New on Kickstarter :: Biketopia!

Now on Kickstarter: Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures!

Contained are 10 stories, a comic, and some rad reviews, all focused on this triumvirate of themes: Bikes – you know, the things you ride; Feminism – the more inclusive and diverse the better!;  and some form of Extreme Future – utopias, dystopias, etc..

 

If you’re in the US with us, you might already feel like we’re in our very own “extreme future” right now. With everything going on, that’s understandable, but these rad-as-hell stories might just be the thing to pick you back up and show you a new way of looking at it all.

Love and resistance in the end times, solarpunk ecotopian visions, crushing social control, and the freedom (hopefully) of life on two-wheels, are all explored in a book that, honestly, I’m hella excited to be a part of.

Some of the titles include… “Riding In Place”; “Questions With The First”; “Signal Lost”; “Maaike’s Aquatic Center For Bicycles Raised By Fishes”. So far every time I finish a story I like the whole book a little more, but so far my favorite is Gretchin Lair’s “Signal Lost” (graphic below). Am I allowed to have a favorite? Whatevs, I’m doin it!

At the moment, we’re just under 25% funded, and there’s plenty of time to help us reach our goals!

In a few days I’ll hopefully be back to spread some of the kickstarter love with another Projects Worth Kicking post. Also, I’m super excited to say that all of the projects I highlighted in the last PWK post succeeded and flew past their goals! There’s so much good work being done out there.

[Side note: if you don’t follow us on social media (T, FB, I), ya should! There may be some special giveaways and freebies floating around while the project is running… just sayin…]

Stay strong, stay awesome.

 

 

 

On the Podcast: Kate Berube, children’s author and illustrator

Today on the podcast, we talk through Kate’s journey of sixteen years to become a children’s illustrator and author. We discuss about racism, her time working for Trump, her current resistance to Trump, what she went through to get published, and share many tips for combating depression, writer’s block, and hard days in general.

Cyn’s Picks for January

I know I’m not alone in being hella grateful that 2016 is finally over. Because last year was particularly bad, I’m looking forward and not back as much as possible. But I also want to learn and grow in the new year. So here’s to a new year of progress, not purgatory, and happy reading.

 

I’m re-reading and still in love with our new graphic novel, Soviet Daughter. It’s just the right amount of personal narrative, history lesson, and feminist survival story, with wild hand-done art.

 

 

Thing Explainer is currently my favorite gifty book, because I’m kind of in love with infographics, and I love complicated science but am terrible about learning. This makes learning fun again, which is awesome, and there’s a sense of humor to it that I adore.

 

Despite basically being a picture book, Thin Slices of Anxiety is particularly feels-inducing, and filled with a painful amount of truth for anxiety-sufferers, but in a non-threatening adorable style; like a truth-punch to the chest followed by a soothing, prickly hug of camaraderie.

 

Along similar lines, This is your Brain on Anxiety is a great primer on what the fuck is going on when you’re suffering from anxiety, and offers possible relief, while This is Your Brain on Depression gave me a lot more confidence in my understanding of [the many types of] depression, as well as my approaches to solutions. I’ve sent both zines to some of my best friends because it resonates with me so much, and the information is so critical.

And if you’re like me, your best bet is probably to start an emotional support collection with Dr. Faith’s 5-Minute Therapy Superpack.

I’ve mostly avoided the coloring book fad, but The Bicycle Coloring Book: Journey to the End of the World still captures my attention every time I open it. It’s fascinating and bizarre, like a tome of bicycle-themed science fiction dreamscapes, and this is a coloring book worth diving into and exploring.

 

Oh! I almost forgot!

https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/zines/7776My last favorite is the zine-ledger we recently
picked up, Leaflet, that my partner and I make. It is a tracking ledger (like a wine journal or beer diary) for legal cannabis: You write down the details and effects of marijuana strains you try, that way you can actually remember the ones that blow your mind the next time you’re at a dispensary and lost in a menu.

 

 

Honorable Mention: I can’t wait to dig in to “Grief and Other Things Men Gave Me.” Elly described it as “like if you took a feminist essay and the most intense stories of your life, mixed it together and boiled it down to make bullets with,” and I really dig that.

