyer not being too
terribly interested in new zines, and I've heard this other persistent rumor about
the head zine buyer being kind of insane, and I'm just thinking...fuck. Increasing
circulation is probably the first and foremost problem faced by new zine
publishers, and we're (we being Menace Publishing & Manufacture) discovering
that trying to set-up your own distribution network takes a pretty long time and
is a lot of hard work. Tower alone among the chain stores appears to be in a
unique position to help zines (at least the good ones) burgeon and succeed.
Tower was, and has been, one of our short term goals: get these zines carried
nationwide by Tower. We thought, after the regional manager out here was so
enthusiastic about our stuff, that we could start planning the first offset press
run of our zines. But not only was the head zine guy a lot less enthusiastic about
our specific zines, he seemed a lot less enthusiastic about zines in general than
someone in his position (you would think) would be.
So we're back to square zero, right? Underground publishers with no easy
outlet to increase their circulation and get the word out can turn where, exactly?
We've decided to not deal with distributors, period, because "distributors make
you do the heiney dance" is like the one constant we've observed in the zine
Our strategy is just to increase zine sales by like ten stores an issue. If we can
find ten new stores somewhere in the world that will agree to take even five or
ten copies of our zines on consignment, then we're happy. Soon, we'll be able to
make the jump to offset, drop the cover price by about a buck (hey, we know
$3 is steep for a zine, but Kinko's is only slightly cheaper than cosmetic
surgery), get more advertisers...you know, the usual recipe for success.
Not much new information, I guess. I just wanted to keep this thread alive. I'd
appreciate any information on local Tower zine buyers anyone would care to
forward. We could set up an exchange of info in here, actually make the internet
work for us for a change. Any comment?
Soliciting individual Towers is not a bad idea. If there is a "zine buyer" or
someone with authority that has any balls you might get lucky. But, the beauty
of going through Tower Central is that they take 200 copies of a zine. What is
the most you could peddle at a Tower 3 maybe if your lucky 10 copies. If it
wasn't for the large quantify they take and the fact that they have been really
reliable with payment, I wouldn't be concerned about Tower distribution at all.
There are many other small distros and places that take 10 - 50 copies. Myself
being one of them.
We've had loads more luck with the mid-Atlantic regional manager than we have
with the local Tower zine buyers (who have run the gamut from helpful and
interested to downright shitty and psycho), and (as I've said on numerous
occasions) Doug Biggert more or less told us he thought our zines sucked raw
(which is funny, because we've had great reviews for Retard in the past and the
upcoming review of Universal Citizen in the next F5 is...well, it's a really fucking
good review; see our soon to be posted "on sale now" plug). It's almost like
dealing with the independent zine buyers at the mom & pop stores around the
country and our local area. Some of them are great, some of them are less than
great. If any of you guys care to forward the names of people at your local
stores (or want me to forward some to you), feel free to jump in here.
Side note: it might be better to do that sort of thing in email, in case some of
those aforementioned shitty and psycho zine buyers are reading alt.zines and
don't quite realize they're shitty and psycho; at least for the exchange of negative
sorts of information. I'd be more than happy to hand over our personal "shitty
psycho" list of bad zine stores and bad zine buyers, but I'm not sure I'd like to
do it right out here in public where some of those folks might see it. We're still
dicking around with one or two really fucking difficult people at locations that
carry our zines, and we hope to get the money that's owed us (paltry sums
though they may be) before writing those locations off forever.
Two questions: does Tower Central buy them outright or is it a consignment
deal as it usually is with the local stores?
Does anyone know how the fuck distros make money on zines? I mean, shit,
our costs are such that we can't take less than a 60% cut of the cover price, and
since that's all retail joints are going to get up off of anyway, how are these
distro places that buy from us and sell to retail outlets making money? Just on
volume? That's insane.
>Two questions: does Tower Central buy them outright or is it
>a consignment deal as it usually is with the local stores?
This is the way they did it with me. They took 200 copies at 50/50. After the
received them they paid me up front for 120. As for the remaining 80 they paid
for what they sold and sent back torn front covers of what didn't sell. It took
them 2 years to pay me for the remaining 80. I just got the check a couple of
days ago. But they did pay. I think that they are now getting their shit together
and are closing out outstanding accounts.
>Does anyone know how the fuck distros make money
>on zines? I mean, shit, our costs are such that we
>can't take less than a 60% cut of the cover price, and
>since that's all retail joints are going to get up off of
>anyway, how are these distro places that buy from us and
>sell to retail outlets making money? Just on volume? That's insane.
