Our subjective and cumulative reviews of: The Chicago Art Book Fair, Detroit Art Book Fair, Vancouver Art Book Fair, DiNK Denver, Chicago Zine Fest, Denver Zine Fest, Pikes Peak Zine Fest, Miami Zine Fair, from most recently attended to last attended.
Here’s a wiki of every art book fair and zine fest from our friends at Temporary Services.
Years: 2017, 18, & 19 – all three years!
Dates: Mid November. In 2019 it was Nov. 15th-17th
Entry: Honestly I’m not sure on this one as Manny from Flatlands always fills out our shared table entry form for us. Manny is a man who doesn’t not like to type a lot, so it’s probably on the chill side. Cost in 2019 for us was $110 for a half table – but that’s because Manny owed us a little money. So a full table is between $200 and $250.
Curation: CABF is pretty tightly curated by CABF Directors Imani Jackson, Aay Preston-Myint, Conor Stechschulte & Alexander Valentine. Flatlands and is PRESS did some print work for Almighty & Insane Books last year and our table was right next to theirs. Our Oakland friends and conceptual risograph presses A Magic Mountain and National Monument Press were right next to each other. This is the result of the curators knowing who their participants are and what their relationships are, which is always impressive when it actually comes together. Other fairs take note: THIS is pro curation.
Organization: This fair runs super smooth. Communication is timely and thorough without being overwhelming or TMI.
Venue: Every year the CABF has been held at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. This is a great location, convenient to get to for patrons, and even pulls in some foot traffic. The only bummer is the fair is split onto two floors – though one floor is the bottom of a repurposed olympic swimming pool and the other floor is a basketball court – so that’s fun.
Crowd: M-XL. The crowd is pretty steady generally and goes through bursts where it feels like you’re working the McDonalds drive-through for the breakfast rush. Lots of high-brow conversations but people tend to buy something if they’ve bent your ear for more than 15 minutes.
Sales: Our goal is $300 every eight hours. This fair is 18 hours total. We $655 in sales or $36.38/hr.. Definitely enough to make the trip profitable.
City: (Same as Chicago Zine Fest.) Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world! Flights and transit are reasonable and convenient. The venue for this fair is right across the street from Millennium Park and The Art Institute of Chicago, both worth checking out. Any zinester trip to Chicago MUST include a pilgrimage to the mecca – Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park. But don’t show up at Quimby’s the Sunday at noon after the fest to consign zines if you have a 4pm flight because the line will be looonnggg. And the weather in November is always a bummer…
Years: 2019 – the first iteration of this fest!
Dates: October 5th
Entry: The call for entry was your standard issue 5-page google form which asked about your publishing practice, titles, ect… Nothing particularly noteworthy or painful. (Pro tip, write this in a text document and save it for applying to the next fest!) The cost for a full table was only $10! Cheapest ever!
Curation: Pikes Peak Zine Fest had a good mix of local and regional publishers all focused on zines. We could see this having a larger draw in future years. Overall rookie zine fest curators Kels Choo and Jennifer Eltringham did a great job.
Organization: This was one of THE MOST organized fests we’ve ever been to.
Venue: Knights of Columbus Hall was a pretty standard venue for a zine fest. Not too classy not too trashy. Parking is an issue if you don’t reserve a spot with the organizers ahead of time. This venue may not be big enough for the fest to grow.
Crowd: M – most were looking to buy, but there were DEFINITELY some talkers (more on this below under “City”.)
Sales: Strong sales – the fest was only 4 hours long and we averaged $50/hr.!