 

Happy reading!

2016 Financial Report

Happy new year, everyone!

It’s been 12 months since we reported that 2015 was Microcosm’s best year ever (and not just financially). Well, we are stoked (and relieved) to report that 2016 was even better than that.

Since last January 1, we’ve published 24 books, 6 zines, a box set, and an LP/book set. We are slowing down a bit for 2017 for the sake of our blood pressure and because we feel that less is more most of the time, especially when you want each title to have time to shine in the light for a bit longer. Nonetheless, our production schedule is filling up through 2022 and we are currently working on 2018 titles with the remainder of this year ready to go to print tomorrow if need be!

We had more big staff changes this year. Taylor moved to the East Coast to go back to school and Cyn was promoted to publicity director. Thea now celebrates her devout love of paperwork at the City of Portland overseeing pavement maintenance and after four years of back and forth, we finally got Jeri Cain Rossi to come on board as sales director. And we also convinced our former interns Sidnee and Tomy to work for us as a production assistant and marketing and editorial assistant, respectively!

In addition, we hit the road for many events and author tours, including our final Dinner and Bikes tours in May and November.

We sold about 142,000 books last year; about 389 per day! So we each took a few days off.

Here’s a breakdown of some math about our year, as powered by charts:

Our total income for the year was $495,110.28 (a 5.6% increase from 2015). Here’s a pie chart that shows where that came from. “Other” is mostly the ever-popular Slingshot planners.

2016 Microcosm sales pie chart

Next, let’s look at our Bestselling Titles of 2016:

2016 Microcosm Best Sellers
You might notice that the Top 3 are from 2008, 2001, and 2013 respectively. One major change in 2016 is that sales are continuing to democratize quite a bit more. We used to have one stand-out bestseller every year that paid all of our bills. That hasn’t happened since 2013 and now every book reliably sells within a certain window. Join us next week for a deeper look into The Microcosm State of the Industry Report!

We are also working on a new chart about where our things are selling. Publishing has changed quite a bit in the past 21 years and book store sales have been flat for a long time so book sales are migrating to different and interesting places. Stay tuned for next year!

And here are our expenses.

2016 microcosm expenses pie chart
  1. Wages: $-164,964.43 (7.76% increase and four people received raises on Jan 1, 2017 with a fifth receiving more hours)
  2. Publishing: $-117,935.75 (7.77% decrease)
  3. Distribution: $-77,085.51 (1.2% decrease)
  4. Shipping: $-59,685.49 (35.4% increase)
  5. Royalties: $-30,592.80 (3.2% decrease, with each book selling fewer copies it takes longer to recoup and more expenses are dispersed into printing and The Bottom Line)
  6. Supplies & Phone: $-14,743.27 (19.7% increase)
  7. Building: $-12,586.59 (27.55% increase)
  8. Advertising: $-9,556.99 (34.6% decrease)
  9. Events: $-5,601.09 (6% decrease)
  10. Website: $-4,791.05 (100% increase)
  11. Taxes: $-1,515.00 (11% increase)
  12. Insurance: $-1,217.00 (2.87% increase)
  13. Meetings: $-1,216.38 (25.2% decrease)
  14. Commission: $-168.17 (97.2% decrease)

We also donated $34,575.00 (17.1% increase) worth of books to awesome causes last year! 

Total Expenses: $529,468.09 for a net loss of $-34,357.81. Fortunately, by utilizing the magic of the 75-day payment window that our credit cards offer free of charge, we can afford all that we are up to and more.

Among other revelations, we sent out way more packages this year than 2015 and were able to upgrade many outdated office computers and phones.

And while it was much more consistent than 2015, we are pretty happy with the 2016 rollercoaster:

chart comparing 2015 to 2016 of Microcosm sales

And just a reminder: While we’re technically set up as a “for-profit” organization, we choose to operate on a break-even basis. This means that any time we manage to out-earn our expenses (which we try very hard to do), we put that money back into the company, usually in the form of staff wages and publishing more books—which is the only reason why our wages keep going up in an industry where they are declining overall. The publishing industry doesn’t have a lot of extra money floating around, but by taking data and math into consideration in every decision, we’ve carved out a little place in it where we can publish the books that matter most to us and keep them priced affordably.