It depends on if the distro is selling through the mail or one a stand in a store.
Through the mail it gets tricky and most probably just scrape by. In a store it's
easier to make money if you are not just selling zines. Someone like Tower can
probably absorb any losses it makes on zines. As for me I pretty much break
even, never have made a profit that I could ever count as a profit. I've also been
to scared to do the math and see what the real situation is.
>Soliciting individual Towers is not a bad idea.
>If there is a "zine buyer" or someone with authority
>that has any balls you might get lucky. But, the beauty of
>going through Tower Central is that they take 200 copies of a
>zine. What is the most you could peddle at a Tower 3 maybe if
>your lucky 10 copies.
Not to contradict you, Sean, but this isn't always the case. While Tower HQ
takes 300 copies of my zine, the local Toronto Tower takes an additional 30.
The guys at the local Tower told me they also get shipped 4 copies of each issue
from the California headquarters, which is really quite silly.
Incidentally, Doug Biggert told me one of the reasons he takes my zine is
because it is cheap ($1), so obviously profit isn't his biggest motive.
That seems to be standard operation procedure: they take 300 copies of a zine,
send 3-4 copies to most of the stores, and that's about it. The upshot is that
Bunnyhop usually only lingers in most Tower outlets for a week or two before
they're all gone, and they generally don't get restocked. So although our
sell-through is very very high (usually 20-40 returns out of 300-400 copies
sent), we're never on their shelves very long and many people assume they don't
Unfortunately, trying to get ahold of someone in West Sacramento to discuss
their draw is like pulling teeth.
Seth, that's got to be fucking killing you. That would make me nuts...has Tower
always been this unresponsive? How long has this been the case with your zine?
I've noticed that, incidentally, at my local Tower. You practically have to be
standing over the guy taking them out of the box to get a copy.
Perhaps I can shed a little light on things, as I have worked for Tower for some
years and am quite familiar with their magazine distribution. Your first mistake is
to expect rational thinking from Doug Biggert, he is a certifiable psycho case.
Also all mags are now being distributed through a separate distro center(owned
by tower) and the people running the mag section don't know shit and don't care
if a zine sells or not. And the problem at the store level has been going on for
years. You see, Doug decides where the zines will go , they are not usually
requested by the stores themselves. This results in many unsold returns and
even zines never getting on the rack at all. It's a fucked up system that never
really worked all that well and it's getting worse. Feel free to ask any
questions(except my real name of course).
>Is it just me, or is availibility of zines getting
>even worse at Tower?
I've kinda noticed this too. There's good zines you can always find at Tower
like Crank, Cometbus, etc. But the new stuff that I've never seen before like one
called Smokes like Fish or something like that. I got that one as a submission to
be carried and I thought it was horrible. I've also noticed a couple of other poor
quality zines, but I cant remember the names. It just goes to show that the best
zines never make it to Tower or any distributor. And for me, a person who runs
a zine mailorder, that's a hard apple to swallow.
Jeff Potter suggested:
>It would be neat if you could ask the Tower person
>who's in charge of the zines what they think, about
>zine sales but far more importantly about zine quality.
>See if they have their finger on the pulse of anything.
>Detect if they have an excited fever for it or if they're
>long-haulers. Reports from someone who knows what they're
>talking about is good to get.
I chatted with the new zine manager at Toronto tower. He told me Tower's zine
draw has remained the same since Christmas, but I suspect he is either
misinformed or evil, as Tower definitely carries more zines now. He isn't as
enthusiastic as the old zine manager, Eric. Eric loved zines and even started up a
newsletter to recommend different zines to customers and gave it away free at
the register. He's missed.
Anyhow, I perused the shelves and here's what Tower offers the population of
Toronto. I may have missed a few titles filed with the literature or music
Top Shelf - Zine Section (large glossies, bad spot, as only the tippy-top of each cover is displayed ):
2600 14:4, Angry Thoreauan 20, Appreciate, Bad Trip 12, Carbon 14, Cemetery Dance, Crimewave USA 9, Dagger,
Dark Moon Rising, First Class 7, Freakie Magnet 10 ($11.95!?), Great God Pan, Hood Magazine 1, Jinx 3, Negative Capability, Not a Significant Source, Nothing Left 6, OCS Reporter, Salt For Slugs 2:1, Savory 4, Shots, Stupor 7, Tail Spins 30, Temple of Sting, Uno Mas 13, Vortru 57, Wetbones, Wingnut 4, World War 3 25, Yourflesh 38, Zine Guide 1, Zing Magazine.