City: Certain sales associates of is PRESS have a long-standing policy regarding Colorado Springs… which is to never go to Colorado Springs. Some exceptions may be made and this fest would certainly qualify. However, if you’re gonna’ head on down to the Springs you better buckle up because there is at least one creepy Christian dad who is gonna spend 30+ minutes trying to talk you into publishing his book about a pregnant teen set right after 9/11. YIKES! Colorado Springs is primarily known for being the home of Focus On The Family, U.S. Air Force Academy, Cheyenne Mountain (A hardened nuclear bunker that houses NORAD), and a big ass military base. So, your typical military and fundie flotsam and jetsam. NO GENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOMS IN THIS TOWN! Closest direct flights would be to Denver ~ 90 minutes if there is no traffic and there’s NEVER no traffic… Ladyfingers Letterpress is pretty cool though. So is the Press at Colorado Collage. And you know, Pikes Peak is STUNNING and you can drive to the 14,115 summit.
Years: 2015, 16, 17, 18, & 19! Every year since the fest was revived in 2015
Dates: End of June. June 23rd in 2019.
Entry: Typical 4-5 page google form questionnaire asking about your practice and titles. They put a primacy on vendors who sell 50% or more zines and vendors who are from, or publish content from, underrepresented groups. Full table cost = $50.
Curation: Really solid curation by Kelly Shortandqueer and the Denver Zine Library crew! There’s a good mix of local and national zinesters with a fun side of people selling prints, buttons, patches, and swag. The curation of DZF rides the line between refined and inclusive – which always results in a great mix of vendors.
Organization: DZF is super organized, more or less the same crew organizes DiNK in the same venue and they’ve got it dialed. Communication is always timely and thorough.
Venue: (Same as DiNK.) McNichols Civic Center in Denver is by far THE CLASSIEST fest venue we’ve ever been too. This marble columned 1909 Greek revival building is truly beautiful with a large open floor plan and huge windows. McNichols is also in the center of Denver in Civic Center Park. Parking, however is f’d and the building is not well served by transit. Lightrail to downtown and the free 16th St. bus is your best bet.
Crowd: XL – Large crowds with cash in hand. I (Peter) tried to fly solo for the first half last year and had to call Heather after an hour because I had people three deep from before the fest even officially opened and the table was set up! I lost my voice by 4pm!
Sales: We make more money at this one day zine fest than multi-day Art Book Fairs! As mentioned at the top of the article we consider it a good day if we make $300 in 8 hours. In 2019 we pulled in $599! $74.86 an hour! This is a hectic pace of sales and requires 2 people WORKING constantly – limited bathroom breaks or opportunities to check out other tables. Keep in mind this is our hometown fest so we’ve got a lot of local fans. Even people we don’t know have seen our work before which always helps.
City: (Same as DiNK.) Denver is beautiful in late June! There’s a lot typically going on in the city but a rental car and a few hours will get you to Rocky Mountain National Park or other spectacular nature sites in peak season. Denver has lots of direct flights and a $12 train into downtown. When in Denver check out Mutiny Information Cafe and the surrounding Baker neighborhood and Kilgore Books, Wax Tracks and the surrounding Capitol Hill Neighborhood.
Years: 2016, 17, 18, & 19 – four years running!
Dates: Mid-May. May 18th in 2019
Entry: The entry process for CZF has been A SH!T SHOW for the last couple of years. It’s universally hated on. Basically, it’s first come first serve and the interest is like 500% of capacity. So, it’s like trying to get tickets to Radiohead. You MUST be refreshing your browser continuously when the registration is about to go live and race through the entry form in order to secure your table within the first 10 minutes of the link going live or you are SOL. In 2018 the google form crashed for a lot of people. By the time they got it refreshed the fair was sold out… For 2020 they are going to a lottery which hopefully fixes this chaotic registration process. With both the old and the new model, it’s best if you partner up with someone else and you both try to get a half-table. (No full tables are available.) If you both get a table you can gang it up into a shared full table. Table cost = $40 for a half table.
Curation: None – see above. Well they do let you request who you do or do not want to table next to.
Organization: Once you get in, the fest runs really smoothly. They always have a really good visual presence and marketing with cool swag like buttons and posters. Communication is spare and to the point with everything you need to know when you need to know it. Their website is always up to date with all the info you need on the fest and surrounded programming.
