[APAK logo] Issue #72, January 3rd, 1997

Fanzine Counts
by Victor M. Gonzalez
Staff Statistician

While wrapping up the first stage of this project I ran into an odd fact: the very publication you are holding brings to exactly eight the average number of pages per issue of Apak.

A few weeks ago I started compiling basic information about every issue of Apparatchik to generate some statistics. I'm hoping to run a semi-regular feature called "Apak Stat Box" to print the stuff I come up with.

I became interested in doing this when I put together a run of Apak, and spent some time rereading back issues. I started to wonder about some of the questions I'm answering here. I also realized that an index of the issues might come in handy in later years, and that if I put it off I would have to face even more work. Now, I'll put in an hour or two every 10 issues to keep up.

I'm also pre-empting the Joe Siclaris of the fannish firmament from doing the job for us; this way the statistics originate at home.

I did a capsule of each individual issue, and I also grouped issues in sets of 10. This is arbitrary, but it gives a clearer look at long-term trends.

Started by Andy Hooper in March, 1994, Apparatchik might be the greatest one-stamp frequent fanzine ever. Although no one could accuse it of being consistently brilliant, Apak has succeeded for two main reasons: it has had a consistent schedule, and a consistent approach. It serves both as a newszine and a place for opinion, analysis and humor.

Apak evolved distinctly over 70 issues. It started as a weekly, switched to bi-weekly with #11, and then to tri-weekly with #65. I joined the editorial team in #46, and carl juarez joined in #62. Starting with #26, people other than Andy started writing articles and columns. Andy first started listing the Apparatchiki in #35, giving credit for consistent contributions of all kinds.

Popular features such as Andy's "Fanzine Countdown" appeared (#27, Feb. 9, 1995), and became mainstays. Others, like Andy's "Air Kombat Korner" (#30, March 23, 1995; #31, April 6, 1995), peeled off and returned to base.

Once almost absent of art (there were four illos published in the first 50 issues), Apak now regularly features a number of graphic elements. The first 14 Apaks were dot-matrix printed. One of carl's contributions has been a readable and attractive desktop-published design that fits about 14,000 words in every 10-page issue.

Apak's page count stabilized after it started hitting 10 pages (now the usual length), because 12 pages is the edge of the envelope for a one-ounce letter. But the average number of pages has been ascending for many issues. After #33, the shortest issue was eight pages. The shortest after #10 was four pages. The longest issue (#40, Aug. 10, 1995) was 18 pages.

Apak has hit its publishing targets far more often than it has missed them. The publishing schedule will be examined in an upcoming Stat Box (without wibbling essay).

Behind the evolution of Apak, the production process has transformed. In the beginning, it was an evening's work for Andy to generate two or four pages on the old computer, and then an hour in the morning at the copy shop and the post office. Even six or eight pages might fit into an evening. Now, the machine starts humming anew every time an issue is finished. In the three weeks before the final production meeting, Apparatchiki from across the nation and the world file copy. Letters are typed in and distributed to the editors via e-mail. Responses are collected, and a final edit of the letter column is done every third Wednesday. The issue is laid-out Thursday, and the editors gather on Friday to make final adjustments and publish.

Despite the fact that many people now write regularly for Apak, Andy still produces the plurality of the material published. He keeps track of news and fanzines, writes essays and often responds at length to letters. He also maintains the physical plant.

Second to Andy, letters are the most consistent aspect of Apak.

Fanzine fandom evolved as a method of communication centered around letters. The functions and audience a fanzine serves are evident through the letter column. Apak has a fairly loyal core of many-time writers and also has involved a large portion of its mailing list in the conversation at one point or another.

So when I started keeping statistics, I paid a lot of attention to the letter column.

Even in the first 10 issues, five of which didn't have any letters, and which averaged 3.2 pages per issue, Andy published 32 locs from 20 different people. The second set of 10 issues, with 78 pages, contains 56 letters from 32 people. Letters often made up more than half of every issue before #50; they remain a large part of the fanzine.

There are two anomalous sets of 10 issues in terms of page count and letters published: #1 - 10, and #21 - 30. The first set is easy to explain; Andy was just starting the zine and it was still a weekly. The conversation was just getting warmed up, and people had only a few days to respond. Issues #21 - 30 reveal the only real slump in the overall curve; the largest issue was six pages, and only 34 letters were published. Andy was working hard on his free-lance stuff.

But issues #11 - 30 were also Home to the Enormous Loc, some running thousands of words and taking up a majority of the fanzine. Several of these letters could have stood as columns. The trend since then has been toward more, shorter letters.

