Typically, publishers, editors, writers and other contributors of articles or illustrations to fanzines are not paid. Fanzines are traditionally circulated free of charge, or for a nominal cost to defray postage or production expenses. Copies are often offered in exchange for similar publications, or for contributions of art, articles, or letters of comment (LoCs), which are then published.
Some fanzines are typed and photocopied by amateurs using standard home office equipment. A few fanzines have developed into professional publications (sometimes known as "prozines"), and many professional writers were first published in fanzines; some continue to contribute to them after establishing a professional reputation. The term fanzine is sometimes confused with "fan magazine", but the latter term most often refers to commercially produced publications for (rather than by) fans.
The origins of amateur fanac "fan" publications are obscure, but can be traced at least back to 19th century literary groups in the United States which formed amateur press associations to publish collections of amateur fiction, poetry and commentary, such as H.P. Lovecraft's United Amateur. These publications were produced first on small tabletop printing presses, often by students.
As professional printing technology progressed, so did the technology of fanzines. Early fanzines were hand-drafted or typed on a manual typewriter and printed using primitive reproduction techniques (e.g., the spirit duplicator or even the hectograph). Only a very small number of copies could be made at a time, so circulation was extremely limited. The use of mimeograph machines enabled greater press runs, and the photocopier increased the speed and ease of publishing once more. Today, thanks to the advent of desktop publishing and self-publication, there is often little difference between the appearance of a fanzine and a professional magazine.