Venue: The Plumber’s Union Hall in Chicago is a cool old Art Deco building on the near west side. It’s fairly convenient to get to from the Green Line to Union Park. There’s also a big parking lot for easy Lyft drop off and pick up. A large open floor plan make for scores of instagram shots from the balcony showing off how truly massive this fest is.
Crowd: XL. A LOT of people go through CZF – however, competition is stiff with almost 300 vendors. Good sales are predicated on cheaply priced zines, saying hi with a smile to everyone who walks by, and the uncontrollable factor of table placement.
Sales: Fair to poor – 2018 was pretty great! We did $358 – despite needing to go outside for an hour due to an anxiety attack AND sharing a half table with Flatlands Press (so like 1/4 table)! 2019 was pretty slow, only $162 or $23.14/hr. which didn’t come close to covering travel costs.
City: (Same as Chicago Art Book Fair.) Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world! Flights and transit are reasonable and convenient. Any zinester trip to Chicago MUST pilgrimage to the mecca – Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park. The weather in November is always a bummer…
Years: 2016, 17, 18, & 19! Every year since the fest began in 2016!
Dates: Mid April, April 14th & 15th in 2019
Entry: In addition to a fairly robust google form questionnaire DiNK asks for a portfolio submission. So there is some time commitment to apply. Full tables are consummate with Art Book Fair prices. Full table = $191.79. Since that’s an odd non-round number we’re suspecting the DiNK crew is actually keeping it as low as possible to cover the costs and make sure that the organizers for this (not non-profit) fest are compensated for their obvious hard work.
Curation: DiNK has really solid curation by Charlie Lagreca, Kelly Shortandqueer, Bonnie Grahm, Lonnie Allen and a lot of other people. This is a complex fest that pulls in comic con types with comics and graphic novels, zinesters, art book people, and vendors of prints, patches, stickers and swag. It’s a super diverse mix without lopsided representation of any one type of vendor or clustering of similar vendors in the floor plan. It’s excellent curation with a complex and diverse model.
Organization: DiNK demonstrates the difference between a professional fest that’s competing with comic con type events and your typical volunteer run zine fest. These people are SO one top of things. The communication with vendors, and external marketing to the public are all top rate. The fest itself runs really smoothly – even with a tight load-in/out set-up, a zillion people, and a full slate of programming.
Venue: (Same as Denver Zine Fest.) McNichols Civic Center in Denver is by far THE CLASSIEST fest venue we’ve ever been too. This is a marble columned 1909 Greek revival building is beautiful with a large open floor plan with huge windows. McNichols is also in the center of Denver in Civic Center Park. Parking, however is f’d and the building is not well served by transit. Lightrail to downtown and the free 16th St. bus is your best bet.
Crowd: L-XL. There is always steady traffic for both days with people interested in both chatting and buying. DiNK always has a beer sponsor so people get a little loose which can be good for sales. We always outfit our table with a couple drink holders as we’ve noticed that people won’t engage with the work with a drink in hand OR try to set their wet beer on our paper merch. Because of the nature of this event the crowd is super diverse with everyone from your standard issue zine fair hipster, to bedroom troll middle-aged graphic novel geeks, to cosplay kooks.
Sales: DiNK is our top grossing fest every year. We’ve even put off applying to the LA Art Book Fair every year because it’s the same weekend as DiNK. (And we don’t have to spend anything on travel to DiNK since it’s a hometown fest.) In 2019 we did $722 in sales during this 18 hour 2-day fest. $40.11 an hour.
City: (Same as Denver Zine Fest.) Denver is beautiful in Spring (with a chance of afternoon rain)! There’s a lot typically going on in the city and DiNK is centrally located. Denver has lots of direct flights and a $12 train into downtown. When in Denver check out Mutiny Information Cafe and the surrounding Baker neighborhood and Kilgore Books, Wax Tracks and the surrounding Capitol Hill Neighborhood.
Years: 2019 – this fest had been dormant since 2014.
