Staff Picks: Our favorite indie bookstores

It probably won’t surprise anyone that Microcosm workers love us some independent bookstores. In honor of Small Business Saturday this November 27th, we’re joining the American Booksellers Association “Indies First” campaign to encourage everyone to pay a visit to their local bookstore and pick up some holiday gifts (and reads for yourself, too, of course). Not sure where your nearest bookstore is? This map at Bookshop.org is easy to use and decently complete.

Here are some of our staff faves, edited for length (most of us had several and it was very hard to choose).

Sidnee, operations manager: Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA. The multiple floors makes it feel so magical and their kid section is awesome. Such friendly employees and I always find great gifts there, plus they’re great about supporting local artists of color with readings and features.

Glenn, data and shipping assistant: Visible Voice Books, Cleveland, OH. My local go-to. On the top floor of a converted funeral home, with a pizza place below it and a basement BBQ restaurant. It is very small but really well stocked with selected fiction and some very deep nonfiction sections, especially music and politics and local Cleveland things. Also has a cafe space with coffee and tea and wine and beer, where I spend most Sunday afternoons.

Sarah, store and receiving manager: Rose City Book Pub, Portland, OR. I love it and the owner is amazing. They have a special shelf for local and self published authors. The owner is an incredible baker and everyday she brings in a different kind of pastry. The back patio is platonic Portland vibes with murals, overgrown plants, and fairy lights.

Rose, intern: Phoenix Bookstore, Burlington, VT. A community favorite that hosts great author events. 

Kristine, key accounts manager: Moe’s Books, Berkeley, CA. Great selection of new books (including, ahem, a good selection of Microcosm), great selection of used books (and very fair trade-in prices), great rare/collectible books & paper ephemera section on the 4th floor, 1st Amendment warriors (busted for obscenity for selling Zap and Snatch comics in ’68), terrific events (hopefully resuming soon), all around good people.

Lydia, publicity manager and editorial associate: Village Books and Paper Dreams, Bellingham and Lynden, WA. Village Books and Paper Dreams in Bellingham (and Lynden!) Washington are great. The cozy atmosphere, cafe and three (!) stories of books in the main shop in downtown Fairhaven are an absolute treat. They do good work too with local writers groups and host author events regularly, and have an incredible selection of new and used books.

Vevina, intern: Mother Foucault’s Bookshop, Portland, OR. I absolutely love Mother Foucault in Portland. The place is a beautiful mess inside and full of different books ranging from Kafka to Kristeva. But what I really love is that they have a lot of literary theory books.

Lex, editorial and marketing manager: Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC. Scuppernong Books in Greensboro. Great poetry section, great kids curation, always good conversation with the owners and staff and bar for working with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They were my first point of contact in Greensboro.

Pandora, intern: The Corvallis Book Bin, Corvallis, OR. The Corvallis Bookbin! I’m biased because I work there but… it’s a good team and I love being here!

Kalen, sales director: Mutiny Information Cafe, Denver and Trinidad, CO. They’re a fantastic community hub here in Denver. In addition to a fun and unexpected selection of books and zines (lots from small presses), they have great coffee, Biggie Smalls the bookstore cat, and events from punk shows to candidate forums. They also have a community pantry out in front of the store and do a lot of mutual aid support.

Elly, marketing and editorial director: Main Street Books, Minot, ND. Very far away from anywhere else in the US, this cozy, homey bookstore does a fantastic job serving its community. We first went there when it was a venue for some of the more acoustic elements of the Why Not Minot Fest. They serve a community that’s deeply conservative but also home to workers who come from around the world and a left-leaning student population, and they manage this with grace.

Joe, publisher: Mac’s Backs, Cleveland OH. When I was a shorter person, trying to figure out why the books that everyone insisted on showing to me were so boring, Mac’s Backs began subtly showing me politics and history that I had no idea about. Like any great bookstore, I could quietly poke around and find things that suited my ballooning brain. And I can attribute 20% of my self-awareness to the topics that I uncovered there was well as the lack of judgment that I received at the counter.

The Future of Bookselling (an interview with Bookshop.org)

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we are debuting our first ever live show! Joe and Elly interview Sarah High, Senior Partnerships Manager at Bookshop.org, the online bookselling site that is revolutionizing the industry by partnering with brick and mortar bookstores, supporting rather than disrupting them. We talk about how Bookshop came to be and a little bit about the future of the book industry, our big hopes for the confluence of books and tech, and how we can achieve it by working together and sharing our passion for books.

Also check out our last two episodes, about the failed Penguin Random House acquisition of Simon & Schuster and how publishers can use the powers of math to make better books.

Why isn’t cheap labor working anymore?

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly talk about the Great Resignation as it applies to publishing—specifically to the blue-collar warehouse jobs that our industry relies on yet often doesn’t acknowledge or respect. We brag a little on our own warehouse staff who are currently outperforming our industry fulfillment times by a longshot, and make the case for treating warehouse workers as equal parts of the team.

Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly examine the pros and cons of different publishing paths for authors. A listener wrote in to ask the age-old question of whether they should try to find a traditional publisher or go ahead and self-publish. We have an obvious bias, but we did our best to treat the question objectively, because there are a bunch of benefits and pitfalls for both.

Microcosm Cleveland is Hiring!

Full time position in Cleveland, OH. This is a warehouse and fulfillment position, helping people get their books and be happy. We practice mask-wearing and are set up for social distancing. You can get a sneak peek at the humble work place here. Position closes November 1st, 2021.

We need someone who can:

• Lift at least 50 pounds

• Demonstrate an exquisite attention to detail (we aim for 99.99% error free shipments)

• Work independently

• Believe 99% in what we do but is confident to identify flaws in the system, ask questions, and bring up their own ideas about how things could be better

• Listen and find solutions that work for everyone involved

• Be very comfortable with alphabetizing and similar data sorting

• Show up prepared and work hard for their whole shift

• Locate books and pull and pack orders four to five days per week (90% or more of their time)

• Work 40 hours per week on site

• Start as soon as reasonable and commit to at least two years

Benefits:

• All company profits are distributed to staff in the form of raises and bonuseswe aim for (and have been exceeding) 20% annual raises

• Health insurance after trial period

• Employee ownership program after five years

• Options for paid vacation and professional development training programs

• Some flexibility in work hours

• Help empower readers to change their lives and the world around them

• Access to owners, management, and other staff for clarification, direction, priorities, continued education, and guidance

No experience needed. Entry level position. Equal opportunity employer. Preference given to former interns and diverse hires. Starts at $14/hour with 90 day trial then $15/hour. 

Apply by November 1, 2021 by completing this application and this test and submitting it to apply @ microcosmpublishing.com with the subject line “Cleveland warehouse application”; no resume or cover letter necessary unless you believe that additional details would be helpful.

Microcosm PDX is Hiring!

Full-time receiving and marketing assistant position at 2752 N Williams Ave, Portland, OR. This is a hybrid position- half physical labor tasks and half computer-related tasks, ultimately serving our purpose of helping people get their books and be happy. We practice mask-wearing and are set up for social distancing. Position closes November 1, 2021

We need someone who can:

• Lift at least 50 pounds

• Demonstrate an exquisite attention to detail (we aim for 99.99% error free receiving)

• Work unsupervised once trained

• Believes 99% in what we do but is confident to identify flaws in the system, ask questions, and bring up their own ideas about how things could be better

• Listen, learn from mistakes, and find solutions that work for everyone involved

• Be very comfortable with alphabetizing and similar data sorting

• Show up prepared and work hard for their whole shift

• Enthusiastically write original descriptions of distributed books and populate data fields for them (50% or more of their time) 

• Assist the receiving department (25% or more of their time)

• Do varying manual labor tasks including shelving, inventory, catalog mailing, tidying the warehouse (25% of their time)

Benefits:

• All company profits are distributed to staff in the form of raises and bonuses—we aim for (and have been exceeding) 20% annual raises

• Health insurance after trial period

• Employee ownership program after five years

• Options for paid vacation and professional development training programs

• Some flexibility in work hours

• Own voices focus to empower readers to change their lives and the world around them

• Access to owners, management, and other staff for clarification, direction, priorities, continued education, and guidance

Entry-level position. Equal opportunity employer. Preference given to former interns and diverse hires. Starts at $14/hour with 90 day trial then $15/hour.

Apply by November 1, 2021 by completing this application and this test and submitting to apply @ microcosmpublishing.com with the subject line “bookmonger application”; no resume or cover letter necessary unless you believe that additional details would be helpful.

What we learned at this year’s PNBA

On this week’s episode of the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly report back from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s 2021 trade show. The event was back to being in-person for the first time since 2019 and everyone was excited to see each other! And excited about books! We learned some things and came away with some observations about what’s going on in the publishing industry.

P.S. We’re running a quick Kickstarter right now for Dr. Faith’s newest book: Befriend Your Brain is a de-swear-inated edition of her bestseller Unf*** Your Brain, suitable for humans 10+ who want help freaking out less.

How do you write a book contract for multiple authors?

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly tackle a reader question about the exciting world of contracts! Someone wrote in to ask how to handle a contract for a book with multiple authors collaborating, or an author and illustrator working together on a project like a kids’ book or a graphic novel. We walk through a few different scenarios and how you might handle them with the goal of having a clear, fair, and consistent contract. Also, we say the word “contract” a lot to desensitize you, because these helpful little documents don’t have to be as scary as most people think they are.

What is licensing and how do publishers do it?

Today on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly tackle the topic of licensing. This is the key business concept for any publisher to understand and consider. Licensing is sort of the engine fuel that makes the industry and your piece of it work; publishers license work from authors to put out as books and then sometimes go on to license different editions and formats. Here it is broken down in a way that will help you see your part in that ecosystem a little more clearly.

This one is part of a 3-part series – you can also check out our episode from last week on intellectual property.