What Did the Funk Brothers Teach Us About Book Editing? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

The Funk Brothers, the legendary bestselling band (possibly of all time) and house band of Motown Records, wrote and performed on more tracks than you could possibly guess. This week on the pod, we take a look at how their approach informed our approach to book editing: taking an author’s expert views on a topic and expanding them into servicing the reader’s interest and needs.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
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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

Katie Haegele celebrates the release of Cat Party!

  • Wednesday, April 17, 2024 | Tattooed Mom, Philadelphia
    6–9 p.m. | FREE

    Join Katie at beloved Philly institution T-Mom’s, where you’ll be able to buy your copy of Cat Party! before it’s available in stores, get yourself some cat-themed merch (including records with original music by contributor Joe Carlough!), and hang out with tons of local artists while enjoying a catty playlist. It’s gonna be a blast! More info | RSVP

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

Upcoming Tabling Events

    • None coming up, check back for more later!

Microcosm at Rollercon 2023

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.

 None currently, but keep an eye on the space!

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.

How Should A Publisher Change Distributors? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

After the recent news of Small Press Distribution (SPD) closing, we thought it would be prudent to walk through best practices for changing a distributor! A distributor is a publisher’s warehouse, sales, and fulfillment arms. It’s their to-market force, and it’s often the difference between sinking and swimming.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Bookstore Solidarity Project: Charlie’s Queer Books (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

In 2013, we predicted that the bookstore model would shift to more specialized indie stores that offered a narrower offering around their own curated interests and values, with more books face-out and unabashedly clear messaging about who the store is and is not for. And here are we are in 2024, with Charlie’s Queer Books of Seattle, Washington offering a perfect example. This week on the pod, we interview Charlie, who has awesome stories about the importance of creating a safer space to demonstrate that there are, in fact, happy queer people.

Check out our other interview with Charlie here.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Spooky pink and yellow text over black and gray industrial background.

Radical Care for Physical and Mental Health

In a world of systems that aim to keep us feeling helpless, sick, and disconnected from our bodies and emotions, it’s crucial to learn how to care for ourselves—and each other. From reproductive freedom to recruiting herbal allies, from supporting your own mental health to offering support to loved ones, life is full of opportunities to take back our agency and see ourselves as collaborators in healing.

To celebrate the release of new zine How to Get Your Periodhere’s a collection of works that embrace a radical understanding of “self care” as an empowering ethic for healthier individuals and communities.

How to Get Your Period, by Anonymous Healthcare Worker 

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.

Alive With Vigor! Surviving Your Adventurous Lifestyle, edited by Robert Earl Sutter III

Alive With Vigor! compiles stories of surviving—and thriving—from a wide spectrum of contributors. Deeply personal essays recount matters of preventative health care, the hard decisions we each have to make, Do It Yourself health care, and how to deal with extracting health care from government/corporate health care systems. Alive With Vigor! has a special focus on queer, youth, and transgender people, recognizing that everyone has different health care needs. Finally a how to book where you can put the advice directly to use in your life!

Reclaiming Our Ancient Wisdom: Herbal Abortion Procedure and Practice for Midwives and Herbalists, by Catherine Marie Jeunet 

A guide for practiced herbalists and midwives to better serve their communities with herbal abortion options. Beautifully illustrated with botanical drawings from Gerard’s Herbal and other early texts. The time is now for us to learn from forgotten knowledge and keep ourselves and the people around us healthy and fully in charge of their own reproductive health and rights. 

Stressed & Overwhelmed: Good Habits for the Exhausted Overachiever,
by Elly Blue

If you’re the sort of person who takes on every project and responsibility until suddenly it’s one thing too many and you get completely burnt out and drop everything and start the cycle again from scratch … this zine is for you. Includes hard-won pointers on how to train yourself to have more sustainable work habits (using tricks from dog training!), shore up your professional boundaries, and get more organized so you can have a better handle on all the things you are very likely to continue taking on. Stress and overwhelm are tough to live with every day, and the go-getters of the world could use to take better care of ourselves and have more fun.