Dates: Beginning of April. April 6th and 7th in 2019
Entry: The entry process was easy peasy. There was a quick entry form, but we got the impression they could accommodate everyone who wanted a table. I recall we were confirmed for a table even before the call for entries was over. Half table = $30 for 2 days! Plus we got upgraded to a full table toward the end of the first day with no additional charge!
Curation: Though I’m not sure this is curated per-se (I think everyone who wants to table can) the work was consistently high quality. This may reflect the high quality of work published and distributed by the organizers art EXILE Books leading by example. Mostly locals and regional Florida publishers were tabling this fest, including our acronym sister press IS Projects from Ft. Lauderdale! We were one of the few publishers that flew in for the fest – though someone from the UK was there!
Organization: Amanda Season Keeley of EXILE Books is a Printed Matter NY alumni and it shows. This was a really well run small fest and Amanda was a great host – checking in with vendors and managing the event while also holding down an EXILE Books table.
Venue: The Little Haiti Cultural Center is an indoor/outdoor space typically used for community cultural events and pop-up markets. There was some overlap between the regular weekend market of Haitian immigrants selling hand made wares and the zine fair, which could have been weird but really wasn’t. I even bought a cool handmade necklace from a local for Heather for only $20! There were some challenges with the venue that fell into the “act of god” category which were not (could not be?) addressed. About halfway through the first day a transformer in the neighborhood blew up (with an audible boom). That cut the power to the venue for several hours. There was plenty of natural light but without any AC or fans it got super super muggy and hot. It is Miami – so generally speaking it’s hot AF – even in April. There was an option to pay more for a table inside – which we happy did. We’ve done a couple of outdoor events and have by and large sworn them off as ANY amount of weather and zines DO NOT MIX.
Crowd: Like Miami itself the crowd was super diverse. Your typical pasty white zine fest hipsters were few and far in between at this fest. So, it was a great opportunity to get our publications in front of a different demographic of people.
Sales: Heather’s work, especially PASSAGE, did exceptionally well at Miami Zine Fest. Our distro also did really well. Our is PRESS publications didn’t do as well. coats4TEENS – which documents a winter coat drive for irresponsible teens who left the house without their coats on – didn’t translate AT ALL. Overall we did $381.00 in 10 hours or $38.10/hr. Pretty much on pace with what we would consider worth it to travel but certainly not exceeding expectations. We’ll likely continue to go to this fest as Heather’s twin sister lives in South Beach!
City: Miami is beautiful in early Spring. It is SO lush and tropical. Though I find it unbearably hot and muggy for my nordic constitution, it is a nice break if you’re coming from a wintery climate. Miami is a very cultural city with a lot to do in the way of food, music, and art in addition to some of the worlds most beautiful urban beaches. Winwood Walls is super cool as is the Pérez Art Museum. Also EXILE Books, is a mandatory tour stop (though they likely aren’t open during the fest aside from maybe an after party) and DALE Zine Shop downtown.
Years: Tabled in 2018, Randomly attended in 2019!
Dates: Late October. October 18th-20th in 2019.
Entry: VABF has a pretty extensive entry form asking questions about your publishing practice and titles that will be available at the fair. Table fees are pretty steep $150 CN for half a table ($119.05 US).
Curation: Vancouver Art Book Fair is a professional organization run by Executive Director Lisa Curry and a team of nine designers and coordinators. Each year has a guest curator. In 2019 it was Founding Editor of Emily Carr University Press Kathy Slade. The curation is not an afterthought at this fair. In 2018 when we tabled, and 2019 when we stopped in to check it out, there was a very high level of work consistently across all vendors. The fair takes place at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and it seems like a certain number of tables are set aside for the students, which provide a good balance to the otherwise international roster of heavy hitters.
