Out Now

Promote Your Book Workbook: Spread the Word, Find Your Readers, and Build a Literary Community

Promote Your Book Workbook: Spread the Word, Find Your Readers, and Build a Literary Community image

When you write a book, your work doesn't end on publication day. In fact, a key part of your job as an author is to get your book into the hands of readers . . . and that means you need to promote it. But how to do that?

In this interactive standalone companion to Promote Your Book, you'll find tips, exercises, and templates to get you started. From building your literary network to identifying your audience to planning social media posts and book tours, this workbook empowers you to create an individualized plan centered on authenticity and community. Regardless of your publishing pathway (traditional, self, or hybrid) and the kind of book you've written, you'll find the tools to make the process of promoting your book approachable, fruitful, and, most importantly, fun.

Eleanor C. Whitney, who is also the author of Quit Your Day Job Workbook, draws on a wealth of firsthand experience promoting her own books, as well as her expertise in teaching artists to be business savvy.

Tarot Through the Witch's Year: 33 Spreads for Spiritual Connection

Tarot Through the Witch's Year: 33 Spreads for Spiritual Connection image

Explore the spiritual patterns of the Tarot with this collection of spreads based on the pagan Wheel of the Year. Reflecting earth-honoring spiritualities, Tarot Through the Witch's Year presents divination in a welcoming, inclusive, non-judgmental, and informative way. Readers, novice and proficient alike, are invited to dive headfirst into the spirituality involved in the witch’s year and to approach divine energy as it moves us and the Great Wheel around. The thirty-three spreads include layouts, images, diagrams, and sample readings for the four equinoxes and solstices, the four cross-quarter days, thirteen full moons, and twelve dark moons. Readers in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres will find valuable insight and tools as they navigate their year, beginning at any point on the calendar. See your year through new eyes, finding deeper meanings and a greater sense of connectedness.

Features art from Gerta Oparaku Egy's Divine Deco Tarot.

Beyond Manifestation: A 31-Day Guided Journal to Transform Your Life Through Emotional Awareness

Beyond Manifestation: A 31-Day Guided Journal to Transform Your Life Through Emotional Awareness image

Freedom from stress, anxiety, worry, fear, and suffering

Step back from the ups and downs of life and practice presence. You can find contentment in the here and now and discover profound freedom from stress and anxiety within this 31-day interactive workbook and planner.  Instead of constantly chasing manifestations, shed your worries and fears and eliminate the need for external changes. 

Reflect and ground yourself in the moment in these highly visual, calming pages. The School of Life Design, creators of Monthly Manifestation Manual and Monthly Magickal Record, show you in these pages that presence is key to attracting what you desire and finding true peace, love, and happiness. Embrace the infinite Now and see that life already is the way you want it to be. When you feel life is already perfect, it has no choice but to show you evidence of that truth.

The Encyclopedia of Rootical Folklore: Plant Tales from Africa and the Diaspora

The Encyclopedia of Rootical Folklore: Plant Tales from Africa and the Diaspora image

This A-to-Z treasury of stories and poems features plants of Africa and the wider Caribbean region. With each entry, plants become much more than material for humans to use. They serve as links to the orisha deities of African diasporic religions. They speak for themselves, forming alliances with people and animals. They serve as points of connection between the many generations of people who share their stories.

In The Encyclopedia of Rootical Folklore, botanical folklorist Natty Mark Samuels keeps the oral tradition of plant lore thriving in the present day. The stories sometimes involve characters of his invention (as well as age-old folklore staples like Anansi) and invoke contemporary situations, from bad bosses to mental health struggles. A baobab tree misses his old friend Birago Diop, a poet of the Négritude movement. Basil comes to the rescue for a woman who’s had a rough day. On moonlit evenings in a square in Kingston, kids gather round a Rasta elder to hear tales of dates, guava, and the orishas linked to each plant.

The 88 entries, each accompanied by botanical information, blend age-old lore and modern sensibility to bring the plants of Africa and the Caribbean to life. Includes a glossary, illustrations, multilingual species index, and references.

Mostly True: The West's Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine

Mostly True: The West's Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine image

In Texas in the early 1900s, a little chalk drawing started to appear on boxcars: a minimalist sketch of a figure with a 10-gallon hat, smoking a pipe, signed “Bozo Texino.” This famous railroad tag defied the human lifespan, appearing over 100,000 times over 90 years. Who was Bozo Texino? Artist and filmmaker Bill Daniel set out to solve the mystery of the man behind the pipe and hat. It turned into a 25-year quest, taking Daniel on a tour of railyards and graffiti throughout the US. The result was the documentary Who is Bozo Texino? and the book Mostly True—a chronicle of modern-day hobos, rail workers, and a forgotten outsider subculture. Obscure railroad nostalgia, freight-riding stories, interviews with hobos and boxcar artists, historical oddities, and tons of photos of modern-day boxcar tags are all presented in the guise of a vintage rail fanzine. 

