Today on the Podcast: Our Biggest Mistakes!

Publishing is a business with lots of opportunities to make really expensive, embarrassing, and/or hurtful mistakes! We don’t really have a culture of talking about our failures in this industry, but we think it’s healthy to acknowledge and learn from them.

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly talk about some of the biggest mistakes we’ve made over the years at Microcosm . . . and how we recovered from them. We didn’t have time to get to everything we ever botched, but maybe we’ll make this an annual episode!

How to Choose the Right Distributor

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly continue to talk about how to find distribution for your book publishing company.

Last week, we talked about how to get a trade distributor interested in working with you. This week we turn the tables to discuss the equally important question of how to choose distributors that you want to work with, particularly ones who have expertise in selling the types of books you publish.

Meet the interns! Virtual internship, real-life people

Great news—we’ve got more interns! Meet the newest members of our team: Cassie Birk (she/her) and Kevin Glynn (he/him).

Where are you from/ where did you grow up?

Cassie: Grew up in Vancouver, WA right across the river from Portland.

Kevin: Born and raised in Boston MA, just moved out to Portland. 

What first got you interested in publishing?

Cassie: I’ve been a big reader for as long as I can remember. I got involved in editing with a lit journal while I was in college and never stopped!

Kevin: I’ve always loved reading and writing and was involved in some zines and poetry publications in Boston. I have been pursuing publishing professionally for the last year. 

Cassie is just visiting us from a better, steampunk universe

What’s your favorite Microcosm book/ a Microcosm book you’d really like to read?

Cassie: The Velocipede Races will always be one of my favorites! I’m also proud to be an ex-barista who owns a copy of the Coffeeshop Crushes zine [ed: RIP]. Not a book, but I am excited to get my copy of the Gold Lyre tarot deck.

Kevin: I’ve really enjoyed reading Imprisoned in Prison [working title] while I work on editing it, eye-opening and sad to hear about life in prison during the pandemic.

How’s the pandemic treating you?

Cassie: I feel like I’ve performed a dozen mental backflips. At the start of the pandemic I was trying to graduate college in a basement apartment in Iowa City with a couple jobs in food service. Now, a year later, I’ve moved back to the PNW and I’m just trying to avoid video call burnout. 

Kevin: Definitely been a crazy year, I moved across the country so that’s been stressful but also very exciting. 

Kevin, wearing his environmentalism on his sleeve

Do you have any pets?

Cassie: Not my own, but I have had many other people’s pets to keep me company over that last year. Shout outs to Benny, Lily, Milo, Marcellus, Harley, and Vincent (and their owners, of course).

Kevin: No pets personally but my roommate has a cat named Pax. 

What do you do in your free time?

Cassie: Recently, I’ve been playing lots of DND and baking sourdough bread. I also like listening to music, trying new foods, and going on hikes.

Kevin: I like to hike, read, and play board games! 

What’s one piece of media you’d recommend to anyone and everyone?

Cassie: Anyone who hasn’t listened to Welcome to Nightvale yet, totally should. Weird occult surrealism is translated perfectly to the podcast format, with awesome soundscaping and an entertaining story.

Kevin: Probably any Kurosawa movie, I love old movies and he’s my favorite director. 

Where can people find you online?

Cassie: I’m always scrolling through Twitter @BirkCassie and I’m @cheezh8er on Instagram. 

Kevin: Facebook is my only social media (don’t use it too much though). 

Microcosm is hiring again!

This position is now closed. We’ll post future job opportunities to this blog.

Full time position at 2752 N Williams Ave, Portland, OR. 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 March 31, 2021

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 unsupervised

• Believes 99% in what we do but is confident to identify flaws in the system, ask questions, and bring up their own ideas about how things could be better

• Listen 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 their time)

• Work 40 hours per week on site

• Start in the first week of April 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

• Options for paid vacation and professional development training programs

• Some flexibility in work hours

• Own voices focus to empower readers to change their lives and the world around them

• Access to owners, management, and other staff for clarification, direction, priorities, continued education, and guidance

No experience needed. Entry level position. Equal opportunity employer. Preference given to former interns and diverse hires. Starts at $14/hour with 90 day trial then $15/hour. 