Organization: This fest is ultra-organized. No aspect of this fest didn’t appear to be meticulously planned. Communication, both in email and on the website was super thorough and timely. Plus it all had a tone of professionalism that communicated a level of respect for the exhibiting artists that’s not always successfully conveyed by fest organizers. They had enthusiastic volunteers, a newsprint program, free tote bags, and an extensive marketing campaign. VABF employs four Marketing and Design people on their staff and it shows.
Venue: Emily Carr University of Art and Design is a long standing Vancouver art school that is in a brand new building as of 2017. Prior to its new location on the industrial fringe of downtown it was located on Granville Island – also a major tourist destination. The new building is immaculate with a contemporary and colorful take on Bauhaus architecture. The fest takes place in the foyer, wide hallways, and student exhibition spaces. The only drawback to this space, in this location, is that it’s out of the way for normal pedestrian traffic and doesn’t pull in anyone off the street as the events at the old campus on Granville Island did.
Crowd: S-M. The best and worst thing about holding an Art Book Fair at an art school is the art school students. The best part is the crowd is super engaged, very curious about the work, and is uniformly interested in having fairly high-brow conversations about the books and zines being exhibited. The worst thing about the students is they’re broke… Also attendance was sparse. The fest was three days and there were plenty of times when it was totally dead. The crowd would be better if it was a two day fest. They made a big deal in their marketing about the first 1000 people getting a free tote bag. When we were looking for a bathroom toward the end of the last day we stumbled across a room FULL of BOXES of still unclaimed tote bags. It’s got to be the off the beaten path location as VABF really did a killer job with marketing.
Sales: Side note on selling work internationally: it’s stressful sneaking your product in through customs! We even tried to do the right thing and look into declaring our goods and paying an import tax but the paperwork was so cumbersome and confusing we gave up. In terms of directly selling at the event another challenge are point-of-sale apps. Square doesn’t work. PayPal doesn’t work. We had to download Stripe as it was the only point-of-sale app that worked internationally. Unfortunately Stripe has the highest use fee (2.9%) and tacks on a steep foreign transaction fee (30¢ per transaction). Also, due to the exchange rates, you need to charge $7 CN for your zine to get your $5 US. But, Canadians are not walking around considering the exchange rate. $7 is $7 in Canada. So, if you’ve arrived at pricing something for $5 US due to its perceived worth, it’s still going to be perceived of as worth $5 CN in Canada – and it’s not going to sell well at $7 CN. Also, low attendance by broke students combined with ace curation means there’s pretty stiff competition for not many buyers. AND… Vancouver is expensive AF… We did $373.85 US in 14 hours over three days or $26.70/hr – well below what we need to make to cover expenses. We lost boatloads of money on this one. In 2019, coming off of an 950 mile hiking trip we stopped by the book fair. NONE of the US vendors from 2018 were there, only fresh victims…
City: Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world… when it’s not raining. But it WILL be raining. We’re pretty spoiled in Denver with 245 sunny days a year; but, when we were in Vancouver we thought the weather was pretty so-so, overcast and intermittently raining. EVERYONE, seriously every person, told us we were SO LUCKY to have SUCH GREAT WEATHER… Eventually I had to ask, “Is the weather here usually terrible?” The answer was that it pretty much rains for all of fall. So, pack rain gear and an umbrella. Pack your books inside of trash compactor bags inside your luggage because otherwise everything will be wet. Other than that Vancouver has awesome cultural amenities, restaurants, murals, and parks. We went to Stanley Park with our time off and it was awe inspiring.
Years: Tabled in 2018.
Dates: Early October, October 12th and 13th in 2019.
Entry: Organization of The Detroit Art Book Fair changed hands after 2018 so entry, organization, and curation are likely different than they were in 2018 – so, I’m only speaking to my experience in 2018. We did have work in the fair in 2019 at the Flatlands Press table but I was on a 950 mile hiking trip so I wasn’t there. In 2018 DABF had a single page html website with an email link. We emailed a link to our work and got a somewhat slow reply that our work basically fit in with what they were doing at the fair and a PayPal link for a $60 payment, with the caveat that it was first come first serve. That $60 was for a full table – about half the price of even an inexpensive Art Book Fair.