The book spotlights beloved railroad artists Matokie Slaughter (Margaret Kilgallen), Colossus of Roads (Russell Butler), Herby (Herbert Meyer), Mind Detergent (Big Will), Twist (Barry McGee), and others, including an interview with itinerant sign painter Heidi Tullman. Contributing writers, researchers, photographers and artists include: John Held Jr., Joey Alone, Duke Riley, Old Broads, Daniel Leen, Eden Batki, Andy Dreamingwolf, North Bank Fred, Michele Lockwood, The Historical Graffiti Society, Susan Phillips, Walt Curtis, Beau Patrick Coulon, O. Winston Link, Murray Hammond, Brad Wescott, Marisa Evans, Roxy Gordon, and many, many others.

The book's design team was Rich McIsaac, Gary Fogelson, Phil Lubliner, Jordan Swartz, and Vald Nahitchevansky.  

Bikes, the Universe, and Everything: Feminist, Fantastical Tales of Bikes and Books

Bikes, the Universe, and Everything: Feminist, Fantastical Tales of Bikes and Books image

Ever gotten lost in a book? Or on your bicycle? Or both at once, by falling through a portal on the page? Anything is possible in this collection of fifteen very short stories and one comic. Ranging from science fiction to fantasy and traveling in time from a reimagined past to the heat death of the universe, these stories combine the personal and popular power of spokes and words. Meet a young graduate who rides off to become a velo-archivist, a bookstore owner who must learn to bike after cars are banned, a daredevil messenger who makes a harrowing textbook delivery run, a talented scribe who creates a braille bicycle guide, and many more adventurous souls in disparate realities, united by their love for spinning wheels and the written word.

Includes stories by Kathryn Reilly, Kiera Jessica Bane, Julie Brooks, Aaron M. Wilson, Elizabeth Frazier, Annie Carl, Grace Gorski, Gretchin Lair, Cherise Fong, L. Y. Gu, Remy Chartier, Mariah Southworth, Dawn Vogel, Summer Jewel Keown, and Aidan Zingler, and a comic by Allison Bannister.

Missed the Kickstarter? Check out the PledgeManager page to get access to rewards and goodies!

Intimacy Conversation Deck: Reflections and Discussions about Love, Sex, and Dating

Intimacy Conversation Deck: Reflections and Discussions about Love, Sex, and Dating image

"Do you feel content in your current relationship?" "What would you most like your partner to understand about you?" "What turns you on?" Explore these questions and many more in this 52-card deck from Dr. Faith G. Harper, bestselling author of Unfuck Your Intimacy and Boundaries Conversation Deck. Intimacy isn't always easy to talk about, which is why this deck offers approachable, bite-size prompts that you can use to jump-start conversations, gain new insights, and improve your romantic and sexual relationships. Use the cards with one or more partners, among friends, in therapy, or for your own personal journaling and reflection.

Merriment

Merriment image

As many of us do, Mack is having a hard time coping with life in New Jersey. Watching her friends figure their lives out while she is stuck living at home, Mack is looking for any kind of lifeline out of her Mom’s house and into the City where she is convinced she will be happy. Then again, it's hard for anyone to be happy these days, a fact her mother will not let her forget. And what's worse: she thinks she might have committed a murder. And that maybe, just maybe, the FBI is spying on her?

Merriment follows Mack on her quest for happiness and/or sanity, through the horrors of life, as she navigates existential dread, real life dread, and all the dread in between.

How to Get Your Period: A Guide to Performing Menstrual Extraction

How to Get Your Period: A Guide to Performing Menstrual Extraction image

Take charge of your reproductive rights, learn about your body, and build a supportive community.

In 1971, as part of their work with their feminist reproductive collective, Lorraine Rothman and Carol Downer invented menstrual extraction (ME), a suction process to pass the entire period all at once, which has the side effect of ending any undetected early pregnancy. An underground network of providers has kept ME alive ever since, and now, in a post-Roe era, the demand is surging. Written by an anonymous medical professional, this book provides a short history of ME and detailed instructions and diagrams explaining how to safely and effectively perform a manual exam, use a speculum, assemble a Del-Em kit, and complete a menstrual extraction procedure. You'll also learn when not to perform ME and find an overview of other safe and effective options for bringing about menstruation or ending a pregnancy in the first trimester. In addition to heralding the incredible discovery of these historical heroes and affirming the need for abortion rights, this book offers menstrual extraction as a method to understand and protect our own bodies, choices, and reproductive rights even as they are under attack.

