Posts By: Joe Biel

The Microcosm Publishing Annual Money Report: 2019 Edition (with graphs!)

There’s no way around it: our first year returning to self-distributing was an incredible success!

Unbelievably, our 2019 sales went up 55.77% over 2018, making 2019, again, our best year ever! In the past year we’ve also increased staff wages by 38.94%, with more to come!

At the same time, 2019 really taxed and tested us in ways that we haven’t seen before. We are shipping an average of six times as many packages every day as we were when we moved into this building eight years ago. We are receiving six times as many boxes every day as well. All of this leads to the increased need for diligence and refinement as we outgrow old systems. 

Sure, everyone works harder as well and it’s nice to have that acknowledged. 2019 also saw the implementation of the employee ownership program and we now have five owners with more on the way. We also switched our podcast from quarterly to weekly and added a vlogcast version.

As the growth seems constant and endless, we have to stop and ask bigger long-term questions: when will we need to hire another staff person (February?)? When will we give the next round of raises (April!)? These are wonderful problems to discuss and the opposite of our situation eight years ago when the current staff took over the company. 

We are publishing more books than ever (and reprinting more books than ever too!) and most of this year has been spent implementing new systems to use data to make better decisions and where we have the most growth opportunities.

Most important is the constant feedback we receive from our work. We’ve expanded our books to prisoners program as well this year and many people write back, shocked that we responded at all—let alone sent me them a pile of books to read. Seeing readers recommend our books on social media has been flattering but nothing holds a candle to someone spilling their guts about how much they were singularly impacted in a private letter.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Our total sales for the year were $1.273 million dollars. Here’s what we are selling:

Here are our bestsellers, by dollars:

Expenses this year were also right at $1.27M, partially due to the 38.94% staff raises:

And the real shocker, comparing 2019 to 2018:

And a friendly reminder: While we’re legally a “for-profit” organization, we choose to operate on a break-even basis. This means that when we have profits (which isn’t all the time, but we try), they don’t go into our owners’ yacht fund; they go into staff wages and taking a chance on publishing new books we believe in. Getting to do work we care about every day and put books out there that help people change their lives is way better than a yacht. Which is an important attitude to have in the publishing industry!

On the podcast: Marketing Fiction vs. Nonfiction

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing vlogcast, Elly and Joe compare fiction to nonfiction and see if the claim that marketing fiction is different from marketing nonfiction holds up!


Thank you for watching the People’s Guide to Publishing vlogcast!

Get the book: https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/3663

Get the workbook: https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/zines/10031

More from Microcosm: http://microcosmpublishing.com
More by Joe Biel: http://joebiel.net
More by Elly Blue: http://takingthelane.com

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The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing with Samm Saxby

This week on the podcast we discuss everyone’s favorite (and least favorite) topic, the demographics of publishing—specifically race and racism. Why are things the way that they are? How is this holding back the industry and sales?

This is San Francisco

In the same vein as his other two evocative love letters to cities, This Is Portland and This Is Shanghai, Alexander Barrett again plays quirky tour guide in This is San Francisco. Distilling the charm of San Francisco into colorful, illustrated pages, he reveals the city’s magic in this good-humored, earnest homage. This isn’t a guide book that will tell you where to stay or what to eat; rather, it’s an invitation from a friend to come along on a walk down one of San Francisco’s historic streets, up one of its urban staircases, or along its many shorelines. Through thoughtful and funny anecdotes, essays, and illustrations, Barrett takes you on a journey through one of America’s most famous cities and makes you wish you were right there with him.

People’s Guide to Publishing: How Amazon Has Changed Publishing

For many years, new publishers and authors have posed questions to us about distribution. They want to know why distribution is so expensive and exclusive. It’s a much more complicated answer than they were expecting so we’re going to break that out in a weekly video series over the next few months.

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