Posts By: Joe Biel

The Microcosm Publishing 2018 Money Report (with pictures!)

Happy new year!

This is the week! After eight years with a trade distributor we have returned to distributing our books independently in the U.S. 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. Few events in the history of Microcosm have improved our morale and brought our staff together like this has. 

The stress relief as we counted down the days until we were free was worth it alone! And the proof is in the pudding—we’ve had to lay the groundwork for this for the past 18 months. Sales were up 24% in 2018 over 2017, making this, once again, Microcosm’s best year ever. Advance shipments for 2019 are already up 600% by doing it ourselves. It’s been a wild ride.

We constantly get really wonderful feedback on Microcosm’s reborn independence and it seems to be really inspiring to other independent publishers and bookstores. Speaking of, there are 38% more indie bookstores than there were ten years ago! They are also each selling an average of 34% more books!

We took our staff from 12 to 14 in 2018 and experienced many growing pains. We expanded both our warehouse and our offices so everyone has a bit more space and we added several additional storage buildings. Nate Beaty (who will have been with Microcosm for 18 years this July) finished our new software so that we can use our existing database to send our book data to everyone who wants it. This has been a ton of fun and a ton of work to do. Our big surprise for next year is that we hope to be ready to package the software that we have made and hopefully revolutionize our fellow publishers and help give other independents a fighting chance in our industry.

In the past year, we’ve published 29 new books and 52 new zines as well as adding over 1,000 titles to our distribution catalog (which we were intending to completely dismantle in 2016 in favor of publishing). The sharp increase in witchcraft books continues and we are continuing to focus primarily on gift and specialty accounts.

Instead of our previous Dinner & Bikes tours, we now focus on attending conferences and events in other cities and having more time at home. Which is a good thing, because our publishing schedule is filling up through 2025 and we finalize Fall 2019 covers this week. 

We sold about 218,500 books last year; that’s about 600 per day!

Here’s a breakdown of some math about our year, with handy charts created by our WorkingLit software: 

Our total income for the year was $947,142.77 Here’s what we’re selling:

Here are our bestsellers, by profitability: 

As you can see, the shift continued this year towards new releases of lifetime evergreens. The older books are still there but they are no longer holding the key positions. We’re succeeding because we’re publishing new books.

And here’s our distributed bestsellers, by net income:

And here are our expenses, totaling $946.292.41. We are again able to afford to finance our own growth and have increased employee wages, with four more people receiving raises this month. 

Here’s each month in 2018 compared to 2017:

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!

Mari Naomi on our podcast

Last week Mari Naomi came to Portland for XOXO Fest and we talked and talked and talked. We talked so much that we hit record for the podcast. Publishing, identity, and how to best respond to toxic behavior. Do people who grow up in affluence lead less fulfilling lives? Story at 11.

Bicycle / Race

Bicycle / Race paints an unforgettable picture of Los Angeles—and the United States—from the perspective of two wheels. This is a book of borderlands and intersections, a cautionary tale about the dangers of putting infrastructure before culture, and a coming-of-age story about power and identity. The colonial history of southern California is interwoven through Adonia Lugo’s story of growing up Chicana in Orange County, becoming a bicycle anthropologist, and co-founding Los Angeles’s hallmark open streets cycling event, CicLAvia, along the way. When she takes on racism in the world of national bicycle advocacy in Washington, DC, she finds her voice and heads back to LA to organize the movement for environmental justice in active transportation.

In the tradition of City of Quartz, this book will forever change the way you see Los Angeles, race and class in the United States, and the streets and people around you wherever you live.

This is Portland (2nd Ed)

Updated with a new edition for 2018 and 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. With its approachable, often hilarious tone, this book is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about bikes, beards, beers, rain, and everything else important about the city you’ve heard you should like.

Stoner Babes Coloring Book

This meditative, art-filled adult coloring book is inspired by the beauty of women and gender fluid people who savor the qualities of the cannabis plant. They are empowered, intelligent, motivated humans who pay no mind to judgment, for they’re making their mark in this world no matter their color, shape, size, age, or gender. You’ll enjoy coloring these highly detailed and varied pages, with tattoos, patterned garb, shape-filled backgrounds, marijuana bouquets, and gorgeous faces. While you color, partake in the transcendental qualities of weed and contemplate what empowerment means to you.

