So You're Thinking About Hosting a Con...

How to Put on a Beauty and the Beast Convention

updated 2019.1.16


Stories, poetry, art… a conzine is a traditional way of showcasing fandom’s talents and raising funds for the convention/charity. Ask previous con chairs who edited their conzines for them, and then approach one of these fine, hardworking folks and beg them to help you! Or put out the word you’re looking for an editor – someone with the right skills or the desire to develop them might be waiting in the wings. Work with your conzine editor to provide as much assistance as she needs.
You must decide whether you (the Chair) or your chosen conzine editor will spearhead the submission drive.   
Have your conzine submissions guidelines written and ready to post as soon as the convention is announced and the convention web page is live.

Begin asking for submissions as soon as the above-referenced information page is posted online. Ask repeatedly after that. Setting a deadline in March or April is advisable, as you will most likely need to extend it a bit to accommodate fans who have almost finished their submissions!
You will be expected to provide funds for printing and binding the conzines, whether a final is sent to you for printing/binding or the editor takes on the job of printing and/or binding. Consider the printing options available: Your conzine editor may live in a town with few choices, whereas you, the Chair, might live in a larger city with more competitive facilities. Price - and possibly quality - will be at issue.

To get an initial estimate in order to compare printing options, check the page count of the last three conzines and average that number. Ask previous con chairs for the number of zines they had printed and average that number as well. Ask the printer to quote a price for that many zines and for that number of pages printed on standard paper, in B/W, collated, and bound.    

There’s no right or wrong place to have your zines printed/bound, but one conzine editor got a great price and quality from working with FedEx Office’s National Bid Center (866)544-2935 (and by great price, it was approximately 20% of what it might have cost if she’d gone into a copy center).   

There are many variables: Ask about comb -vs- coil binding. Ask about card stock -vs- regular paper with a plastic sheet protector for the cover. Ask about the charge per page for color printing, if you think you might want it. (You will faint at the cost!) Ask where any volume price break falls (often at 100 copies). Also find out if you get a price break after so many pages (total pages of the project, not of an individual 'zine. A hundred copies of a hundred-and-fifty-page 'zine is 15,000 total pages printed).  It might end up costing less to print a few extra copies of the 'zine if it pushes your total page count over a price threshold.

Make sure you choose cover stock that is smooth enough that it reproduces well. A textured cover stock feels nice and looks nice, but it doesn't take detail as well as a smoother surface. Also, make sure the printing of the cover will show up well on the color you choose.

Understand this is an estimate for planning purposes, because the final cost will change with the true number of zines needed (which you won’t know until the registration and/or ordering deadline passes) and the final number of pages printed (which you won’t know until the submissions are all in and the zine is laid out.) But you should get an early start on printing estimates so you can choose a company and have some idea of how much you will have invested in producing the conzine. You will be taking individual orders from those not attending and you’ll need to know how much to charge for it.

Once you choose a printer’s services, ask what format they want the printable document in. Most likely, they will ask for a “print-ready pdf”. There’s quite a bit online about this, and some print shops provide their own instruction.

Remember to ask the company what their turn-around time is. Figure in a couple extra weeks at least, in case the initial proof copy isn’t up to your standards.

How to

Ask for submissions as attachments to an email. No hard copy that would need to be retyped! Unless it’s just not possible, no submissions should be sent in the body of an email either.

Your conzine editor must be able to open several kinds of documents, particularly Word, .rtf, and plain text. State the types of documents that can be accepted in the conzine submissions guidelines. Accept no .pdfs under any circumstances, as submissions will need to be edited and formatted.

Ask for submissions in a standard font like Times New Roman, 12-point. This will help submitters stay within the page limit guidelines. Discourage fancy fonts (i.e. – flowy cursive fonts for Vincent’s handwriting) and lots of font changes.

Your editor should:
  1. Acknowledge by email each submission as it comes in. Submitters need to know their work reached the editor.

  2. Understand what goes into creating a print-ready pdf.

  3. Choose an easy-to-read font for the printed zine. There are many professional fonts available today. Beware – some free fonts found on the internet are not high quality and might pixelate (blur) at printing.

  4. Use the same font for every story. Also the same formatting or symbols designating scene breaks. Also the same formatting for ellipses in every story.

  5. Use a 12- to 14-point font size. Anything smaller than twelve point can be too small for some people to comfortably read.

  6. Use a standard margin – about 1” – and set up the layout for facing pages (which allows a gutter for the binding).

  7. Experiment with decorations and font sizes for story titles and author names to see what looks nice.

  8. Adjust font size, line spacing, and paragraph spacing to avoid “orphan lines” – pages (usually the last one of a story) with just a few lines or words at the top. Also to avoid wasted white space on pages with many short lines of dialogue.
With the advent of Kindle-type readers, some fans are requesting certain digital, rather than print or .pdf documents. The ability to convert the conzine to MOBI or ePUB or AZW files will likely become necessary.

Page set-up

Creating one-sided pages (text or art on one side, but blank on the back):

Your pages will be printed double-sided.  Be sure to insert a blank page into your .pdf any time you have a one-sided page (a page with something on one side, but not the other).

Generally, all the introductory pages are one-sided.

