Thanks, It Has Pockets! An Interview with Jess Driscoll

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we talked with Jess Driscoll about her sweet new book, The Magic of Pockets: Why Your Clothes Don’t Have Good Pockets and How to Fix That. We had a great conversation about traditional and underground publishing (Jess is a longtime zinester, blogger, and multi-media creator), what it was like working together (including some solid advice for coming up with and pitching a book idea), and of course our many and big feelings about pockets in clothes! Below the video, you can read the answers to some more questions Jess kindly answered for us, plus her original pitch that sold us on the book.

What inspired you to write your book?

In August 2018, I made a zine every day, and one of them was called, Thanks, it has pockets!, titled after a viral tweet about how femmes compliment each other’s clothes. It was a tiny, messy guide to how to sew pockets into your clothes, and I always thought I might go back and make it a longer zine. Then in September 2018, I visited Portland and the Microcosm store, and I immediately recognised that the zine could be a book, and it might belong on those shelves.

Jess and one of her many zines

What was it like to publish with Microcosm?

It felt like working on a project with friends. I met Elly and Joe in 2019, and it just confirmed to me that I wanted to publish a book with Microcosm. I’m a teacher in my daily life and a DIY kinda person at heart; I was already writing instructional zines. Elly was a great editor, always there with gentle nudging reminders and helpful suggestions for this first time author.

What was the submission/query process like for you?

I have been thinking about publishing since I was a teenager, so I’ve read every book and website about the querying process. But the submission guidelines on Microcosm’s website were so comprehensive and clear that I just followed them exactly. I workshopped the pitch with my two closest friends, then sent it in. I woke up the next morning to an enthusiastic acceptance!

Do you still have your original query to us? Are you willing to share it?

Yep! Here it is: 

Thanks, It Has Pockets! How to Alter Your Clothes and Cut Down Capitalism is do-it-yourself guide for sewing pockets into store-bought, pre-made clothing, the kind that never seems to come with pockets built-in. While many sewing books teach by guiding students through the construction of an entire garment, this book has a tight focus for those who don’t want to sew their whole wardrobe, who simply want to learn a skill to make life a little better. This book is a practical guide to a single alteration that makes a big difference. 

Thanks, It Has Pockets! fits among Microcosom’s DIY titles, like Fix Your Clothes, Bread of the Resistance, and Honing Your Craft.

Thanks, It Has Pockets! How to Alter Your Clothes and Cut Down Capitalism contains step-by-step instructions and line drawings to sew six simple pockets, along with suggested alterations to give the reader freedom to create exactly the pockets their wardrobe needs, while sidebar essays and lists teach a short history of pockets. All of these projects can be sewn by beginners, and most can be made by hand, no machine required.

[note: Jess’s original pitch included an annotated table of contents which was excellent but we’re not sharing it here because it’s also very long!)
A full view of the amazing, handmade Strawberry Shortcake dress Jess is wearing in the podcast video

What else have you written?

In another lifetime, I thought I might fiction, but for the last five years, my focus has been nonfiction and zines. Most of them are free to download on itch.io. This year, I started making zines on a livestream so the audience can watch me write and do layout and follow the whole process. As someone who has been blogging since 2001, I enjoy seeing works in progress as much as the finished product.

What are you currently reading? 

After a long few years of not having the attention span for books, I’ve been trying to read again. Currently, I’m in the middle of Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman and Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones, and I’m rereading Animal Farm by George Orwell because I’m teaching it.

What’s the best book you read in the last year?

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. I started a year ago after reading a Charlie Warzel article which referenced it. Even though Wintering was written before the pandemic, it’s the perfect pandemic book, about seasons and cycles and quiet living. I picked it back up again in the spring of 2022 and finished it, like the universe knew exactly what I needed at that moment.

What’s next for you? 

I haven’t pitched my next book yet, but I’m thinking a lot about living alone, how life changes with the seasons, and boredom. 

Where can people find you online?

Jessdriscoll.com is my website, and I write a regular newsletter, which will be the best place to connect with me going forward. I’m feeling burned out on social media (again), and I’d love nothing more than to spend the next year reading and writing and hiking rather than spending time on someone else’s platform. 

Any in-person events coming up soon?

