Are profit & loss statements just a bunch of smoke and mirrors? More from the PRH/S&S merger trial

Back in August, the best show in publishing was the trial in which publishing behemoth Penguin Random House tried to make the case to the US Department of Justice that buying publishing mini-behemoth Simon & Schuster wouldn’t create an uncompetitive atmosphere for authors. We’ve covered it a bit in this podcast, and this week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we offer one last episode unpacking a funny statement that came out of it: the behemoths’ assertion that their profit & loss statements are meaningless and they actually have no idea how to predict if a book will be profitable. Spoiler: We kinda think they’re stretching the truth. Watch or listen for insights into what (if anything) this means for your own publishing….

What’s a fair deal for anthology authors?

On this week’s People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly answer a reader question! The question-asker edited an anthology, with all the authors donating their work and all proceeds going to a nonprofit cause. One author decided that the way the contract handled rights wasn’t fair, and now the publisher isn’t sure they did the right thing. We get into contracts, rights, and how to handle authors who sound off about you on social media. Whew, that’s a lot of ground in under 12 minutes.

Do half of all new books sell less than 12 per year?

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly tackle a bit of viral misinformation that’s making the rounds: The myth that more than half of new books by major publishers sell less than a dozen copies a year. (The first comment on this newsletter, from someone at NPD Bookscan laying out actual stats, is our primary source.) Don’t get us wrong, the numbers for most books put out by the biggest publishers are astonishingly bleak. But not that astonishingly bleak.

Microcosm is hiring: Join our Cleveland warehouse team!

We are seeking a full-time worker to join our growing team of shippers at our warehouse in Cleveland, Ohio’s Lee-Miles neighborhood. 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.  Position closes September 23rd, 2022.

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 with minimal supervision once trained

• Believe in what we do but be confident to identify flaws in the system, ask questions, and bring up your 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

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

• Work 40 hours per week on site

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


• 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

• Some flexibility in work hours

• Meaningful, career-track work at a fast-growing company

No experience needed. Entry level position. Equal opportunity employer. Starts at $14/hour with 90 day trial then $15/hour. 

Apply by September 23, 2022 by completing this application and this test and submitting it to elly @ with the subject line “Cleveland warehouse application.” no resume or cover letter necessary unless you believe that additional details would be helpful.

On the big changes at Barnes & Noble

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly look at some current events. Big bookstore chain Barnes & Noble recently announced that they’d be dramatically cutting back buying on new hardcovers, a cause of deep concern for many authors. We unpack what is actually changing, what it actually means for authors, publishers, and readers, and how B&N maybe could have talked about it a little more sensitively.

Hot takes from the Penguin Random House / Simon & Schuster merger trial

When dinosaurs fight, should the small mammals worry about it, or just continue scurrying along on our merry business? This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly offer some commentary on the current trial as the US Justice Department tries to prevent publishing giants PRH and S&S from merging into a single mega-publisher. How big of a deal is this merger in the publishing world and in the economy as a whole? Who does it actually affect? Should smaller publishers be taking any lessons or warnings, or just make some popcorn and enjoy the show? In under 10 minutes, we break down what’s interesting, why it matters, and to whom.

When publishers disagree…

For this week’s edition of the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Elly and Joe decided to pick a (friendly) fight . . . with each other. Watch or listen on as we try with only middling success to find publishing issues we disagree about and hash them out. In the first half we discuss our acquisitions process, an area where we often disagree about the merits of book proposals (and Joe elucidates how we ultimately make those calls), and in the second half of the episode we talk about the line between fiction and nonfiction.

Call for submissions: Bikes in Space, gardens and plants edition

We’re seeking your feminist science fiction and fantasy stories for the 12th anthology in the Bikes in Space series of books!

Please submit your original short fiction (in written or comics form) about bicycling from a feminist perspective. Stories should feature gardens, plants, or other products of photosynthesis. All three of these elements (bicycles, feminism, greenery) should be intrinsic to the narrative. Send your most creative imaginings of organic bicycle design materials, green witches delivering remedies by bike, time traveling wheels embedded in trees, hydroponics experiences in a carbon-neutral future, horticulturists going for a new pedal-powered land speed record, or whatever green and growing scenarios your brain can produce.

The genre can be anything fantastical—from hard sci fi to comedic fantasy to horror to slipstream or anything in that constellation—despite the series title, stories need not be be set in space. No fanfic, poetry, or erotica for this series, please.

I welcome submissions from marginalized authors and first-time authors.

Word count: 500 – 6,000 words

Format: Google doc, MS word, Pages, text document, or PDF. Comics submissions of up to 6 pages can be submitted in thumbnails.

Payment: A portion of profits after expenses from the Kickstarter project used to fund this book is split between contributors, with a guaranteed minimum of $50 each, plus copies of the book.

Deadline: January 15, 2023

Submit via email to