Hot Pants: Do It Yourself Gynecology, by Isabelle Gauthier & Lisa Vinebaum

A thorough and classic examination on tried and true herbal treatments for common gynecological problems, as well as great basic sexual health info for anyone with a uterus. It begins, “Patriarchy sucks. It’s robbed us of our autonomy and much of our history. We believe it’s integral for women to be aware an in control of our own bodies.” Diagrams and herbal remedies teach you how to diagnose and heal many basic problems from bladder infections to inducing your period to ease cramps to even dealing with pregnancy. Learn herbal remedies to ease every stage of the menstrual cycle. There’s references to further reading, descriptions of herbs, and even a section on aphrodisiacs. The sections include: Body Mapping (in brief), About Menstruation, Love in the Age of Aids, 35 years of fertility, STDs and Other Aliens, The Ovaries and the Uterus, Aphrodisiacs, How to Prepare and Use Herbs, Picking Your Own Herbs, Herbal Properties and Dosages, Interesting Reading, Useful Addresses. This book deserves to sit next to your copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves.

Support: Feminist Relationship Tools to Heal Yourself and End Rape Culture, by Cindy Crabb

Support encourages everyone to take a step back, listen, think, and talk about sex, consent, violence, and abuse. If you or someone you know have ever been assaulted or victimized, how to be an ally can be confusing. These words and the connection they offer can help. With ideas and encouragement to help yourself and others cope with, prevent, and end sexual violence and abuse, this collection of personal experiences, advice, guest articles, and comic excerpts wants to help.

Self-Compassion: Be Kind to Yourself Instead of Striving for Bullshit “Self-Esteem,” by Dr. Faith G. Harper

For decades, the U.S. has been obsessed with “self-esteem” or rather with our lack of it. But self-esteem isn’t actually that great, and getting all puffed up about yourself isn’t exactly a recipe for the good life. How about self-compassion instead? Bestseller Dr. Faith explains the difference between the two and offers some helpful exercises in developing more compassion for yourself. It’s actually very different, she explains, than letting yourself off the hook for your bullshit. It’s more helpful to accept that you’re human so that you can learn and grow rather than push aside your problems or wallow in your mistakes. Also, kindness to yourself helps you be more kind to other people as well. Everyone wins!

Fireweed #1: A Zine of Grassroots Radical Herbalism and Wild Foods Connecting With Kids and Family Life, by Jess Krueger 

Fireweed, as the full title implies, is all about introducing your kids to plants. It’s about teaching young children the joy of gathering edibles, and making them into candies, teas, jellies, or even medicines. There’s tips for going on plant walks, and suggestions for good introductory plants like ginger, mint, and marshmallow. There are recipes for prickly pear crisp, catnip tea, and simple fermented herbal infusions. The authors conduct a couple interviews with parents about their experiences sharing plants with their children. This zine is really inspiring.  

Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care, by  Corina Dross &  CrimethInc

In activist circles and elsewhere, it has become commonplace to speak of self-care, taking for granted that the meaning of this expression is self-evident. But “self” and “care” are not static or monolithic; nor is “health.” How has this discourse been colonized by capitalist values? How could we expand our notion of care to encompass a transformative practice?

Following “For All We Care,” analyzing the contradictory currents within the category of care, Crimethinc presents “Self as Other,” combining that text with three more essays in which individuals recount their personal struggles with the concept and practice of care.

Shop the list for even more of our radical self-care titles, or check out some packs. Keep taking care of each other!

What Does a Publisher Need to Distribute Books? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Most small presses use a trade distributor. What do they do? What are the components of a distributor’s function? Can you do them yourself? What does a distributor do? What does a distributor look for? This week we take a look at these things and more, as we unpack distribution! (Metaphorically, although our kickass warehouse team unpacks distribution literally almost every day.)

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Bookstore Solidarity Project: Alibi Bookshop of Vallejo, CA (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Nestled deep in the heart between San Francisco and Sacramento lives the Alibi Bookshop! This week, in the latest of “What makes all of these cool indie bookstores tick?” we present to you, their proprietor, Karen, to unpack what publishers could do better to interface with stores like hers and the funniest things that happen when you bring back the 90s.

You can check out the other interview we did with Karen on the blog here.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Interview with Bob Suren, author of Weird Music That Goes On Forever

Behind the scenes of Bob’s quest to bring two outsider genres together at last

Bob Suren’s new book, Weird Music That Goes On Forever: A Punk’s Guide to Loving Jazz is out now, with art by Brian Walsby and forewords from Lucky Lehrer and Paul Mahern. We chatted with Bob about the writing and publication of the book and the punk-to-jazz pipeline.