Cat Party!: Cats We've Known in Words and Pictures

Cat Party!: Cats We've Known in Words and Pictures image

The cats in our lives are always close to our hearts, whether they're napping in a sunbeam, demanding pets and treats, playfully attacking our shoelaces, or haughtily ignoring us. From joy, whimsy, and coziness to nostalgia and loss, these diverse images, comics, and real-life stories span the emotional highs and lows of a life shared with cats and kittens (and, in one case, collectible cat figurines). The many ways of felines are chronicled here in over 50 multimedia contributions, compiled from the first 10 issues of the Cat Party zine along with some new content just for this book. Editor Katie Haegele drew inspiration from the readers of her book Cats I've Known, who wanted to tell the stories of the cats that had touched their own lives. The result is like a series of conversations and encounters with a panoply of some of the most relatable people on the planet: cat people.

These cat people include Quimby's Bookstore founder Steven Svymbersky, cartoonist and performance artist Dame Darcy, punk legend Joe Genaro (Joe Jack Talcum of The Dead Milkmen), Microcosm founder Joe Biel, comics artist Mardou, Defectivepudding, Heidi Moreno (Heidiroo), Justin Duerr, Vanessa Berry, and many more artists, writers, musicians, homebodies, dreamers, and close observers of the world.

Weird Music That Goes on Forever: A Punk's Guide to Loving Jazz

Weird Music That Goes on Forever: A Punk's Guide to Loving Jazz image

Once you've collected every 7" from your favorite label, broken your back in the mosh pit, and become so well-versed in the interpersonal dynamics of every hardcore band that there's nothing more to learn, what's a punk to do? Try jazz, recommends Bob Suren. No, really. Suren, who wrote Crate Digger about his life and work in punk, turns his obsessive gaze onto another form of rebellious, improvisational outsider music, but this time with more sax.

What does Dixieland have in common with D.R.I.? Did Charles Mingus write the first punk song? And who was the Butthole Surfer of jazz? Suren answers these questions and many more. Reading his irreverent guide to jazz, filled with punk references and colorful language, is more fun than getting arrested for vandalism. Learn about the surprising history and scandalous etymology of jazz, explore its connections to punk, and take in biographical sketches of over 25 notable artists—with plenty of recommendations thrown in for your listening pleasure.

Unfuck Your Business Workbook: Using Math and Brain Science to Run a Successful Business

Unfuck Your Business Workbook: Using Math and Brain Science to Run a Successful Business image

Do you want to start a business? Or does your existing business feel stuck? Either way, this no-fluff workbook will walk you through the steps of planning and troubleshooting your enterprise. Publisher Joe Biel and bestselling author Dr. Faith G. Harper, co-authors of Unfuck Your Business, reunite to help you make your business idea viable, find your niche, and evaluate your growth and success. With the help of worksheets and exercises, you'll make sure the money adds up, plan your strategy for growth, hone your management skills, and work through common pitfalls like imposter syndrome and self-sabotage. Even if you've never run a business before and don't see yourself as a numbers person, you can succeed with the right tools. Work out your dreams on the page and then watch your hard work, critical thinking, and belief in your meaning and purpose make them come true!

Missed the Kickstarter? You can still access all the rewards and add-ons in PledgeManager!

In The News

Events! Microcosm In Your Town

Want to meet us in person, check out our books, or see an author speak? We've got author events and convention events coming up!

Upcoming Author Events

None right now, check back soon!

Interested in having an author at your store or event? Reach out!!


Microcosm at Roller Con 2023

Upcoming Tabling Events

Microcosm at the Buckman Book Fair! 

  • Saturday, June 29 2024 | Honey Latte Cafe — Portland, OR
    Your friendly neighborhood radical publisher will be slinging books, zines, stickers, DIY philosophy, and more. Further details to come!

Upcoming Trade Shows and Industry Events

Usually not open to the public, these industry events are a chance for store buyers to peruse our books, write orders, and chat about terms. We plan to either attend or exhibit at the following events. If you'll be there too, drop us a line—we'd love to meet you.

Microcosm at the Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon's Peerpocalypse!

  • Monday, May 6–Thursday, May 9, 2024 | Seaside Civic and Convention Center — Seaside, OR
    Members of the Microcosm crew will be hanging out and tabling at this annual conference of leaders, emerging leaders, innovators, and peers in the mental health and addiction fields who want to become more involved in the peer community. Adopting the philosophy that peers bring with them a great deal of knowledge and expertise, the event is about bringing the community together to share information, skills, and experience. More info

Microcosm at Roller Con!