Apply by March 31, 2021 by completing this application and submitting it to apply at with the subject line “warehouse application”; no resume or cover letter necessary unless you believe that additional details would be helpful.

Microcosm is Seeking a Web Developer to Help us Build Book Publishing Software

3/24/21 Update: We’ve made some edits to this RFP/job description since posting, based on advice from tech-ier heads than ours. If you are applying based on the parameters in our initial posting, your application won’t be penalized.

Work with us to change the world! We are seeking proposals from web developers (or small firms) who can help us create a software service that will help book publishers become more independent. This service will be modeled after the in-house software that has enabled Microcosm to self-distribute and to continue to grow year after year through economic ups and downs without working with Amazon. We just need the technical capacity to bring it to the world.

WorkingLit Developer

Accepting proposals/applications through May 30, 2021

About the product

Microcosm Publishing, an independent book publisher and distributor since 1996, is seeking to contract a developer to produce WorkingLit, a web-based SaaS platform for book publishers.

The goal of WorkingLit is to give small, independent publishers tools to thrive and grow at their own pace and have the most fun, with options for distributing their books as the industry continues to shift towards consolidation. Level one of the platform will help publishers organize their data about books, authors, and customers, manage their accounting and royalty reporting, and understand their sales and potential. Level two enables publishers to reach consumers and retailers directly and cooperate amongst each other. Levels three and four help midsize and larger publishers manage their growth. By giving publishers tools and options to succeed, WorkingLit lowers the bar to entry and makes the publishing industry more inclusive.

The point of WorkingLit is to disrupt industry conventions by giving publishers their own agency back so that they can make the choices that are right for them instead of having those dictated. There is a myth that people just starting out in the book industry “have to” publish on Amazon or work with a trade distributor before they understand the basic timelines, rules, and mechanics of the industry. WorkingLit will lower the barriers to entry into an industry that is 88% white and excludes people who haven’t accessed a college education by providing a platform where small or new publishers can reach retailers.

We are seeking proposals for developing the basic version (level one) by October, 2021. Ideally, we would continue to work with you to build further levels throughout 2022 and beyond.

Phase one:

User Functionality: Basic databasing for

• titles

• orders

• invoicing

• customers

• authors

• expenses

• royalties

• royalty payments.


• Shipping orders

• Accounting

• Royalty reporting.

• Blueprint for including front end e-commerce in next phase. 

Our ideal partner

An individual or small firm who can design and develop a SaaS. We are especially looking for:

  • A team player who loves to collaborate to creatively solve problems, while also able to work independently
  • Experience building complex SAAS applications, including implementation, front and back end, and creating APIs
  • Demonstrated ability to write clear, maintainable code, document as you go, and do test-driven development
  • Experience working closely with non-technical colleagues and management, and in a diverse (including neurodiverse) environment
  • Commitment to the goals of the project (aka, supporting creative business people and sticking it to the billionaires) 
  • Openness to a potential long term contract or employment to oversee continued development and support of this product 
  • People who find themselves underrepresented in tech and/or publishing are especially encouraged to apply

To apply, please provide

  • An email or cover letter about why you want to do this and are qualified
  • Descriptions of at least two projects you have worked on that are substantially similar to this one, including referrals for each
  • Description of how you organize projects and how you set and make milestones
  • Examples of work showing your proficiency in modern frameworks—please elaborate in your proposal
  • Examples of your experience developing secure, scalable applications and deploying applications to the cloud
  • An estimated number of hours and your hourly rate

Location – Remote (we are in Portland, Oregon, you can be anywhere)

Send your application/proposal to by May 30, 2021

Our 100th podcast episode!: Favorite Microcosm Memories

Apparently we’ve been doing this podcast for a while, because it’s our 100th episode! We’re not even close to running out of publishing topics to talk about, but we took a break to share some of our favorite memories from the past 25 years. From charming encounters with readers and authors to those book tour moments where we were (literally) on fire, here are some of Joe and Elly’s very best memories.

We hope you enjoy watching or listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed recording it!