Amateur Press Associations

A less grandiose approach to publishing your own fanzine is to join an amateur press association (apa).

An apa consists of a group of people who each publish a fanzine (called an apazine) specifically for the apa. Everyone sends a set number of copies of their apazine (equal to the number of members in the apa) to an Official Editor (OE) or Central Mailer (CM). The OE then collates all the apazines received and mails one copy of the resulting "mailing" to each member. Thus each member ends up with a package consisting of one copy of her own and everybody else's apazine.

Apas follow a set publishing schedule (monthly, bimonthly or quarterly) and usually set a minimum number of pages that each member must contribute over the course of the year. Any member who becomes inactive is automatically replaced by a new, more active, recruit.

A typical apazine will contain a diary-like update on the activities of its editor, one or more essays on some topic likely to be of interest to fellow apa members, and comments on the discussions in previous mailings. These "mailing comments" are the life blood of an apa. Imagine 50 pen pals all arguing with each other at the same time. Reading an apa mailing for the first time is not unlike walking into the middle of a cocktail party or an Internet Chat Room: You have no idea what anyone is talking about because you've missed the previous discussion. Not to worry; you'll catch on fast.

Apas provide several advantages for beginning fanzine publishers. First, since apas have a set membership, you know in advance exactly how large your printrun needs to be; there's no wastage. Second, since apas usually run between 25 and 70 members, printing costs are lower than with a larger circulation fanzine. Third, you don't have to keep track of subscription lists; that's the job of the Official Editor. All you do is send copies of your zine to the OE and s/he does the rest. Fourth, you are guaranteed an audience. Everyone in the apa is expected to read your zine (along with everyone else's) and comment on it in the next mailing. (Apas vary in the amount of energy devoted to mailing comments, and there are no rules saying anyone has to read what you write. In general, however, you can count on at least a few comments, and these will grow as people get to know you.) Fifth, since each member publishes his/her own material, you don't have to depend on anyone else to put out your zine. Finally, while apas contain some excellent writing, standards are relaxed. The style of most apas is similar to that of personal correspondence, so if you can write a friendly letter, you can manage an apazine.

Apas come in two varieties: regional, and topical.

Regional apas are organized by local groups for a particular city, province, country or transnational region. The core group is generally from said region, but the apa will include a percentage of outsiders who have some interest in getting to know fans from that area. Regional apas are great if you are planning to move to a new area a year or so down the line: You can correspond with the local fans via the apa and have a ready made set of friends waiting when you arrive. TAPA (Toronto), BCAPA (B.C.), and C/RAPA (Cascades/Rockies) were good examples of regional apas.

In theory, topical apas focus on a particular subject. The Final Frontier was a Star Trek apa, Galactus is a Marvel comics apa, and A Woman's Apa is a feminist apa. In my experience, however, apas tend to wander off topic after a couple of years. For example, I was Central Mailer of Galactus for a while, but I don't read comics, and I certainly wouldn't read Marvel comics if I did. I joined the apa because I had friends who were members and with whom I wanted to stay in touch. I never talked about comics, ignored their discussions on the topic, and still managed to contribute meaningfully to the apa and have a good time.

There are a few apas which escape these two classifications. The Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) (the oldest of fandom's apas) is international and general in nature. So is the WorldCon apa, WOOF, whose only connecting thread is that it's collated once a year at the WorldCon. The now defunct Apa-David was an apa for people of that name. And so on.

Whatever the focus, however, the tenor of an apa is set by its members, and changes as the membership changes. For example, one apa which was founded by communists and gays, was dominated ten years later by Republicans and fundamentalists. The only way to tell if an apa is one you would enjoy is to ask for a sample mailing.

Amateur press associations appear to be in decline as Internet listserves, chat rooms and web pages serve many of the same purposes but offer much faster turn around times between submission and feedback. Nevertheless, apas remain viable because there will always be those who prefer print media: Print encourages longer, more thoughtful argumentation than the web page or chat room "sound bite"; it is less ephemeral; and you can read it in the bath.

For a listing of current Canadian apas, check out Garth Spencer's Canadian Apas page. Alternatively, you can send $6.00 US to Eric Watts for a copy of The New Moon Directory ($6.00 US in North America, check for overseas rates) which is a listing of all current apas. Eric and The New Moon Directory can be located on the web at http://members.aol.com/newmoondir and via snailmail at 1161 Research Drive NE, Marietta GA 30066-5539 USA. (Whenever writing for information, always include a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you are writing to another country [the USA from Canada, for example) substitute International Reply Coupons (available from any post office) for the stamps.]

[Use the "next" button below to read about other types of fandoms.]

"Amateur Press Associations" is part of an article on sf Fandom by Robert Runté, but may be read independently. If you wish to begin at the beginning, start here.

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