Projects Worth Kicking

Our Biketopia kickstarter campaign is going well (only 4 days left to be a part of it) and I just wanted to highlight a few other projects going on too that we love, and just had to share.

 

#RESIST Through Our Eyes is a documentary telling the experiences and concerns of deaf and hard-of-hearing people living in these turbulent cultural times (are there ever not turbulent cultural times?), and how they work to make their voices heard.

From the kickstarter: “… will follow and document Deaf and Hard of Hearing people’s personal experiences and concerns when their human and civil rights are violated, challenged and threatened in the current political climate of chaos, toxicity, propaganda, “alternative facts” and uncertainty that exist under a regime Administration.”

 

This LGBTQ+ webcomic looks cute “af” and I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before this kickstarter, but I’m now in love. “Go Get a Roomie!” is looking to print the 2nd volume of the webcomic (and reprint the first).

From the kickstarter: Go Get a Roomie‘s first book focuses on Roomie’s wild hijinks and the characters’ personalities. The second book softly branches out to a more tender and spiritual look on these growing bud(die)s, by focusing on the relationship.

Bringing oldies back and breathing new life into superheroes,“Not Forgotten,” A Public Domain Superhero Anthology is doing one of my favorite things — making something old new again, and being creative as hell while doing it. Assuming they give due credit to the original creators and bring diverse voices to the table, this looks like a rad comic project.

From the kickstarter: Reimagined by top creators in the industry, this anthology collects over 20+ short stories paying homage and tribute to some of the greatest heroes and heroines lost to time with brand new, never-before-seen, exclusive tales bringing these amazing creations back to life!

An Honourable Mention goes to “The Little Particle That Could,” Particle Physics For Kids, which is already funded but just too fantastic — I’m a firm believer in teaching young kids science in creative ways.

 

And if you haven’t checked out our campaign for Biketopia yet, check out the video below and help support the writers and creators involved….

This Valentine, would you be our… Patreon?

This year we’re diving into Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows YOU to be more involved in what WE do, particularly when it comes to our DIGITAL content.

First, it’s our way of putting all of this digital goodness together in one place. Second, it’s a way to send you zines and books that we love and recommend and believe in and think you will too.

While you can support us at pretty much any level… Might I suggest our new Zine of the Month club? A new zine sent to you every month and our latest e-book. You basically can’t go wrong.

Consider it a collection of tools and resources for the rebellion—the inspiration, motivation, and reminder that you aren’t alone in your fight.

See more here!

Happy Birthday Microcosm!

This year, Microcosm celebrates 21 years of getting shit done and growing your small world.

More fun than a beer in a bookstore, and much better for you, punk rock press Microcosm Publishing is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year. After so much time in the biz, 2016 was our best year ever and we have the world’s zinesters, readers, and fans to thank.

Established in 1996 and still true to the same mission, Microcosm uses a unique vertical integration model to thrive in an industry many thought dying. We now have a backlist of over 400 empowering books and zines, plus a friend and fan network across the globe. “Microcosm replaced my own drinking and it’s amazing to watch how self-empowering books that help you create the life and world you want to see are needed more than ever. Now, 21 years later, we are focusing around our own sustainability in order to amplify marginalized voices,” says founder Joe Biel. This year we’re diving into our mission more than ever, working to build diversity in the industry, tell even more outsiders’ stories, and empower readers around the world, one bad-ass book at a time.

This year, we’re building a rebellion and healing our selves with books like Unfuck Your Brain, getting wild with cultures in Basic Fermentation, growing with Cats I’ve Known, and having all the fun with our idols in a new edition of Henry & Glenn Forever

Joe Biel and Elly Blue sharing Microcosm with the world, 2016

Microcosm has long diverged from established publishing culture and industry practices, not least by focusing on publishing marginalized voices: representing women, people of color, queer folks, people who are transgender, people living in poverty, and those with disabilities. Now that we have entered what Roxane Gay has called “this rising age of American disgrace,” we are committed to doing this even better. Women of color, autistic queer kids, anyone who is thriving and forging ahead despite the odds, we want to hear from you.

To celebrate this milestone, we’ll be blogging, vlogging, sharing, snapping, and tweeting about our history, staff, and community. Later this year we’ll also be releasing a special 21st Anniversary zine compiling original content about the people that got us here and why we do what we do.

For more info, check out our blogifesto, catch up on our history with our latest comic-poster catalog, join us on patreon, or subscribe to our newsletter.

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.