Middle Shelf - Zine Secton (the current zines, right at eye level, it's where the action is): Avow 7, Azmacourt 3, Black Squirrel 1, Blacklisted! 411 4:4, Caught in Flux 6, Clang Bang Clang 4, Cometbus 42, Comic Book Socialism 4, Devil's Elbow 7, Emotional Detox, F Word 4, FAQT 2:2, Filler! 7, Fishpiss, Gunslingers, Hey Hullabaloo, If There Are Celestial Beings, Industrial City: Gothic News, Infiltration 9, Japanophile 22:1, Melissa & The Worm 1, Multiball 13,
One Way 2, Orthophobe 3, Paganda 2, Palindromist 5, Philbert 10, Pistil Prose 3, Plotz 9, Question Everything, Challenge Everything 7, Rolling Papers 3:3, Salad Days 1, Sombre Souls on Prozac, Stained Pages 4, Tequila With Lime, This is The Salivation Army 6, Tiki News 13, Traveling Shoes 2, Trout, Unknown Writer 3:2, Yeah Groovy 0.
Bottom Shelf - Zine Section (leftover zines & popular glossies, decent place to be, except you're among all the unwanted zines ): Ben Is Dead 29, Broken Pencil 7, Circular Cloud, Cool Jerk & Homogal 2, Dig. 3, Electronica 3,
Factsheet 5 63, Freedom Zine, Hair Clay, Jape 4, New Socialist 3:2, Popaganda, Potshot 13, Psychopomp
Schrodinger's Cat 2 2/3, Spiderweb, Sugar Bleeds Blue, TO Fanzine, Working For The Man.
Bottom Shelf - Music Magazines Section (fanzines & punk zines, zines that have broken out of the zine section):
Eruptions From Below, Guillotine 16, Indiecent 2, King of the Fairies 7, Maximum Rocknroll 181, Ohm Clock Magazine 5, Outpunk 7, Popaganda (again), Punk Planet 25, Soundboard 5, Thrust 27.
If other people on this group would post a list of what their local Tower is up
to, that would be awesome.
Geeze louise, that's a long list. Our local Tower carries about 6 or 8 zines, it's
not even an option to go there. Most local news stands and book stores carry
more, and the punk record stores and 2 or 3 other spots carry the large
I was surprised to hear this from both you and Sean. I had a general feeling the
Toronto Tower's draw was above average but I didn't realize how much. I think
Toronto is a very pro-zine city. As well as Tower, there are at least 10 other
smaller stores that carry dozens of titles, and they all always sell out of my zine.
I wonder what can be done to encourage the other Tower stores across Canada
and the US to increase/establish their zine sections? One idea would be to
contact the people at Toronto Tower and ask them to write a letter detailing their
reasons for carrying so many zines, and then to forward copies of that letter to
the less zine-friendly stores. Or maybe some of us could work on a free
newsletter promoting zines distributed through Tower, and offer that to the
stores free of charge.
If it worked, the same campaign could be carried over to some of the other big
bookstore chains. That would be great.
Jesus fucking Christ! I wish my local Tower had half of the zines yours does.
Mine never carried that many even at its peak. Let alone have its own 'zine
section.' I think that when I sent there two weeks ago mine had about 6 titles.
I'll try to go there tomorrow and post an accurate report.
Very interesting. I have't been to my local Tower in a long while, mostly
because the zine section was pathetic compared to what you've listed. I don't
think they had a dozen things you could call zines. But I love the list, it's like a
snapshot of the zine scene from a long ways away. If I forget to go to my local
Tower and do a list, please remind me! And thanks!
Well, I won't have a chance to do that at the Market St. Tower in San Francisco
unless life as I know it comes to a screeching halt, but I appreciate Ninj's
Today we just got back 98 copies of our last issue, or almost half our draw,
and there will most likely be more. Usually Tower has sold through about 70%
for us, so while this certainly does not indicate a trend, it *is* demoralizing.
I also notice that there are no sex-oriented zines in this Toronto list. Canada's
censorship laws at work? Glad Day (Toronto's gay bookstore) is kind enough to
carry us, but they'd bail in a split second if there were a Canadian distro (like
Marginal) who'd deal with us. They probably can't, even if they want to.
Anyhow, Tower has been decent to us overall, better about paying than almost
all the larger distros we deal with. But I think it helps if you "police" their draws,
to some extent. So if you know that your zine sells out at certain Towers, you
can ask them to change the draws. We've done that.
Distro Office Address:
Tower Magazines #303 (Attn. Paddy)
2601 Del Monte Street
West Sacramento, CA 95691
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