How Books That Matter sparks community conversations with a zine

Astrea zine created by Books That Matter. Printed by Newspaper Club.

Books That Matter is a monthly subscription box introducing readers to exciting new fiction by female and non-binary authors. Since launching in 2018, they’ve grown to 2,000 monthly subscribers – plus a community of over 175,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok, where they share book news and reading recommendations.

“The conversation never ends with just the book,” says partnerships manager Elle Borthwick. That’s why Books That Matter is keeping the discussion going with a new zine, printed on our tabloid newspapers. It’s called Astrea (one of Aphra Behn’s pen names) and features interviews with authors and readers, tips for running a book club, literary horoscopes and more.

They’d originally planned to publish Astrea quarterly, but customers love it so much that they’ve decided to print a new issue every month. “There’s nothing like the smell of a good book,” says Elle. “Although the smell of freshly printed newsprint comes a close second!”

Elle Borthwick Books That Matter

Below, Elle tells us how they’re using the zine to build stronger relationships with their community and walks us through the process of making the first issue, from finding inspiration in teen magazines to designing the layout in Canva (using our free templates!)

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The idea

We’d included an A5 booklet in our book subscription boxes in the past, but stopped this as part of our efforts to reduce paper waste. However we heard from so many subscribers that they missed our zine, and we missed creating it. So we decided to bring it back in a more sustainable format – Newspaper Club’s traditional tabloids!

There’s something gorgeously nostalgic about reading a physical tabloid and we knew our subscribers would love the tangibility of newsprint. Plus, the format allows for more creativity with the layout with plenty of space for words (and we love to talk).

Getting started

Our first step was to order a free sample pack. Being able to feel the different papers helped us choose the right one for this project (55gsm improved newsprint) and seeing all the sizes confirmed our choice to go with the tabloid.

We really recommend ordering the samples as it helped contextualise our content. We made lots of adjustments to font size, colours, and layouts based on the samples!

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We also made sure to read up on Newspaper Club’s sustainability practices, something that’s really important to our community. We were excited to find out that all of their newspapers are printed using solar energy!

Coming up with content

We had a pretty good idea of the content we wanted to share in Astrea based on our old iterations of the BTM zine, but swapping to a tabloid format encouraged us to lean into more ‘traditional’ newsprint content.

Astrea zine created by Books That Matter. Printed by Newspaper Club.

We decided to include interviews alongside our discussion of our monthly book and theme, and reached out to Shahed Ezaydi as an upcoming author we wanted to spotlight (above). It was so exciting to live out our journalist dreams through the interviews!

Astrea zine created by Books That Matter. Printed by Newspaper Club.

We spent some time seeking out design inspiration by scrolling through Newspaper Club’s Instagram and blog archive, as well as Pinterest. This research led us down a rabbit hole of reminiscing about magazines from our childhood, and our collective love of tween/teen magazine quizzes. So we decided to create our own book-themed take, “Who’s Your Bookshelf Twin?” (above)

Here’s a flip through the whole 16-page newspaper:

Astrea zine created by Books That Matter. Printed by Newspaper Club.

It was so fun to explore the different creative avenues we could go down with Astrea. In fact, we had so many ideas we couldn’t fit in the first issue – good thing we’ve got another one coming soon!

Designing with Canva

We’re a small business and don’t have a huge budget, so it was fantastic to learn that Newspaper Club offers free Canva templates and that we could create our zine without expensive software. 

Canva also offers free layouts that we used as jumping-off points, which was a huge help for a team not trained in design. Canva is also really intuitive, so things like changing colour schemes is quick and easy. We could change one colour to another and it would automatically offer to change all the colours in the project to the new colour, saving us the hassle of updating every page individually. 

"Using Newspaper Club’s template allowed us to get straight into the fun part of content, rather than having to measure margins."

The ‘grid view’ was also a lifesaver, giving us a clear overview of the zine and allowing us to move pages as needed to achieve the best layout.

Once we were happy with the zine, we followed Newspaper Club’s guide to export the PDF in the correct format. It’s really straightforward – and again, it was a huge timesaver to be able to follow clear step-by-step instructions rather than try to figure it out ourselves!


The final result!

Seeing Astrea in print for the first time was magical. Here was all of our hard work in our hands! We had been proud of it on screen, but it was even more special in print. The quality was impeccable, and we couldn’t wait to get them out to our subscribers.

"We received such a positive reception that we’ve decided to make the zine a monthly offering!"

We teased our followers on social media with clips of the zine, and immediately had people commenting about their excitement to receive it. As our subscription boxes landed, we started to get tagged in people’s posts celebrating the zine (below) and the revival of print. We received such a positive reception that we’ve decided to make the zine a monthly offering, rather than the quarterly zine we had originally planned!

BTM subscribers unboxing

We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to the zine, from the interviewees to the authors of our fave book recs, but most of all to Newspaper Club for bringing all our print dreams to life. They made the process a breeze from start to finish, and whilst we doubt that’s an accurate representation of the hectic life at a daily newspaper, we’ve loved playing at being zine creators. And we can’t wait to do it all over again!

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