I would love to do some events! But it just isn’t safe yet. The pandemic isn’t over. I was sick in February 2020, and this year, I’ve been dealing with a chronic fatigue like I’ve never felt before. And then I got Covid in September. But I’ve been planning some videos for my YouTube channel, and I’m available for your podcast!

Do Cowbots Get Blue Balls? An interview with S. Park

S. Park’s new short story collection, Even Cowbots Get Blue Balls, is part of our Queering Consent erotica series. He’s as prolific in turning in polished copy as any editor could dream of, and we’ve also published a series of short-story zines by him, with more books and zines in the works. We spoke with him for our latest episode of the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, and he was kind enough to answer some written interview questions below.

What inspired you to write your book?

As it’s a collection of five stories, there were five different inspirations! Overall, though, given the book’s theme of loving the “other” my own thoughts and feelings about queer identities had a large impact. The mainstream likes to make their villains and their monsters queer for a reason, and while I think fighting back against that is a valid response, embracing it is as well. If you tell me that a man loving another man is monstrous, then how about a man loving a demon? A robot? A vampire? If you are going to be horrified by how strange and alien my love is, then I might as well go all the way and be as strange, monstrous, and horrifying as possible! And yet in this collection especially once you read the stories, they’re not horrifying at all. They’re consenting people who care about each other finding ways to bridge divides that vary from two princes, one of whom merely happens to be a fairy, to a human being who’s meant to slay demons instead finding pleasure with one.

What was it like to publish with Microcosm?

It’s been pretty smooth sailing so far. I’ve been lucky to work with an editor whose style and approach suits me pretty perfectly, and my prior experience with other small presses meant that nothing in the process was a shock, though I was mildly surprised when I found out there was a “marketing team” (Microcosm is by far the largest publisher I have worked with, several have been single individuals running “basement” passion projects!) and that said team wanted to change my book’s title to be more provocative. I can’t help my continuing urge to point out that the cowboy is the human and the robot is the city-slicker in the story in question, but I will admit that Even Cowbots Get Blue Balls is both more memorable, and gives more of a clue to the steamy nature of the contents than The Only Chance Inn does!

What was the submission/query process like for you?

I was incredibly lucky to be able to compress that process, due to knowing my editor Lydia personally before submitting to Microcosm. They had read a number of my fanfiction stories, so when their work on the Queering Consent series came up in conversation, they already knew that I wrote the sorts of things that would fit well under that label.

What else have you written?

I write a lot! I’ve written millions of words of fanfiction across fandoms from the silly to the obscure to the incredibly horny. (My Little Pony, The Chronicles of Amber, and Hades the video game, to name one in each category!) I’ve also published a few previous books, ranging from erotic romance (The Sacrifice, published by JMS Books under my previous pen name of Stephanie Park is probably the best of those) to post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure featuring vampires (Blood Choice, a book originally published by the Austrialian Jaffa Books, alas now defunct, but that was picked up by Thurston Howl Press, and is still available through them.) I’ve also had quite a few short stories in assorted anthologies, and I even self-publish some zines on my own.  I am constantly full of thoughts and ideas, and I can’t help but have some of them come out as stories!

What are you currently reading? 

I have a stack by my bed that includes Flipping by R. Lee Fryar, which I’m only about a third of the way through but which is an interesting world where ghosts depend on their haunted houses to continue to exist as ghosts, so of course a flipper messing with this ghost’s house isn’t going to go over well! I’m also slowly working my way through Antifa Splatterpunk, an anthology from Cursed Morsels which is fascinating reading but which I find I have to take a small chunk at a time, as it’s intense, and Your Body is Not Your Body, a trans-themed horror collection from Tenebrous Press with much the same problem. And I just started—as a pleasant break from those—Trans-Galactic Bike Ride, from a publisher called Microcosm, you might have heard of them! In non-fiction I am reading War Before Civilization by Lawrence H. Keely which is a stellar book and an amazing look into the fundamentals of human nature as relates to violent conflict, “civilized” or not.

What’s the best book you read in the last year?

I write more than I read these days, which is probably a failing of some kind or other. I would probably have to say Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher, which falls short of being perfect by about one millimeter.  Said millimeter being that I think the male “hero” character was actually unnecessary and could have been written out entirely, though I understand why he got put in and why he wasn’t written out.  Sometimes “good enough” is good enough, and oh WOW is this a “good enough” book! More than good enough, it has everything I could ever want in a dark fairy tale world, including perhaps my favorite fairy godmother of all time.