  • Wednesday, July 10–Sunday, July 14, 2024 | World Market Center — Las Vegas, NV
    Microcosm returns to this fun annual event for roller skaters of all disciplines to get together. A few thousand derby players, park skaters, dance skaters, officials, productioneers, vendors, announcers, vendors, photographers and fans from all over the world, all gather in Las Vegas to share stories, raise hell and skate, skate, skate. New to roller skating? Seasoned and scarred veteran? Every skill level is welcome, and we’ve planned tons of events for everyone to enjoy! MCP will be in the house to hang out and peddle our booksome wares. More info

Microcosm at XOXO Fest! 

  • Thursday, August 22–Saturday, August 24, 2024 | Revolution Hall — Portland, OR
    Microcosm is excited to be back at XOXO Fest for its long anticipated final ride. XOXO is an experimental festival celebrating independent artists and creators working on the internet, bringing together writers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, game developers, coders, cartoonists, and more to share their stories and struggles of living and working online. XOXO focuses on the emotional experience of making things online, with difficult subjects including financial insecurity, anxiety, depression, mental health, impostor syndrome, burnout, racism, sexism, and online harassment. At its evening events, XOXO spotlights the best indie artists and online projects in four days of programming across multiple disciplines, including online video, podcasts, music, videogames, tabletop gaming, and internet art. More info

Interested in having an author at your store or event? Reach out!!

Planning an event and want us to be part of it (speaking, author readings, movie screenings, setting up a book and zine pop-up shop, etc.)? Let us know!!

In the Portland area? We can set up a book fair at your workplace like the ones your school used to have.


Bookstore Solidarity Project: An Interview with Paul McKay of King's Co-op Bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Welcome to the next installment of the Bookstore Solidarity Project! Every month, we’ll be highlighting indie bookstore owners and booksellers across the country (and beyond!)

For April, we're featuring King's Co-op Bookstore, in Halifax!

King's is a kickass store, which they cheekily claim is "Canada's hardest to find indie bookstore." It's Halifax's only co-op bookshop, and they're definitely good friends to the Microcosm community.

Check out our interview with Paul below!

Your name and pronouns?
Paul MacKay, he/him

Tell us a little bit about the store and your community!
Our store was primarily created in 2006 by students who needed an easy and affordable place to buy their coursebook texts. The Foundation Year Programme at the University of King's College is about 45 books in very specific editions and translations and it could be incredibly hard to find exactly what you needed. A group of students got together and found a free spot on campus which is quite small but special shelves were created that allowed the bookshelves to open and close and lock up so that common areas could still be usable for the bookstore. (This shows an old video showing how it works, I've since updated the fixtures and it looks a lot better)

We're pretty hard to find at first, being in the basement of a building on campus, so I leaned into it and describe us as Canada's Hardest to Find Bookstore since even google maps will only put you on campus but not right at the store. Since we're owned by the students we're not like usual university bookstores and we're also a regular indie bookstore with fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc. We're also totally open to the public and do special orders all the time either in store or on our website where we promote ourselves as a friendly and easy amazon alternative. We like to engage with things we think are important in the community and we like to champion books and reading, and work hard to bring authors to town who people might not usually have the chance to see.

Our standing in the community grew a lot as word of mouth got out of what we were doing during covid. Since the university closed we had to stay closed too, but I would run books outside for people and also delivered books on my bike. People really liked that idea and also were looking for ways to support local since so many businesses were struggling. Between that and a more personal approach to social media we've really become more of a community bookstore which was always my goal when I took over this place (about 6 years ago)

How did you choose your store's name?
The store name was already chosen by the time I took over the store. I do appreciate it's specificity, King's co-op bookstore, a co-op bookstore at King's. Does what it says on the tin.

What got you into bookselling?
This was never something I ever really intended to do. I've always loved books and would often cut classes in school to go hang out at the bookstore and learn things I cared about, but my real career plan was to be a musician and music professor. I picked up the guitar when I was around 18 and really took to it, earning a double major degree in music and psychology shortly after, and then went for more schooling in jazz guitar performance. That was my sole reason for being for years and it was all I cared about but eventually the strain and overuse of my arm caused repetitive strain injury that meant I had to quit playing. When I take to something I get kind of obsessive, so I was practising from about 8am to 10pm every day which my body just kind of revolted against.

I moved back home and needed to get a job quickly so I applied at the same chain bookstore i used to hang out at when I cut classes. I got hired there and would shelve books with my one good arm. I got promoted to being one of the managers of that store after a few years and during that time I met a lot of great people who introduced me to amazing books that really changed my life and that I developed a real passion for books that has only grown over the years

What’s something about your store that you think will surprise people?
I think the most surprising thing about our store is how we fold up and close down every day like we're a pop-up shop every day. As far as I know we're the only bookstore in the world like it, and it's always something I show people when authors come to visit. I wasn't around at the time the bookstore was started but I do love that it was a very DIY project with a sort of "whatever, we'll do it ourselves" punk attitude. Bookselling is getting harder and hard nowadays and there's a huge financial barrier to opening a bookstore or even buying one that's for sale, so I take pride in what we've been able to accomplish in such a weird space without much in the way of money

What are some of you favorite ways your community supports your store?
We recently started a program with Books Beyond Bars which is a local group that works to get books to inmates in the women's prisons here. I asked them to share their book requests with me and I put them on our website with a promo code so people can buy the books to support the program at a 20% discount.