Whether the subject was TAFF (which must qualify as the most-used topic), KTF reviews, fwa past presidents or one of the scores of non-fannish items that have come up, the Apak letter column remains a place where people address the fannish audience. For those heavy hitters listed in the box below, I thank you very much (and keep it up -- computing a a batting average after the 81st game doesn't mean the season is over).

A point about these numbers: an infield hit is not the same as a grand slam. I've counted the number of times readers show up in the letter column, not the length of their edited missives. Robert Lichtman and Ted White both easily beat George Flynn and Teddy Harvia in terms of word count. Howard Waldrop's seven letters are funnier than any other letter-writer's stuff, in my opinion. A statistic called "slugging percentage" might be invented that considered the number of appearances, the quality, and the word count, but that would be complicated, and I suspect, too subjective to be reduced numerically.

On a similar note, there are elements that shifted from issue to issue that I haven't factored in. For example, the number of words per page varies (generally trending up), something I've ignored in compiling numbers about pages per contributing writer. Another example: Apak only recently started WAHFing locs. So, the number of letters published is roughly equivalent to the number of letters received, but only up to #52. A third problem: the mailing list has expanded over time, enlarging the pool of potential letter writers.

There are many interesting numbers that are seemingly incalculable because the information is impossible or too difficult to obtain. For example, it might be fun to know what percentage of a particular letter-writer's submitted words were edited from the printed version. I suspect Gary Farber would be toward the top of that list, but I don't care to do the work.

If you think I've made a mistake (there are probably a few), please send me a note explaining the problem and referencing the issues needed to verify the error. I will include revised information when I update these tables.

I've spent hours putting the numbers together, and I've found the process ignores the most fun part: what is actually in those letters and articles. The conversation itself. Needless to say, as I pored over the issues, scanning for names in bold type, I frequently stopped to read.

It was rewarding.

Apak Stat Box: Letters of Comment

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A total of 458 letters of comment were published in a total of 556 pages from Apparatchik issue #1 (March 17, 1994) through issue #70 (Nov. 22, 1996). Only five issues, all in the first 10, had no locs at all.

A total of 125 people wrote an average of 3.66 published locs each over the 70-issue sample; 78 people were published more than once. The three loc leaders had at least one letter in each sample of 10 issues. Issue #40 (Aug. 10, 1995) had the most locs, with 15.

For timebinding purposes, #1 is dated March 17, 1994; #11, June 16; #21, Nov. 17; #31, April 6, 1995; #41, Aug. 24; #51, Jan. 18, 1996; #61, June 7.

Letters that weren't published are not counted. Multiple letters published in one issue count as one letter. "Average" equals the "total" divided by 70. "Total loccers" measures the number of individual letter writers in a sample. "Teddy Harvia" includes "David Thayer."

Apak Page and Loc Totals, Issues #1 - 70
1 - 1011 - 2021 - 3031 - 4041 - 5051 - 6061 - 70TotalAvg.
Total pages 32 78 56 94 102 96 98 556 7.94
Total locs 32 57 34 73 80 80 102 458 6.54
Total loccers 20 32 22 46 49 47 51 125 1.79
Total WAHFs 3 0 0 8 0 26 50 87 1.24
Locs per page 1.0 0.73 0.6 0.78 0.78 0.83 1.04

Apak Loc Leaders, Issues #1 - 70

1 - 1011 - 2021 - 3031 - 4041 - 5051 - 6061 - 70TotalAvg.
George Flynn374644735.500
Robert Lichtman213246826.371
Teddy Harvia334363325.357
Ted White351013417.243
Vicki Rosenzweig033332317.243
Harry Warner Jr.330122314.200
Joseph Nicholas002532113.186
Richard Brandt220040311.157
Don Fitch230221010.143
Walt Willis02131119.129
Steve Jeffery00013138.114
E. B. Frohvet00000538.114

Reaching for the Mendoza line: 28 letters from four people (Algernon D'Ammassa, Greg Benford, Murray Moore and Howard Waldrop) tied with seven letters (.100); 60 letters from 10 people tied with six letters (.086); 24 letters from six people tied with four letters (.057); 42 letters from 14 people tied with three letters (.043); 64 letters from 32 people tied with two letters (.029); and 47 letters from 47 people tied with one letter (.014).

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"Pontius Pilate at ten o'clock!"

[APAK logo] Issue #72, January 3rd, 1997

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Next article: Hard Physics: The Many Volume Series II, by Greg Benford.