At Paper Planes, our love for indie magazines intensifies at an alarming rate with every new indie title we get introduced to. And more so, when we get to know the fascinating and inspiring stories about how these magazines are put together. So today, we walk backstage with the Gaysi Zine.
The Gaysi Zine comes from the well-known Gaysi Family, an eclectic group that’s been relentlessly working towards creating meaningful conversations within and about the queer community in South Asia through various platforms. The Gaysi Zine is an integral part of the group. Armed with its latest graphic anthology edition, which happens to be its fourth, The Gaysi Zine has been consistently successful in blending some very fine content with stunning and inventive design.
Well, how do they do it? The editor of The Gaysi Zine, Priya Gangwani, answers this and many other questions patiently over an email. Here are the edited excerpts:
Before The Gaysi Zine started off, Gaysi Family was already a well-established community. What prompted you to start a print magazine in the first place?
You know what happens when you come across a precious story? You want to archive it, preserve it somewhere where it won’t get lost. I guess that was the real motivation behind going in print when everyone else was going digital. Online, you can delete stories, and update them. But stories once printed on paper, remain forever.
Also, one of the core reasons behind starting Gaysi was to connect with other queer people in India. While we managed to connect with thousands of readers and writers in a virtual world, the Zine allowed us to connect with people in a much more tangible way. It pushed us out of our bedrooms and the anonymity of the Internet!
Tell us a bit about the magazine's print run, costing, funding, distribution, etc. How do you monetize it or plan to? What is the lead time from creation to production?
Oh dear! This one is not easy to answer.
Well, the magazine’s production cost has varied from issue to issue primarily because we played with all the factors – size, number of pages, type of paper, color, B&W. But on an average it costs over 1.0 lakh to print 600 copies. This cost does not include the little remuneration we pay to our contributors as a token of appreciation and other logistic expenses.
We have kept the cost minimal to ensure it is affordable and accessible to all! Zine 1 was distributed at zero cost because we wanted to test waters and see if there’s even a market for a queer magazine. Zine #2 was priced at INR 130 while Zine #3 was revised to INR 150.
The first two issues were self-funded while the third one was crowdfunded. We managed to raise over 1.5 lakhs for the last issue. It told us one thing very boldly – people love the zine and the stories it tells!
The distribution is primarily through the website, and our own events pan India. We have partnered with a few indie bookstores in India, UK, Germany, and San Francisco; but the alarming rate at which bookstores are shutting shop is quite upsetting and has not helped.
The time it takes to produce an issue is around 7 to 8 months. We send the call out for entries in the month of April-May; and release the magazine in the month of November.
What are some of the specific publication challenges in terms of pricing, subscription and frequency? And what have been some of the important learnings so far?
The biggest challenge has been pricing the zine at a value where it is affordable to all. We are at a disadvantage as compared to the mainstream magazines on two fronts: advertisements, and number of copies.
Since we publish very limited copies – our production cost is much higher, and we haven’t included ads as yet for we feel that we need to find right brand partners to collaborate with.
The zine is a pure labor of love – and we do it solely for our love for stories and storytelling. The most important learning has been to curate a collection of queer sensibilities and not just LGBTQ writings. Queerness is a sensibility, a politics and the third issue captures its nerve very well. The content and visuals reflect the intricacies of an innocent human mind, its liking, flaws, memories, and desires... It is a symphony of life in words and visuals.
The magazines are beautifully produced. Tell us about the work chemistry (writing-art) you guys share and about your work process while producing an issue.
It was back in 2010 that Karishma Dorai (The creative art director of The Gaysi Zine) and Gaysi Family were introduced, and it was love at first sight. We loved her work and she loved ours. She had a profound understanding of our predilections; be it love for bold design, outrageous colors or for illustrations that enhance the text and not distract from it. It is this sensibility that she has used in every page of the zine. Right from the inception of this edition, we discussed every piece extensively and pushed each other to bring out the best content and visuals. There is a profound harmony between text and visuals for this same reason.
How do you guys decide on the cover of the magazine? (The third issue's cover is a story in itself. It's so good!)
The cover of the magazine is usually inspired by the content it holds. It’s the visual voice to every promise and dream it holds within. The last (third) issue’s content is very raw and delicate, a foray into intimacy. Hence, the cover page was entirely laid down by hand – making it very personal – an act of love. Every jar reflected a story within, and the setup – an everyday thing, making queerness a part of every regular thing!
Why did you decide to change the size of the magazine? Or is the size going to be flexible for every issue?
Zine 1 was sized in a way so that you could fold it and keep it in your back pocket! And with the subsequent issues – we experimented with size as much as we experimented with the style, visuals, and content.
The last one resembles a mag more closely than any other issue and we intend to stick with this one for now!
What are the criteria for selecting or commissioning the pieces for the print magazine?
Any piece, which has no angst usually, finds its place in The Gaysi Zine.
On a more sincere note – we consider all pieces that somewhere explore the beauty and fluidity of our experiences in this world. Every piece is a new conversation – an attempt to discover self and what it takes to celebrate our singular experience of Queerness!
How does the magazine fit in the larger scheme of things?
Everything we do at Gaysi is around a single chord – conversations and connectedness.
Dirty Talk created the bridge between queer and the so-called straight folks and created a platform to discuss everything considered “dirty” but essential and very much a part of our social fabric, the zine further took that conversation into people’s bedrooms.
The recent Drag King show Tape was equally a conversation starter for the much invisible drag culture and an attempt to create coherent reaching out towards the Drag King performers and their performances, to value their work and tell them that we desire them!
What specifically attracts you to print magazines?
We love the smell of books and enjoy the experience of turning pages, which reveal a whole new world full of possibilities and human experiences.
And it thrills to see how it finds its way into bookstores, libraries, a coffee table, on a bookshelf in one’s living room and sometimes under a pillow! How is continues to remind us of some memorable journeys, choices, and emotions undergirding the lives we live.
What are some of the future plans for The Gaysi Zine? What kind of new formats/innovations we can expect?
Every issue is a byproduct of some mad passionate desire. With the upcoming issue – we will see a queer world of graphic stories, doodles, graffiti, comics, and infographics. As for the future – I’d say stay open to surprises.
Lastly, tell us a bit more about the core team at work for the print magazine.
It’s a very small team of four people. I am the editor and curator of the content. There’s Karishma Dorai - the creative art director – who single-handedly designs the entire magazine. Anuja Parikh helps in raising funds and creating offline possibilities for the Zine. And Sakshi is our one man army for everything – finding the printing guy, figuring out the distribution, costing, and selling; marketing it, doing fun publicity on our social media channels and everything else under the sky!
Follow Payal: Twitter @thefloatingbed