Daily Cosmonaut #11: Looking Successful vs Being Successful

Microcosm tabling setupIn 2007 while Microcosm was at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, a couple approached our table during the last hour minutes of the final day. They pawed around through our displays for a few minutes and then, looking concerned, before finally asking “Hard times, huh?”

It took me a few minutes to figure out if I was more confused or offended at that assessment. How could they know. Ironically, 2006 had been Microcosm’s most successful year to date and sales had grown 20-50% each year. They offered me $1 for an $8 paperback and I declined. They explained that they were looking for a publisher for their own book but clearly we were in not qualified.

I stewed on their words and then steamed on how it was insulting. Before long I realized that the problem was that they had no appreciation for our grassroots approach or the economy of not having an elaborate stage-show of a booth. From talking to them, success was implied by Porsches and diamond rings, fancy displays and prestigious awards. Microcosm had always been focused on saving time and money by ignoring award submissions, finding event displays in the trash, and investing the savings into our mission and staff salaries. But it takes a certain kind of person to understand interpret that, let alone appreciate it.


It’s our inherent punk rock nature that communicates these values to a peer. But this experience at the book fair was the first time that someone vocally interpreted it to me as an outward sign of failure or cutbacks.

Within a few hours my pride was restored as I realized that this was what I wanted to project. This is who are we are in a genuine sense and what the world should know about this. Of course not everyone will understand but then again we aren’t Penguin Random House. And that is true for every reason.