So far we've managed to get them close to 100 books and we're all really happy about it. The people supporting the program get to pay less, we help give the prisoners books they actually want to read, and the money stays the community instead of going you know where. You never know how a certain initiative will land with people and I've been really happy with the response this has gotten.

Outside of that, I manage all the social media for the store and people taking the time to make posts about how much they like the store or recommending us to others is always nice. They absolutely don't need to do anything like that so if they feel the desire to do something like that you know they mean it :)

What are two books you can't wait for people to read, or your current favorite handsells?
I'm really stoked for the new Hanif Abdurraqib book There's Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension. I read an advanced copy of it and like everything he does it's just amazing. I'm not a big sports fan at all and even I was taking breaks from reading it to watch slam dunk contents from like 30 years ago because the way he writes about them is so incredible.

Kaveh Akbar's Martyr! is easily one of my favourite fiction books in the last year too. It's his first novel after some poetry collections, and his writing is just beautiful. Another one that I just devoured and want everybody to read.

How can customers who aren’t local shop your shelves?
Our website kingsbookstore.ca has everything on it that we have in store and we offer a flat $5 fee for shipping whether it's 1 book or 20 books. we can also order in anything we don't currently have also, so instead of going to the evil A they can just go to our website instead :)

twitter and facebook are: kingsbookstore , instagram is kingscoopbookstore , my personal instagram is @talentedruins

(Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance. - James Baldwin)

Anything else you want to share?
I won the contest for Danny Caine's How to Resist Amazon and Why a while back which was great. I sold tons of them and also left copies at busy places in the city for people to find. Danny mentions us in the book which was a nice surprise when I was first reading it :)

Be sure to follow King's Co-Op on their socials, and check back in a few weeks for their podcast episode!

You can read our other Bookstore Solidarity Project posts here!
And click here to get a copy of How to Protect Bookstores and Why.

WorkingLit: Publishing Software from Microcosm

WorkingLit is live in beta! Sign up now!

a logo showing an open book

WorkingLit is cloud-based software developed by Microcosm Publishing that gives independent publishers tools to thrive and grow at their own pace. Our industry is run by billionaires and conglomerates, and we want to give our fellow publishers the freedom to market and sell your books, understand your business, and painlessly pay royalties.

Microcosm built our own software from scratch starting in 2002, and we owe it our survival, success, and continued independence. Now we want to share it with you. 

WorkingLit is currently in beta and open to any publisher who would like to use it in exchange for letting us know about bugs and giving us feedback on how to make it better.

Features

  • Manage your product and author metadata
  • Track your sales and expenses
  • Manage your customer account data
  • Calculate royalties and track payments to authors
  • Understand the health of your business and what you need to do to grow
  • See our spec sheet for all current and planned features.

Pricing

The first month is free so you can kick the tires. After that, our rates are based on the number of products (with separate ISBNs) that you manage in WorkingLit:

PlanFeaturesPrice per month
Free planUp to 10 productsFREE
Basic Plan11-25 products$25
Basic Plus Plan26-100 products$69
Premium Plan101-500 products$299
Premium Plus Plan501-1000$599
All Access PlanUnlimited products!$1299

Get stuck or have questions? Check out our site documentation and instructions or email workinglit at microcosmpublishing dot com for help.

Get involved and stay in touch!

  • Sign up to use WorkingLit
  • Join our email list
  • Are you a programmer? We're looking to grow our team. Email apply at microcosmpublishing dot com with your skillset and why you're interested in being part of WorkingLit
  • Take the tour:
https://www.youtube.com/embed/uRj8l2paG2Y

Summoning All Witches

Since 1996, Microcosm has published and distributed books, zines, and other goods that put your power in your hands. Including, lately, an increasing number of pagan, mystical, and othersuch witchy books, zines, and decks.

We've recently updated our submission guidelines to make it extra clear: We're looking to publish and distribute more works of magic, witchcraft, and pagan spirituality. Send us your anarcha-feminist oracle deck, your spellbook for finding queer platonic relationships, your comics journalism about the history of witchcraft, a guide to the magic your grandparents taught you, agricultural tips for witches, adorable drawings of animals on broomsticks, or whatever creative way you've found to help people see beyond the pale of normalcy to change their lives and the world.