Contains over 60 babes on single-sided and perforated pages that you can tear out and share.

Feminist Weed Farmer

Weed is powerful medicine, and growing your own is as empowering as it gets. Experienced Humboldt farmer Madrone Stewart shares her hard-won knowledge gained from years of growing cannabis, Zen meditation, and surviving as a woman in a male-dominated industry. She walks you through the big picture and each detail of growing about six backyard plants, from selecting seeds to harvest and processing. Humorous, sage, and with a big heart, each chapter is infused with what she’s learned about equalizing the weed industry, applying mindfulness to pest management, and the importance of owning each step of the process. If you’ve ever wanted to grow your own pot or make hash or kief at home, this book is your wise guide.

Unfuck Your Brain

Our brains are doing our best to help us out, but they can be real assholes sometimes. Sometimes it seems like your own brain is out to get you—melting down in the middle of the grocery store, picking fights with your date, getting you addicted to something, or shutting down completely at the worst possible moments. You already told your brain firmly that it isn’t good to do these things. But your brain has a mind of its own. That’s where this book comes in. With humor, patience, and lots of swearing, Dr. Faith shows you the science behind what’s going on in your skull and talks you through the process of retraining your brain to respond appropriately to the non-emergencies of everyday life. If you’re working to deal with old traumas, or if you just want to have a more measured and chill response to situations you face all the time, this book can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together and get your life and brain back. Our brains are doing our best to help us out, but they can be real assholes sometimes. Sometimes it seems like your own brain is out to get you—melting down in the middle of the grocery store, picking fights with your date, getting you addicted to something, or shutting down completely at the worst possible moments. You already told your brain firmly that it isn’t good to do these things. But your brain has a mind of its own. That’s where this book comes in. With humor, patience, and lots of swearing, Dr. Faith shows you the science behind what’s going on in your skull and talks you through the process of retraining your brain to respond appropriately to the non-emergencies of everyday life. If you’re working to deal with old traumas, or if you just want to have a more measured and chill response to situations you face all the time, this book can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together and get your life and brain back.

Paleo for Unicorns

Paleo for Unicorns is a hilarious, helpful cookbook for people who want to eat what feels right to them without a bunch of macho posturing, pseudoscientific diet mumbo jumbo, or nitpicky recipe policing. If you don’t even eat cereal for breakfast because you don’t want to wash the dishes, and if eating cereal makes you feel kind of woozy anyway, this might just be the cookbook for you. Written for even the most beginnery of beginners, this book will inspire you to start cooking and taking care of yourself, because taking care of yourself is a radical feminist act. And if you take care of other people, large or small, it will help with that, too. The recipes, cooking advice, and stories in this book are for anyone who wants to eat a more anti-inflammatory, gluten-free, dairy-free, or low-carb diet.

Call for Submissions for Neurodiversity zine series

Autism now occupies a similar place in the public consciousness at this moment as gay rights did in the 1970s: no one understands it and The Borg demand our assimilation! 
Your Neurodiverse Friend features advice and explanatory narrative about the neurodiverse experience for the less divergent so we can be seen as real, whole people. If you are neurodiverse, you should contribute to the next issues! The theme for issue #3 is Masking and the deadline is May 15, 2019. We want your personal narrative, origin story, misconceptions you’ve faced, how people could better interact/collaborate/interface with you, and aspirations of how you would like the movement to grow that can serve as a narrative for NTs understanding our people’s experiences. 500-2,000 words.
Proud to Be Retarded offers exposition on neurotypicals’ neurophobia and the frequent claim that they are supportive of #ActuallyAutistic people…as long as we act like they do. One reviewer for my book Good Trouble mentioned that she couldn’t believe that I wasn’t part of a radical zine community on the forefront of Autistic theory…so I decided to start one! The inspiration for the title lies in the homocore roots of punk and Don’t Be Gay in the 1980s. Queer punks were told that they would be accepted as soon as they acted like straight people.  The deadline for issue #3 is February 17, 2019 the theme is interactions with authority, and submissions should be 500-2,000 words! Theme for issue #4 is anxiety with a deadline of August 15, 2019. Issue #5 focuses on Co-occuring conditions with a deadline of February 15, 2020. 
email submissions/questions to joe at microcosmpublishing daht com