Monthly Archives: July 2018

This Is… Alexander Barrett

Colorful little book on a shelf. "This is Portland"We’ve loved working with traveler/writer Alexander Barrett since the beginning. From our beloved Portland to Shanghai and soon San Francisco, Alex’s eye for the unique little details in the cities he features continues to be spot on and enjoyable. Years ago, 2015 to be exact, we interviewed Alex for the release of This is Shanghaiand this week we decided to catch up with him and revisit those questions for a update.

 

 1. Where are you *right now* and what is the most important thing to know about what’s going on around you there?

Right now, I’m in my apartment in San Francisco, looking out over the city. I’ve lived here just long enough to think that the new Salesforce tower is ruining the skyline. Oof that thing. Today was “Sunday Streets” on Valencia in the Mission. They close the street to traffic and line it with musicians, dancers, and tables dedicated to local non-profits. I just watched a bunch of hippies play Jefferson Airplane covers to a small group of dancing children. “When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies…” It was the first time I really listened to those lyrics. The kids really responded to them.

2. I know it’s crass to ask, but when you aren’t making charming illustrated books about places you’re getting to know, what exactly do you do for a living?

I have a job. I’ve had the job for three years. I still don’t know exactly what it is. But I go there and I do stuff. When it started, I was a copywriter working on branding for YouTube. Then I convinced some higher ups to let me buy a Risograph Printer. Now I mostly print fun stuff and show other people how to print fun stuff.

3. What’s your favorite book that you’ve read this year?

I read Tamara Shopsin’s Arbitrary and Stupid Goal a few months ago. I really like the format of her books. It’s not unlike the way I’ve structured mine. Very staccato. But her chapters bounce all over the place through time, topic, and location. Such a wonderful experience.

4. What’s next for you? And finally, the question on everyone’s mind: Where will you live next?

I’ve lived in San Francisco for three years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in a long time. I think I’ll stick around for a while. I won’t be in this city forever, but they have nice baked goods here. For the time being, I’m going to be in this apartment and explore the way I make things.

Looking back, the process of making these three books feels so similar. But looking at the final products, I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think This is San Francisco is the best and most complete project I’ve ever made. That feels good.

 

Learn more about Alexander and follow his work at www.alexanderbarrett.com and check out all three of his city books.
If you’re in Portland this month, snag a free copy of the 1st edition This is Portlands at “little free libraries” all over town! More on the blog.

What It Means that We’re Leaving Amazon

This week, when we made the announcement that we will part ways with our trade distributor at the end of 2018, we also announced that we won’t be seeking a new distribution relationship directly with Amazon. We’ve gotten a lot of virtual high fives for this, and there’s also been some misunderstanding about what exactly this means.

“I feel terrible because I still sell / buy on Amazon,” is one reaction we get. “But won’t your company / authors suffer if your books aren’t available on Amazon?” is the other. The answer is simple, but the background is complex, and this post is meant to help clarify the relationship Amazon has with publishers, authors, and consumers, and will hopefully give you some guidance in making more informed choices. (more…)

We are Breaking Up with The Big Boys


We’ve been holding on to a bit of news lately, and we’re excited to finally share it with you all! Here’s founder Joe Biel with the details…

Joe & Ruby deliver books by bicycle.

Starting January 1, 2019, we will be managing our own distribution just like we did for over ten years. Not only will we no longer need to move thousands of books back and forth between warehouses, creators get paid more for each book sold. And we won’t be selling to Amazon. Why. you ask? Well, my grandparents were German immigrants who came here in the 1800s for labor unions and worked to achieve the 40-hour work week…which was then abolished in our lifetime. When Microcosm was just getting off the ground in 1997, I interviewed Ian Mackaye of Dischord Records. He explained that a publisher is only as independent as their distribution is. He was seemingly taking a jab at “independent” labels who handle all of their manufacturing and distribution through a major but his point sticks. 

Microcosm has always tried to work with independent companies, because they feel most comfortably aligned with our mission, values, and goals…but we’ve watched over the past dozen years as each independent distributor gets gobbled up and responds to the demands of the increasingly demanding monopolies.

We’ve watched as our peer publishers either throw in the towel or sell to one of the monopolies, neither of which we are willing to do. We feel that independents need to be independent and the best way to do that is to build an outpost of our own, a shining star where we can continue to thrive instead of relying upon the whims of any global corporation.

So we are returning to our roots to create the world that we want to see within our weirdo clubhouse. 