We are always, especially, looking for submissions from authors and artists who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, mixed race, disabled, neurodivergent, queer, transgender, nonbinary, or who don't see themselves well represented in mainstream publishing.

What we publish

We're proud to publish Friday Gladheart's annual The Practical Witch's Almanac — an incredible resource and weekly planner.

Francesca Black's Year of the Witch: A Planner and Spellbook for the Novice Witch is a great resource for beginners, and also serves as a weekly planner.

Our first tarot deck, The Gold Lyre Tarot, was funded on Kickstarter in early 2021.

And we have many more books, zines, and stickers in print and on the way, like these:

To submit your work to our publishing program, check out our submission guidelines to assess if we might be a good fit. We aim to work with authors and creators who can work within our processes, so following our guidelines exactly is an important first step when submitting a project.

What we distribute

Microcosm is also a specialty wholesaler, selling thousands of books, zines, and decks from other publishers, big and small primarily to non-book-focused gift stores. We work with Big 5 publishing houses, zinesters cutting and pasting in their closets, and everyone in between. And these folks are putting out more and more books celebrating paganism, crystals, astrology, tarot, the occult, the moon, and more.

a screenshot of a page from microcosm's catalog
A page from our online catalog, sorted by the "Witchy" subject tag

If you already have your own publishing program and want to see if our wholesale program is a good fit, check out our distribution info.

Call for Submissions for Neurodiversity zine series

Neurodiversity now occupies a similar place in the public consciousness at this moment as gay rights did in the 1970s: no one understands it and The Borg demand our assimilation! 
Neurodivergent Pride: What Autistic Minds Can Teach Each Other and the World offers exposition on neurotypicals' neurophobia and the frequent claim that they are supportive of #ActuallyAutistic people...as long as we act like they do. One reviewer for my book Good Trouble mentioned that she couldn't believe that I wasn't part of a radical zine community on the forefront of Autistic theory...so I decided to start one! The inspiration emerged from the homocore roots of punk and Don't Be Gay in the 1980s. Queer punks were told that they would be accepted as soon as they acted like straight people. Featuring advice and explanatory narrative about the neurodiverse experience for the less divergent, so we can be seen as real, whole people, if you are neurodiverse, you should contribute to the next issues! The deadline for issue #14 is July 1, 2024 and the theme is Mutual Aid. The theme for issue #15 is Creativity and the deadline is January 1, 2025. The theme for issue #16 is Emotions and the deadline is July 1, 2025. The theme for issue #17 is Controversies and the deadline is January 1, 2026. Submissions should be 500-2,000 words as a rough guideline! 
We want your personal narrative, origin story, misconceptions you've faced, how people could better interact/collaborate/interface with you, and aspirations of how you would like the movement to grow that can serve as a narrative for NTs understanding our people's experiences. 500-2,000 words is a good guideline.
email submissions/questions to joe at microcosmpublishing daht com

BFF Book Subscription

BFF Book Subscription imageBe our Book Friend Forever (BFF)! For 6 months you'll receive every new title we publish. The subscription is sliding scale price $15-30/month—check it out here!  Thanks for your support!

Blogifesto!

Laddergate: Microcosm vs. Webstaurantstore; Fraud? Definitely not Legit.

Usually, when we tell strangers that we work in publishing, they picture us crafting the latest bit of editorial brilliance from an emerging, young mind over a candle-lit typewriter. Or they mourn the death of the publishing industry with some imaginary dreck like “nobody reads anymore.”

For better (and some days, for worse), paper books remain more popular than ever, especially with young people. This leads to an ever-increasing volume of warehouses, shelves, racking, paper, trucks, and…safety ladders. And this leads us to a snapshot of one of the key roles of a publisher in any era: negotiating with suppliers and figuring out material flow logistics.

a warehouse full of pallet racking and boxes

We organize our warehouses so that the most popular books are on the floor for easiest access. As books get older and less popular, they are placed higher and higher in the stacks, until they require a ladder to retrieve.

During the pandemic supply chain crisis, we were at the mercy of material shortages and manufacturer delays. It took three times as long as usual to print a book. But it wasn’t just books. On October 18, 2022, we attempted to order four more safety ladders from Webstaurantstore. The estimated delivery date was “March 2023.”

“Wow,” I thought. “That is a long time to wait for four ladders. But we need ’em.”

We placed an order for shelving parts at the same time. Another $2,324.99 of your hard-earned money was spent on more of our behind-the-scenes infrastructure.