What’s next for you? 

More of whatever inspires me, which could be anything, but also definitely more of the same. I adore writing queer relationships, happy sex, and strange, inhuman beings who maybe turn out to be awfully human after all, and I’ve already pitched and had accepted another collection of similar stories to Microcosm, not to mention the direct sequels to several stories in the Cowbots book that are in the works as well! So there are many steamy, consensual, kinky, queer, and monster-loving tales to come. I’m also enjoying self-publishing a zine series of queer horror stories, in which queer people aren’t the real monsters, bigots are, and the queer “monsters” get bloodily satisfying revenge.  So if, for example, a trans man being able to summon a demon to send after the cis transphobe who assaulted him sounds like a fun time, those might be up your alley.

Where can people find you online?

On rare occasion when I have coherent thoughts, I blog on Dreamwidth at bladespark.dreamwidth.org but I’m most active on twitter @bladespark, where you can see my every little hummingbird notion, and also quite a lot of NSFW artwork, craft projects, and so on. I also have my self-published zines on Etsy (sparkcreatures) and in digital format on itch.io (bladespark).

Any in-person events coming up soon?

No dates yet, but I will eventually have a book signing at As You Like it in Eugene, Oregon. Their event room is unfortunately out of order, but I’m promised I’ll be booked in after they have it repaired, and I’m quite looking forward to it.

We’re expanding our trade representation!

Last week we sent out a press release that began: “Microcosm Publishing is making some changes in our US trade representation, effective Jan 1, 2023.” 

For the uninitiated in the publishing industry, this means that we will be working with a broader array of outside salespeople to get our books into bookstores (aka “the [book] trade”). Most publishers of our size (probably best described at this time as on the smaller end of “medium-sized”) work with a large trade distributor to get their books into bookstores. Microcosm has worked with several distributors on and off in the last 28 years, until the beginning of 2019 when we announced our return to independent distribution (which also ended our relationship with a certain giant online retailer). Since then, we’ve been working with three different independent groups of trade sales reps who really get our books, have relationships with bookstores across the US, and have done a stellar job connecting our books with those stores and their buyers.

As we grow and learn what works best, we’re making a few changes in this trade representation:

Abraham Associates will now represent Microcosm’s titles in the midwest US, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Bob Barnett (PW’s Rep of the Year for 2020) at Third Act Sales will represent Microcosm in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. 

Imprint Group (which is merging with our existing rep group, the former Book Travelers West—the head of which, Kurtis Lowe, was PW’s 2022 rep of the year) will continue to represent Microcosm in the western US.

Como Sales Co. (group head Maureen Karb was nominated for PW Rep of the Year in 2020) will continue to represent Microcosm’s books in the eastern and southeast US.

Microcosm has been an independent publisher since 1996, and was named the fastest growing publisher of 2022 by Publisher’s Weekly. Microcosm’s year-to-date sales are up 37%. 

Microcosm CEO Joe Biel commented, “We are thrilled to continue to expand our reach with these new sales reps, in order to create a world we want to live in and for everyone pushed to the margins to help themselves feel recognized.”

Abraham Associates Principal John Mesjak said, “Everyone in our group is excited to get started working with Microcosm, talking up their books in our territory. We’re always looking for publishers who bring interesting, passionate voices to the world; present a worldview that aligns with our own; and have a crew of smart publishing folks that we can work with. We love that all three of those boxes are ticked in Microcosm, and we can’t wait to get started!”

Microcosm is the distributor for Birdcage Bottom Books, Don Giovanni Records, and GOBLINKO, whose books will also be sold to stores by these groups.

Unfuck the Holidays, a giant ebook bundle

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered up with Humble Bundle again to offer a rare, massive discounted bundle of our most popular ebooks of the last two years. It’s called Unf*ck the Holidays, and true to its name it’s packed with books to help you get through this season with aplomb. Mental health? Got a lot of that. Sex and relationships? Hmmm, apparently that’s been on our minds, too. Pagan spirituality? No problem. Want to learn to sew or forage for mushrooms? Help is on the way.

We’re pretty sure we’ve got something for everyone here. If we don’t have anything for you, maybe it’s time to consider pitching a book to us!