Microcosm Publishing: What inspired you to write your book?

Bob Suren: An unsatisfactory experience at a jazz club. When I first got into punk rock as a teenager, some more seasoned punks taught me about how punk rock works. They loaned me records and zines and made mix tapes and invited me to shows. The few jazz clubs I have been to have not been particularly welcoming. After a visit to some snobby club, I thought, jazz isn’t supposed to be like that. Really, nothing should be like that. But jazz was the original outsider music. Granted, I wasn’t kicking around when it was but it sure seems dusty and aloof now. I belong to several jazz groups online, to gather knowledge and read opinions, and there’s very little sense of humor in the groups. There is a lot of what the kids call “gatekeeping” and a lot of jazz experts flexing their credentials. Of course, there’s quite a bit of that now in punk, too, and I plead a little guilty. Anyhow, after being given the third-class treatment at a jazz club, I got the idea to write a book that compares jazz to punk and I started writing it the minute I got home. I sent Microcosm the first thousand words or so that very night.

MCP: What was it like to publish with Microcosm?

BS: This is my second book with Microcosm. I hear that for your seventh they give you a monogrammed smoking jacket. The first book I edited in person with Joe, side by side at his desk in Portland over five or six days. It was very easy and smooth and the finished product was not much different than the rough draft. For this book, I worked remotely by email with Olivia and there were a lot more things to debate and fix in the edit. I think we did three front to back edits over a period of maybe three months. I was starting to get sick of looking at the thing but Olivia made some good suggestions and she caught a few fact errors in her cross-research which made for a better book. And a much longer book. I used to be skeptical of the editing process but I now realize that a second set of eyes is a big help

MCP: What was the submission/query process like for you?

BS: Since I already had a relationship with Microcosm, it was very easy and informal. I sent Joe a three sentence pitch and the first thousand or so words as soon as I wrote them. Maybe like 10 minutes after I wrote them. Joe’s original response was that it might make a good zine. He told me to keep it around 36 pages. I didn’t think I could do the subject any justice at 36 pages so I said, “I’m just going to write it the way it needs to be and send it when I feel like it’s finished,” which is a very fucking jazz approach to writing. At one point, I thought it was going to top out short, at around 100 pages. But I keep finding great info. I couldn’t believe it when the final page count was 256. 

MCP: What else have you written?

BS: In 2015 Microcosm published Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records, my memoir of 30 years in punk rock as a fan, a collector, a band member, a record label, a store, a distro, a prolific t-shirt bootlegger, basset hound owner, and more. 

MCP: What are you currently reading? 

BS: I read a lot of nonfiction. I like pop science books like Mary Roach and Oliver Sacks. I love memoirs. Some of the best memoirs I have read were by Meat Loaf, Paul Stanley, Geezer Butler, John Stamos, Rob Lowe, Chrissie Hynde, Belinda Carslie, Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, and a not famous guy from Texas named David Crabb wrote wrote something very funny called Bad Kid. I have given two copies of Bad Kid as gifts. Check it out. I have been dipping into non-fiction, too. I think America’s best non-fiction writer is a guy from Portland named Willy Vlautin. I have read every Willy Vlautin book and I have written him fan mail, just like the fan mail I used to send Kevin Seconds. Except I didn’t ask Willy Vlautin for free stickers.

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

BS: Willy Vlautin’s latest book, The Night Always Comes. Also a novel called The Lemon, written by three people under the pseudonym S.E. Boyd.

MCP: What’s next for you? 

BS: Maybe I will get another idea for a book and maybe I won’t. I have no idea. Once I get the inspiration, I work fast. Crate Digger was written over maybe six weeks. Weird Music took me maybe ten weeks to write. I just need a spark. 

Check out Weird Music That Goes On Forever—not many books out there get a handwritten blurb from King Buzzo.

Bob Suren spent decades as a professional punk rocker, playing in bands, releasing records, running a store and a distribution company, writing for zines, shooting photos, and booking shows. Now he’s kind of into jazz. Read another interview with Bob on our blog.

How does a book publisher deal with failure? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Not everything that you do will be a great success. It’s a matter of how we navigate these less-than-graceful moments that determine our ability to respond and move on with being reactive. This week on the pod, E & J walk through some of their own failures and how they could have handled them better as well as what they handled well. You are forever judged by the last thing that you’ve done, so make it count!

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!