We will be parting ways with Legato/PGW/Perseus/Ingram in January and have already built new warehouses and software to make this possible. Few events in the history of Microcosm have improved our morale and brought our staff together like this has. As always, our intent is to expand our distribution at the same time. Our new sales people (now a team of four) excitedly understand our books and have more time and focus to dedicate to them. For the first time ever, our back catalog will receive as much attention as our new releases. Within a few years, we intend to begin offering these services to other publishers.

This isn’t as staggering a change as it sounds. Reviewing the numbers, we have come to realize that we know better how to distribute our books than anyone else that we’ve tried to partner with. We’ve handled roughly 75% of our distribution even across these past seven years. The simple fact is that the underground is much bigger than the mainstream.

To ensure that we are still actually serving all of the stores and readers that are interested in our books, we’re bringing on Book Traveler’s West (West Coast), Como (East Coast), and Fujii (Midwest) to actively visit and solicit our books to stores. We will continue to be distributed by Turnaround in Europe and will be working with the same distributors in Australia, Canada, and the rest of the world as well. Readers and stores can still buy books directly from our website, microcosmpublishing.com.

​We are redoubling our efforts to sell direct and to independents instead of helping monopolies like Amazon continue to grow at the expense of others. Perhaps more importantly, we will not be accepting their terms that increasingly just serve to crush everything in their path. If you want to help support the indies during this crucial time, go to your local shops and buy books, and encourage your friends to do the same. They will remember moments like this forever.

We hear from people almost every week that our books are saving their lives, and we feel that we have an obligation to extend that as far and wide as possible. There’s an unspoken rule in the underground that what we do is secret but when these rules don’t serve the goals, we have no choice but to break them.

Joe’s next book, A People’s Guide to Publishing, can help anyone inspired by our journey learn the lessons and wisdom that got us here today.
Check out the kickstarter project here!

Read the more industry-jargony version of this news with more details on Shelf Awareness.

Or, if you want to know more about what this’ll mean, check out Elly’s breakdown.


If you ever need help with ordering, please contact Sidnee Grubb | Customer Service (1-503-799-2698).
For press questions, interview or sample requests, contact Cyn Marts, publicity director, cyn@microcosmpublishing.com.

Call for submissions: Bikes in Space, trans/nb edition

Trans pioneer Roberta CowellIt’s time: We’re requesting stories for the seventh volume of feminist bicycle science fiction series Bikes in Space.

The fifth volume, Bikes Not Rockets, is funding on Kickstarter through August 8th. The sixth, with the working title Dragon Bike, is in edits. This seventh volume is scheduled to come out in early 2021.

For the first time we’re excited to welcome a guest editor to the series: Lydia Rogue, who stepped in to edit the most recent issue of the Taking the Lane zine, True Trans Bike Rebel, pitched the theme for this volume and we couldn’t resist.

Without further ado, here are the submission guidelines:
The theme for this issue is: trans and nonbinary characters and writers. Working title: The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride
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Welcome to Portland, have a book!

This month welcomes the new edition of a staff favorite, This is Portland: The City You’ve Heard You Should Like! This colorful charmer highlights so many of our favorite details about living in the weirdest little city.

Updated for 2018 with 50% additional material, This is Portland is a first-hand look at a city that people can’t seem to stop talking about. It’s a guidebook of sorts, but not to restaurants and sightseeing. Instead, Alexander Barrett is your friendly guide to the quirky characters and atmosphere of Portland, Oregon and how fun, beautiful, and ridiculous it can be.

To celebrate this rad new edition, we’re doing something a little different — a Free Library book drop (or, scavenger hunt, if you will). Starting today (Friday July 6th and continuing through the month, Portland’s Microcosmonauts will be dropping Microcosm loot at free libraries throughout town.

From the comic catalogs that tell Microcosm’s story to our newest catalogs featuring a full Book Tour board game on the back and more, like Microcosm stickers and postcards; coupons good for any purchase at microcosm.pub; freebie books, like old advanced copies of Fix Your Clothes and Wild Fermentation; first editions of This is Portland, plus a few of the new edition!

We’ll be posting photos, hints, and behind the scenes clips on our instagram feed, so if you’re looking to hunt down some loot, take a look!

And if you’re not in Portland? Tell us a weird, charming thing about where _you_ live on instagram (with the hashtag #winpdx) for a chance to win a 1st edition copy for yourself!