We waited. On November 7, 2022 we were surprised to receive a delivery from a company called Ballymore. We received no tracking information or advance warning that a delivery was coming, including no information about what was in the order. We were not given a Bill of Lading (the legal document that shows what is contained in a delivery), we weren’t told that this was part of our Webstaurantstore order, and the delivery driver did not even request the standard signature confirming delivery or allow time for us to inspect the boxes before he left. Upon opening the four boxes on the pallet, they proved to each contain one out of four pieces of a single ladder, which needed to be assembled. And we’ll never forgot that because assembly seemed to take all day.

An attractive orange step ladder

Due to the lack of communication or notices, we were baffled. “Weird. I guess materials are in such short supply that they are going to send these one at a time?” I thought. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it—we frequently receive items from a single order in multiple shipments over a period of time. Our online Webstaurant store order was not marked as complete, so we assumed that the other three ladders were coming in March 2023, as quoted. 

We had still not received the remaining three ladders when we were scheduled to on March 21, 2023, so we followed up with the Webstaurantstore. Instead, we were told that it was too late to notify them of a shortage, since it was more than 5 days since the delivery of the single ladder. They updated our shipping status to “delivered.” We argued that it was less than five days since the items were expected to be delivered. They told us that their records showed that we had received four ladders, none of which should have required assembly and insisted that three ladders were lost in our warehouse. “Look around and you’ll find them” was their solution. It was as insulting as it was baffling, as if we would contact them before “looking around” and had somehow managed to misplace three seven-foot ladders. They said there was nothing that we could do.

When it became clear that Webstaurantstore’s claims were illegitimate and they were not going to send us the ladders that we had paid for, we filed charges with Mastercard on March 28, 2023 because the merchant was not interested in resolving the matter. On April 4, 2023 Mastercard attempted to close the case in our favor but Webstaurantstore persisted.

On May 15, 2023, Webstaurantstore responded to the complaint but did not send sufficient documentation to dispute the refund. Then a week later, on May 23, 2023, our claim with Mastercard was denied, as, in the words of the Mastercard rep, “Usually a merchant does not go this far or provide this much paperwork…unless their ability to accept Mastercards due to a volume of disputes is being threatened.”

a microcosm warehouse worker with green hair shows off a large pallet of outgoing mail

How did they do it? Webstaurantstore falsely asserted that we had signed for the shipment and they “found” the bill of lading that had disappeared. Suddenly, they had “proof” of shipment to provide and claimed that we had waited past Mastercard’s 90-day window after delivery. They sent shipping proof for the single ladder as “four pieces,” claiming it was four ladders. They adjusted facts and timelines as was convenient for their argument. They argued that the estimated delivery timeline and lack of communication were irrelevant, so the 90-day window would be calculated from the date of the original order in October. They tried to claim that the unsigned bill of lading was a legal document “proving” delivery. If it was, we had no way of knowing what was allegedly contained in this delivery because it had never been provided to us.

On June 1, 2023 we filed a second dispute with Mastercard, citing that 90 days had not passed since the delivery window, the shipment in question did not contain all of the items that we ordered, there was no communication provided to us that Webstaurantstore believed the transaction was complete, and the bill of lading was never signed or delivered, so we had no way of inspecting it for damage or shortage, as is customary and the purpose of these documents. 

On June 29, 2023 Webstaurantstore again asserted to Mastercard that we do not have charge dispute rights through, as the Mastercard representative put it “Barraging us with a sheer volume of information and paperwork.” but again falsely claiming that the 90-day dispute window after delivery had already passed when first the dispute was filed. This time, Webstaurantstore went so far as to claim that the date when we placed our preorder was actually the date that the items had shipped. 

the labyrinth of metro shelving in our Cleveland warehouse

We looked for other ways to resolve the situation. And this is where things became much more insidious. Since Webstaurantstore is based at 2205 Old Philadelphia Pike Lancaster, PA 17602, we filed a complaint both with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Pennsylvania attorney general. Both organizations seem strangely powerless and act more like dispute mediators than having any authority over a private business (“participation in the Bureau’s mediation process is voluntary for both sides, and we cannot compel a business to agree to a solution.”) that apparently does billions of dollars in annual revenue for the state.

BBB suggested filing notices with the Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Consumer Protection in both Ohio (where they were delivered) and Oregon (where we are based), but these organizations disagreed that this was appropriate. So we explained Webstaurantstore’s deceit to Mastercard once more, who agreed that they were obfuscating the facts and attempted to try again.

a worker pensively waits with two pink pallet jacks for a truck to unload pallets

We repeatedly called the Webstaurantstore customer service number, (717) 392-7472, thinking that if this company is as legit as they claim, they would understand that a perfect storm of events had gone wrong and resolve it. Instead, we were issued a concerningly lengthy claim number, 20231100079631, which would indicate that we are close to their 80 thousandth case of not delivering what someone paid for (or if you ignore what is likely a date, more amusingly, their 20 trillionth). Indeed, each customer service person variously implied that we were confused or lying. Perhaps this “perfect storm” was a feature, not a bug?