When a full-page piece of artwork is printed, in general the following page - the other side of it  - should be left blank to avoid text bleed-through that mars the quality of the art (There may necessarily be some exceptions to this rule.)

Page numbering

Odd page numbers on the right. Even page numbers on the left!

The first page of the first story is Page 1 and must be on the right-hand side. All subsequent stories must also begin on an odd-numbered page (the right-hand side).

Number any blank pages too (generally the back side of full-page artwork).

Use the page numbering feature of your word processor.

Introductory pages

Introductory pages are either not numbered or use lower-case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv) or a combination of no-numbers and Roman numerals.

Examples of these are:
  • Conzine cover page and art. The cover page is not numbered.
  • The convention’s charity page – This is usually written by the con chair
  • Message from the con chair – This is always written by the con chair
  • Special acknowledgements or dedications – The con chair decides if this will be done
  • Poems, quotations, or special artwork
Remember to insert a blank page into the pdf file after any page you want printed with nothing on the back. If you’re using Roman numerals, number this blank page too.

The Table of Contents must begin on the right-hand page. You can't insert your actual page numbers until you've finished formatting all the stories and figured out how all the pages will fall, but you can design the page and get everything laid out.

A message from the editor and/or a copyright statement can go here, too, if you choose and if space allows, as well as the disclaimer (you know, the part where we say "No infringement on copyrights held by [whoever holds the copyright these days!] is intended" or words to that effect). 

It’s fine to lay out the table of contents as double-sided pages. It’s likely you will have two, maybe even three pages devoted to the Table of Contents. Fill any empty space you might end up with a poem, or artwork, or a graphic. If the Table of Contents goes three full pages, insert either a blank page, poem, or graphic, etc., on the page after it.

Layout pointers

Depending on the length of the story previous, you might have some space available on the even-numbered page (left-hand side) for smaller artwork or a graphic – something to fill in the emptiness. If a story ends on an odd-numbered page (the right-hand side), you will have a full page after it (the next left-hand page) to fill. This is a good place for a poem or other single-paged text submissions.

Adjustments will have to be made, either in font size or line spacing, to avoid orphan words or lines – just a few of either on the last page of the story. Also, you do not want a story to **end** on the odd-numbered page (right-hand side) if it can be helped.

Make the layout adjustments necessary to keep poems on a single page unless the poems are very long and flow naturally to more than one page.

Handling artwork

Decide early-on if you are going to accept color artwork. (Be aware that color printing is very expensive, even if it’s only a few pages.) Make it clear that you will be printing in b/w and that submissions must be in b/w or grayscale, that any in-color submissions will be either converted to b/w or returned to the artist.

Generally, insert full-page artwork between stories. If the artwork is an illustration specific to a part of the story, insert the artwork at the appropriate place. Again, it’s best to leave the back side of full-page art blank. Space the full-page art throughout the conzine.

If a story comes with several illustrations, it’s okay to resize to fit within the text. Remember, though, to text-wrap appropriately, leaving a margin between text and image.

Be very careful when resizing art to either fill the page or fit a smaller space. Keep the proper perspective/ proportions – do not “squish” the artwork!

It’s very likely you will need to put submitted artwork into Photoshop or its equivalent to adjust the brightness, black level, and contrast before inserting the art into the print-ready document. Convert .jpg images to .png images for the best quality printing.

Editing the stories

Spellcheck, and spellcheck again. Check the punctuation and grammar. Make sure each line of dialogue is in its own paragraph. If a story needs a season-notation or an adult rating, make sure that’s reflected in the table of contents and at the beginning of the story itself.

Reformat the font and font size, the scene break symbols, and the ellipses so that all stories in the zine match in style.

If necessary, resize the font to get the stories to fit the page without orphan lines (going from 14 to 13.5 can make a significant difference in page length, though very little difference in readability.)

Compiling the full document

Check the page numbers to make sure they’re sequential – no skips or repeats. Check the table of contents against the numbered story pages.

Your editor should print out a hard copy for themselves, check the page numbers yet again, and check that blank pages are inserted in the appropriate places. Check for typos once more.

Make any necessary changes, re-save the files, and recreate the print-ready .pdf document.

Word, WordPerfect, and LibreOffice all have a Table of Contents tool that can do the work for you. It's worth your while to learn how to use it in the word processor you're using.

Saving the final file

Save the individual stories as submitted and as edited, in case there are ever any questions. Save all the artwork as submitted and as edited, if it was necessary to. Save all correspondence, if any, with the submitters.

Save the print-ready pdf on a thumb drive as insurance. What if there’s a crash!?

Actually, save the print-ready .pdf on TWO thumb drives (or even three!) or other backup media. Take the thumb drive to the printer so they can load the file directly from the drive. Emailing such a large document requires compression, and compression can mess with the file quality.

Proofing the copy

The printer should offer you a test copy before the whole run of copies is made. Make sure the test copy matches your .pdf file, that blank pages are where they should be. Make sure the pages have been collated in the right order. Check the quality of the text; check the quality of the art reproduction. If all is well, give your approval. When the copies are delivered, check several of them, randomly, to make sure they’re as good as the test copy you approved.