Thanks for being along for the ride! We’ll be saying this a lot in the next few months, but 2017 is our 21st year of publishing, and we like to think that we are more fun than a beer. We come to work every day excited that we still get to do this—so thank you for being part of making it work. We can’t wait for the years to come! In the meantime, the best ways to support our staff’s wages and keep new books coming down the conveyor belt is to become a BFF and/or support our Kickstarter project for our Spring titles!

Call for Submissions: True Trans Bike Rebel (Taking the Lane #15)

button with a cat riding a bike in a hoodie
Deadline extension: The deadline has been extended to August 1st, so that folks who find out about this call for submissions via our Kickstarter project will have time to write something.

Taking the Lane #15 is called True Trans Bike Rebel, and we are looking for nonfiction writing about the experience of bicycling while being transgender or gender nonconforming. Submissions can be essays or reporting about bicycling, or other topics or stories in which bicycles play a part (or other human-powered transportation—skateboards, rollerskates, walking, you name it).

Submissions can be any length; word count between 500 and 2500 words is ideal for this format. Single-color illustrations and photos are also sought. Please submit your work as an attachment or link in an email to elly at taking the lane dot com. Feel free to send any questions or ideas to me at that address as well. The deadline is July 1, 2017 August 1, 2017.

All contributors will be paid a share of the net profits from the Kickstarter project used to fund the zine.

Taking the Lane is a feminist bicycle zine published since 2010.

Creative Kickstarters Worth Kicking

With our Spring 2017 Kickstarter project up and running (and going so well!) I thought I’d highlight a few other current projects that really caught our eyes. You might dig them, too.

Queen Girls
From the Kickstarter: Stories of real women turned into fairy tales. Inspiring girls to follow their dreams.
Why we love it: It’s way past time that young girls were given the same types of heroes and choices as boys. Taking real-life stories of women who changed the world and turning them into the heroes of children’s picture books is fantastic, AND they donate a book for every book bought– how cool is that?

Me&EVE
From the KS: “Recording non-airbrushed biographies is valuable, but what is most valuable is giving women the 5-10 minutes to be seen, heard and acknowledged. It is powerful experience on both ends of the lens. I am honored to be doing this project and grateful to the hundreds of women who have trusted me with their story. me&EVE is uniting women – one photo, one story and one woman at a time.”
Why we love it: Described as something like Humans of New York but with a full focus on women, we’re totally into this project that puts real women and their stories in front of the camera.

Harriet Tubman : Demon Slayer
From the KS: “A graphic novel based on the true life of the freedom fighter with genre liberties… Log Line: When slave owners can’t stop the formidable ninja warrior Harriet Tubman, they call on the help of Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, & Demons to stop her. Harriet Tubman must lead a family of slaves to freedom while battling an army of darkness.”
Why we love it: We love the idea of taking a historical hero and making her even more amazing while giving her even more credit. On top of that, who can say no to such a kick-ass hero, and the creative diversity implied by comparing it to Django Unchained, Buffy, and Fury Road?

[Super]Natural Attraction
From the KS: “Persephone died and was brought back to life by her friend Victoria. Now she can see the supernatural creatures hiding in plain sight. Persephone was about start her second year of college, when she was tragically killed in a hit and run. Luckily, her eccentric med-student roommate have found a way to “fix” her. She is now returned from the dead with only a few scars as proof it of the incident. ”
Why we love it: This looks like a progressive, body-positive, fun comic that blends a lot the things we like to see in graphic novels: well-developed diverse characters, a strong focus on women and people of color, and a blend of magical realism, humor, and teen angst.