Curation: In 2018 the curation was basically someone skimming whatever link you sent them to make sure you were somewhat credible. At the actual event tables were first come first serve. I actually loved this. I always get to fairs to set up early and was able to get a killer table placement. I think the 2019 fair organizers stepped up their game in this regard though and actually somewhat curated the fair. Add any intel in the comments below.
Organization: In 2018 organization and communication was minimal. The organizer was doing their last DABF and seemed to already have one foot out the door. In looking into the 2019 fair it seems like the new organizers (not named on their site) have stepped it up a bit. I actually found the lack of pretense, the low bar of entry, and the low cost for a table to be totally refreshing! So, I hope they don’t professionalize DABF too much going forward and keep it kind of low-key.
Venue: Trinosophes in a coffee shop with a large exhibition space. It also houses long-time Detroit based anarchist press Black and Red. The space is really large and accommodating for a coffee shop but a bit tight for a full-on Art Book Fair. The thing that struck me was that a space like Trinosophes no longer exists in ANY even slightly gentrified city ANYWHERE in the US. No coffee shop can afford 5,000 sq. ft., half of which they leave empty in case someone wants to have an art show or punk concert. Detroit and Trinosophes are keeping the dream alive. Also – great coffee…
Crowd: This whole thing had a very local scene / alt-family feel. It reminded me of Denver in the 90’s. There were lots of locals and a heavy contingent of Chicago publishers (of which is PRESS is an honorary member). The crowd seemed to be people who knew someone vending or knew someone who knew someone vending or were part of a pretty tight knit Detroit scene. So, it was a really friendly vibe. We even went out to dinner with what seemed like half the fair to a super awesome Yemeni restaurant!
Sales: People in Detroit don’t have a lot of money… You get a sense right away that this place never quite recovered from the recession. That being said, people were interested in picking up some zines and books. Our cheaper zines did a lot better than the more expensive books. We did have one guy middle aged guy in a Staten Island style leather jacket with a turtleneck and a leggy young blonde hanging off of him roll through and – on a thick Russian accent – buy all our remaining copies of God In A Bottle – a super macabre zine about type 1 diabetes by Frank Kwiatkowski that we publish. So, that was neat… We did $621.00 in sales over 10 hours or $62.10 an hour – which was more than enough to cover our travel and to qualify as a good fest!
City: Detroit is abandoned! If you live in a city like Denver that’s had steady property development and gentrification for over a decade, Detroit has the feel of a ghost town. No one’s out walking around, there’s not a lot of traffic, there’s tons of empty buildings. It was awesome! The segment of the hipster diaspora who went to Detroit instead of LA once Brooklyn and SF were officially over made the correct move. We met a young couple at the Yemeni restaurant who bought a victorian house for $5,000 and then proceeded to buy up most of the rest of their block! This type of opportunity simply does not exist in any other metropolitan city in the U.S.. The city of Detroit had a derelict property auction several years ago in which there was NO minimum bid (i.e. you could buy an abandoned house for $1.) The aggregate area of property that DID NOT SELL was geographically larger than the city of Boston. Because of this a lot of interesting creative stuff is happening in Detroit – see the “Venue” heading above. The Eastern Market where the fair is located is billed as a hip up and coming neighborhood of bars, restaurants, and buldings covered in murals. However, as opposed to say RiNO in Denver, it’s in no way bougie or full of roving hordes of drunk Chads. The nearby Signal Return community letterpress shop is also worth a visit as are the Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Thanks for reading our subjecting reviews of the Art Book Fair and Zine Fests we tabled at in 2018/19! In 2020 we plan to hit all of the above besides Vancouver and might go back to ABQ Zine Fest in Albuquerque which we tabled at in 2017, try out Santa Fe Zine Fest, and we’ve already applied to the LA Art Book Fair!
We’ve left the comments on! Feel free to add your two cents!