Webstaurantstore does not appear to have the ability to be reviewed on Google, but does have a fraudulent page of glowing “google reviews” that they maintain themselves. Clever, misleading, and somewhat baffling.

While the Pennsylvania Attorney General said “you are free to pursue a lawsuit privately,” it turns out that this isn’t entirely true. You see, Webstaurantstore has a particularly shocking “Terms of Service” document:

“You agree that any disputes and claims related to or arising from these Conditions of Use and/or your use of this website, including disputes arising from or concerning their interpretation, violation, invalidity, non-performance, or termination, will be resolved through final and binding arbitration under the Rules of Arbitration of the American Arbitration Association applying the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, instead of in court. An exception is that you may assert claims in small claims court, if your claims qualify. To begin an arbitration proceeding, you must file a Demand for Arbitration with the AAA, according to the AAA’s rules. Payment of all filing, administration, and arbitrator fees will be governed by the AAA’s rules. We will reimburse those fees for claims totaling less than $10,000 unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. Likewise, WebstaurantStore will not seek attorneys’ fees and costs in arbitration unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. You may choose to have the arbitration conducted by telephone, based on written submissions, or in person in the county where you live or at another mutually agreed location.”

This sounds reasonable until you learn that the AAA arbitration fees would cost us a total of $1,725, for a dispute of items costing $1,142.59. It appears that these policies are intentional. Particularly after we learned about the multitude of lawsuits that Webstaurantstore receives from its own employees about alleged illegal labor practices, or as one former employee filed in a lawsuit, they “have not been provided real access to arbitration.” This was very concerning, as is the principle of the matter and our commitment to preventing this from happening to others.

Despite the fact that we did not sign a contract, this is significantly more expensive than a lawsuit costs to file. Fortunately, their terms of service are probably not legally enforceable.

Since we were not made aware that Webstaurantstore erroneously claimed that the order was delivered in full and they did not communicate this fact to us, we remain incapable of fulfilling and agreeing to the terms of sale. Hence, we were not able to notify Webstaurantstore about the delivery shortage within their timeframe because they changed the delivery time frame of the delivery without notifying us of this change. 

As I began to research the company, I learned that numerous labor disputes have risen to the level of lawsuits, for everything from retaliation for attempting to collect overtime pay to multiple cases of civil rights discrimination. They also like to argue about intellectual property and have been sued for this as well. And it appears that we were not the only ones who suffered because of their misleading business practices.

Who was this Webstaurantstore? It appears that their game is controlling the SEO around all restaurant equipment, and they are great at this aspect of their job:

One aspect of their strategy is posting innumerable “articles” that would turn up when you search for “Webstaurantstore fraud,” and instead of the hundreds of entertaining stories of customers not receiving what they paid for and third parties blaming each other, you’ll receive “Webstaurantstore’s guide to preventing fraud at your restaurant.” A Forbes article touts that Webstaurantstore earns more in a day than we do in a year.

A friend pointed out the obvious: Microcosm has great SEO so the area where we could best protect potential future customers is through adding this story to their search results. We simply wanted the items that we paid for or a refund. Instead, nearly two years later, we’ve sunk hours into efforts at basic customer service interactions.

We’re still weighing our next steps. We have either until October 2025 or March 2026 (depending on Webstaurantstore’s obfuscations) to escalate the dispute legally. You might be thinking at this point, “Wow, Microcosm is really obsessed with this ladder thing, maybe they should move on.” Are the time and expense worth it to us? Maybe. Definitely not in terms of money—any legal settlement would need to be much larger than the bilking of the ladders in order to cover the time and costs we’ve already sunk into this issue. We could just let this go—we’re large enough at this point that the loss of three expensive ladders won’t sink us. But even just five years ago, it would have seriously compromised our ability to make payroll and we wouldn’t have been able to do a thing about it. We know we’re not the only people who’ve incurred losses by dealing in good faith with this company. We don’t have limitless resources, but it still seems worthwhile to use some of them to try to hold accountable a giant company that does twice our annual revenue every day but won’t make it right when they mess up.

As book publishers, we all know what it’s like to struggle in the shadow of a giant online retailer that plays dirty and seems to relish endless growth at the expense of everyone else in its ecosystem, including its customers. When people ask us what our day to day job is like, they don’t imagine a years-long dispute over ladders, but what else is there? A ladder helps us safely and quickly get you the obscure book you took a chance on, it helps us protect our workers and our colleagues, it helps us always reach higher.

Post Script: Within 24 hours we heard from numerous businesses who experienced the same phenomenon when attempting to order from Webstaurantstore; one of which went out of business afterwards.