Zine Awards: Frequently Asked Questions

It’s that time again! The Broken Pencil Zine Awards is back, and hundreds of zines from around the world will soon fly through the atmosphere and make their way to our tiny attic office, each with dreams of becoming this year’s champion project. It’s always pretty awe inspiring to watch as our shelves and boxes (and inboxes, oof) begin to overflow, ready for us to to dive in and learn about all kinds of new and amazing projects.

In order to make the submission process easier, we put together a little FAQ that covers everything from eligibility to mailing to fees and beyond.

I want to submit! Where do I send my zine?

Take a look at our How to Enter the Zine Awards page for a step-by-step guide about entering the Zine Awards. The short version is you fill out the form, upload your zine PDF(s) and pay the fee all in one place: our Submittable page. Then you mail us two copies each of your physical zines (if you are submitting these as well). Mail them with the Submittable receipt enclosed to Broken Pencil Zine Awards, PO Box 203, Stn P, Toronto, ON M5S 2S7 Canada; OR you can send to our American address: Broken Pencil c/o Gutter Pop Comics 1421 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216, United States

What counts as a zine?

We welcome all levels of experience and practice, from long-time zinesters to first time creators! Not sure if your publication counts as a zine? Let’s figure it out!
  • What is a zine? In general, zines are shorter, do-it-yourself or community-based publications. Zines can take many forms and have many traditions. They are produced independently (rather than by a publisher or magazine). Many, but certainly not all zines are photocopied, staple- or thread-bound and affordable (folks like to break these rules, too!). Zine titles can be one-offs or serialized in multiple issues. Lots of zine creators share their work through personal networks, zine distributors, zine festivals and fairs, and online. Check out brokenpencil.com to see hundreds of examples.
  • Signs your entry might not be a zine include: it costs more than $20, it has an ISBN number, it has no pages or no printed form, it’s longer than 100 pages, it’s literally just a Word document, you’re pretty sure it’s not a zine after looking at examples. That said, there are exceptions to every rule (except for the Word doc thing). Chapbooks, micro-journals, and art zines in particular might be exceptions to these due to length, publisher, or price. If you’re really not sure, email [email protected] and ask us what we think!

Do you accept older zines?

All publications entered should be made since May 1st of the previous year (so for the 2023 zine awards, no zines made before May 1st 2022).

Do you accept zines in different languages?

We accept entries from anywhere in the world, but non-English language works should be accompanied by translation so our judges can fully evaluate them. Otherwise, we’ll do our best!

Do you accept longer self-published works such as novels?

We will accept entries from 1 to 100 pages in length. Because of the large volume of entries, we can’t guarantee that the judges will read more than 15,000 words of any given entry. Thanks for understanding!

What if my zine doesn’t fit neatly into one of your categories for submission?

We understand that zines, by their nature, don’t always fit neatly into genres or formats. Some are hybrids while some are something completely different. Please just pick the category that is the closest fit. If you are really having a hard time deciding, email us at [email protected] and we’ll do our best to offer some guidance.

What are the judges looking for?

All zines will be judged in comparison with other entrants in the same category by multiple people with experience in the relevant zine worlds. There’s no perfect formula for the zine that stands out the most, and typically the judging is pretty darn agonizing. Overall, we’re looking for zines that are impactful for the reader, that enrich the landscape of its category, that are well printed and packaged, and that surprise us. But of course, this varies with the genre, the judge, and the pool of zines we’re looking at. Above all, submit a zine that you loved making and that you are excited to share, not a zine that was made with the Zine Awards in mind – zines with big hearts go a long way.

Why does it cost money to enter the zine awards?

The zine awards are a ton of work — coordinating hundreds of entries, making sure all of them get read and fairly judged my multiple people, promoting the zine awards through advertising, social media and outreach, organizing the ceremony, answering people’s questions — this all takes tons of labour from the team at Broken Pencil. The fees charged go towards this administrative work, and if you are new to BP, you get a subscription in return. Subscriptions are critical to independent magazines in order to survive and plan long-term, so that’s why we package it into the fee (and current subscribers pay less to enter the Zine Awards.

Shouldn’t something like the zine awards be free, though?

Of course, we understand that for many people in the community, zines are supposed to be lo-fi and DIY and therefore cheap or free, and by extension, zine-related projects should also be cheap or free. We at BP recognize honour the tradition of volunteer-driven DIY culture and view these values as essentially driven by a desire to make the medium and community as accessible as possible. While our operations include paid staff and the exchange of money in order to survive, we would never want any of the requisite fees or processes to act as a barrier to someone participating. Anyone who cannot afford to pay the full fee should email [email protected] in order to access sliding scale options — we will not interrogate you! We’re nice and understanding, promise. Above all, we want all the zines!