Nerve Endings
From the KS: “Too often trans stories have been written from a cis perspective, with a cis reader in mind, addressing cis concerns about trans people rather than our own concerns. This is especially true when it comes to erotica: literature that deals necessarily with bodies, with our relationships to them, and with our relationships to one another.
Edited by Tobi Hill-Meyer and published by Instar Books, NERVE ENDINGS: THE NEW TRANS EROTIC features thirty writers connected to trans community telling thirty distinct stories about the erotic and our relationship to it.”
Why we love it: Excluding celebrities and big-news stories, trans voices are rarely heard, and have often been stifled instead of celebrated. Made by and for people in the trans community, this looks like it could be a great addition to the world of erotica and sexual expression.

The Tiny Mess
From the KS: “…a cookbook about people, places, small kitchens, and the delicious meals that come out of them. It is a whimsical hodgepodge of recipes, culinary adventure, medium-format photography, and, of course, petite and inspiring cooking spaces that prove constraints are nothing but an invitation for creativity.”
Why we love it: We’re big fans of small and sustainable living, so this independently made book is definitely up our alley. And check out those cute tea towel rewards!

Disfluency
From the KS: “Disfluency is a short film that follows a young woman through her daily life, from her passive usage of the phrase “I’m sorry,” to her being raped and the emotional aftermath. All the while, this habit of apologizing eerily stays with her throughout, begging the question: have we let rape become a cultural disfluency—an expected, almost unnoticeable interruption—in our culture?”
Why we love it: This is a tough, emotional topic that can really hit hard, and the project video is something like beautiful. Whether you’re able to support it or not, the video alone is some raw truth that is worth watching.

And, in case you haven’t check out our Spring project yet, here’s the project video, and check out our test run of Kickstarter Live tomorrow afternoon 2pm PST…

From everyone here at Microcosm to all of these fantastic creators, we wish you the best of luck, and wild success.

Stay awesome.

Call for Submissions: Bikes in Space 5 (Theme: Intersections)

Submissions are open for Bikes in Space Volume 5, published by Microcosm’s Elly Blue Publishing imprint. The theme is Intersections. Stories that are accepted will all have a feminist perspective and incorporate bicycling in some way, whether or not they are actually about feminism or about bicycles. We especially welcome submissions from writers of color and transgender and nonbinary writers, and seek stories that portray more diverse perspectives than are classically found in sci fi.

Your story should be in the neighborhood of 2,000 to 6,000 words. If your story needs to be longer or shorter, then by all means write it to be the length it needs to be and we’ll work with you on edits as needed. There are no formatting, document type, or style requirements, and no strict definition of what exactly counts as science fiction. You may want to familiarize yourself with previous volumes in the series before submitting.

Black and white art is also sought. Payment for art and writing is a share of net profit from the Kickstarter project that funds the book.

The deadline for this volume is March 1, 2017.

Send submissions and questions to elly at takingthelane dot com

P.S. Volume 4, Biketopia, is funding on Kickstarter through March 2, 2017.

What’s a Book Good For Anyway? Our Spring Season on Kickstarter

It’s been a while (okay, over a week now) since our last Kickstarter project ended… and we’ve just launched another this morning, for Microcosm’s Spring season.

This project is a little different. Instead of promoting just one book, we’ve decided to give you six at once—six very different books that span our interests and eras.

The norm in publishing is to put out multiple books each season (of which, in this industry, there are three–Spring and Fall are the main ones, and then there’s a small Winter season right after the xmas holidaze). Usually the publisher picks one book from each season and puts all their resources behind it, gambling on making it a blockbuster. We’ve never done this, mostly because we haven’t had the money to gamble on promoting books in the traditional ways. Instead, we spread our best efforts equally around all the books and hope they all win.

So this project represents our (cough) brand, our business model, and a strong sampling of the topics, styles, interests, authors, and books that we care about deeply.

Sandor Ellix Katz’z Basic Fermentation is the blockbuster here… it’s a substantial new edition of the cute little zine-turned-book, Wild Fermentation, that has been winning hearts for years. We also have new editions of Cristy C. Road’s underground classic Indestructible and Dan Méndez Moore’s gripping comics journalism account of Six Days in Cincinnati. we’re putting a spine on Raleigh Briggs’s friendly, hand-written Fix Your Clothes, and we finally gave Kelli Refer’s Pedal, Stretch, Breathe an ISBN. And we have a brand-new book in the mix, too: The Prodigal Rogerson represents J. Hunter Bennett’s meticulous and spirited research into the mysterious disappearance (and reappearance) of the Circle Jerk’s original bassist and songwriter.