Born to Be Weird: An interview with Set Sytes

On this week’s People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we’re joined by author Set Sytes, whose collection of wry horror short stories Born to Be Weird is out now, joining his underground hit How Not to Kill Yourself and a host of other books.

Set joined us from his home in York, England to talk about creativity, depression, the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, the editorial process, and the life saving power of imagination.

The economic theories behind our publishing

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly entertain a reader question about the economic theories behind how we run Microcosm. Neither one of us is an economist, though we do sometimes play one on the internet. So this question kind of caught us off guard. But we have fun dredging the depths of our brains for the very serious reading of our youths that made a lasting impression.

Do authors need a platform?

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly are joined by Ariel Gore, whose brand-new book The Wayward Writer is a stellar practical and personal guide for authors finding their own path to publication.

We talked about the question of platform—specifically the idea that authors need to bring a ready-made audience along with their manuscript. It’s not so straightforward, and have fun getting into the weeds about that.

Microcosm is Hiring a Book Editor! – closed

Microcosm Publishing is looking for an early- to mid-career book editor who is excited to work with Microcosm on all stages of editing. If you love the puzzle-solving of developmental editing, relish the challenge of turning a disorganized manuscript into a book that can make a splash and save lives, and want to learn and grow along with us, please consider applying.

Microcosm is a reader-oriented publisher, primarily working with non-literary, nonfiction manuscripts by first-time authors. Our goal is never to craft a beautiful turn of phrase or achieve grammatical perfection, but rather to offer readers valuable, practical tools to change their life and world, while preserving the author’s unique voice and always having the most fun. You can learn more about our editorial program and processes in our department documentation.

Hours: This is a full-time, 40 hour per week position.

Location: A desk is available in our Portland office if desired, but this position can be fully remote. 

Experience: For this position, we are only considering candidates with experience editing books for publication. Other types of editing and coaching skills are valuable, but books require a specific skill set and that’s what we need this time around. The ideal candidate would come to us with one to four years of experience (or equivalent, time-wise—we know life isn’t always so straightforward).

Core job duties: 

  • 50% developmental/global edits
  • 30% line editing
  • 20% copy editing or management/scheduling, depending on the qualifications and interests of the person hired.

Requirements:  

  • Experience editing nonfiction books for publication
  • Strong developmental and line editing skills
  • Adequate copy editing skills 
  • Comfortable editing directly in Google Docs
  • Flexibility to work with a variety of author writing and communication styles
  • Ability and willingness to edit books about topics that may be sensitive to some, including trauma, abuse, and recovery, non-christian religions, various marginalized identities, drugs, sexual instruction, and erotica
  • Expertise as a sensitivity reader in at least one domain
  • Ability to meet or exceed deadlines without operating in a state of last-minute urgency
  • Ability to prioritize between multiple projects and work independently
  • Strong work ethic and desire to continually learn and improve

Preferences/level-ups:

  • Production editorial experience
  • Management and leadership skills and interest

Pay and benefits

Starting wage is $18-$22 per hour, and goes up $1/hour after 90 day trial period. Starting pay will depend on level of responsibility in previous editorial work, ability to work independently, and management/leadership capabilities. 

  • All company profits are distributed to staff in the form of raises and bonuses
  • Paid sick time
  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off (coming in early 2023!)
  • Fully remote work option
  • Flexible work hours and time off
  • Employee ownership program after five years
  • Transparent compensation and clear metrics for advancement
  • Meaningful work at a fast-growing company 

To apply:

  1. Fill out this application, and 
  2. Submit either a sample of 2-5 manuscript pages you have edited (with suggestions/track changes showing your work) or this editorial test

Application deadline: November 15, 2022

How We Became the Fastest Growing Publisher!

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly finally got together in the warehouse for the first time since Microcosm was named Publisher’s Weekly’s fastest growing publisher for 2022! It’s been a few months since the rankings came out, and we’re still pretty shocked. We talk about what all that growth means, what it’s been like, whether or not we have any plans to slow down, and how yeah, we’re a little tired!

Can you get sued for publishing misinformation?

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly answer a reader question: do book publishers need to be concerned about liability if they publish books containing scientifically inaccurate information? We’re not sure if the question-asker is considering publishing an anti-vaxx book, suing the publisher of one, or just noodling about fact checking in a more general way, but we do our best to give some practical perspectives.