Like any good books, these ones are good for entertainment… and so much more. Fixing your clothes, your gut health with fermented food, your wounded sense of community and political rightness… books can provide all that and more, and that’s what gets us up in the morning and keeps us going day after day.

Read more about them over at Kickstarter, where you’ll also have a chance to get to live chat with some of the authors and the people who make Microcosm go!

Check it out, and consider backing it to get some good books to last you through winter.
microcosm publishing storefront with bookstory sign

Independent Publishing Love: Our Radical Friends at OR Books

the team at OR BooksAs part of our Year of Independence, we’ve been interviewing independent booksellers who we love. This month, instead of a bookstore, we’re turning to OR Books, a fellow radical independent publisher that, like us, also sells a substantial portion of its books directly to readers. That’s a relative rarity in the publishing world, where it’s the norm for every book to go through a string of distributors, wholesalers, and booksellers before making its way into your hands. We were stoked to meet these kindred spirits and immediately started gleefully conspiring to support each other… another activity that breaks the mold of mainstream publishing.

Check out their offerings, we think you’ll like them. Their recent releases include such helpful gems as Pocket Piketty and The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto.

OR Books publicity manager Natascha Uhlmann answered our questions over email.

1. What’s the story of OR Books? What matters most to you as publishers?
OR Books arose out of a desire to forge a different path for publishing—one centered around progressive politics, selling direct to consumers, and intense marketing. Our model varies pretty drastically from the standard publishing houses: we avoid Amazon and other traditional distribution methods. It allows us to sidestep some of the pitfalls of traditional publishing and focus our energies where they should be: on the book itself.

2. You are a politically progressive publisher—what does that mean to you?
It means taking on titles that are progressive, transgressive, and sometimes outright bizarre. I think we can all recall wrestling with a book that made us engage with the world in a different way—it’s a revolutionary, world changing thing, and I hope to recreate that same experience for others.

3. What are your personal favorite books from the OR backlist? Any favorites you’ve recently read from other publishers?
Extinction: A Radical History by Ashley Dawson makes the case that the environmental crisis we currently face is fundamentally tied to our economic system. Ashley traces the history of extinction and ties its catastrophic rise to capitalism’s unrelenting drive to expand.

What’s Yours is Mine by Tom Slee is a critical look at the sharing economy. He pushes back against the portrayal of platforms like Uber and AirBnb as democratic, pointing to the means by which these technologies simply shift risk onto the worker and encourages us all to settle for less.

Beautiful Trouble ed. by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell is a tactical manual for radicals. It traces a wide variety of activist groups and the approaches that they have found valuable. I’ve found it to be an incredibly valuable resource throughout my organizing, and a great primer for interested younger activists.

As for others:

In Defense of Housing by David Madden and Peter Marcuse (Verso Books) explores the commodification of housing and the violence of gentrification. They highlight that housing is endemic, not incidental, under capitalism and point to the successes of several movements organizing for housing justice – and how we can learn from these.

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel (Melville House) is a brilliant look at the global food economy and engages with some urgent questions: How are hunger and obesity interrelated? What avenues for resistance do we have in an ever consolidating system of food production?

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson (University of Minnesota Press) explores the Black Panther Party’s fight for health justice. We as activists owe so much today to their organizational tactics, and I think their articulation of health politics greatly informs current debates around single payer activism.

4. What are the most urgent issues facing the publishing industry right now? If you could look into your crystal ball, what is the biggest piece of advice would you give to yourself and other independent publishers?
The advent of new technologies means that it’s harder to command the attention of would-be readers. That said, the field is adaptable and at the end of the day, no one walks away from a good book.

I think the best advice I can offer is to remember why we’re here: because we believe deeply in the power of ideas. To get to work on a book that may go on to shape the way someone sees the world is an incredible gift. It’s a challenging field, but an utterly rewarding one.