Tagged Behind The Scenes

End of Watch — Hanna’s Last Day

Each month we share a little bit about our selves, our staff, and our volunteers. Earlier this Fall, on her last day, intern Hanna B. wrote on her last day about her time here for this month’s issue. What she learned, loved, and hated.
A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be accepted as a summer intern at Microcosm Publishing. I’m from California, which meant that I would be spending the summer moving to a brand new city completely separate from my family, friends, and basically everything I know. I won’t say that this wasn’t a little scary; it was. But the opportunity was far too great to pass up. So I moved up the coast and settled myself into the City of Roses.
Moving away from California was hard, it meant being on my own for the first time in my life. But Microcosm gave me a home. The experience has been one I am incredibly thankful for; I learned more than I could ever have imagined. Microcosm truly attempts to make the world a better place.

They want to bring books that diversify people’s understanding of the world, that help people’s voices be heard, that improve communities, to their readers. They are always looking for new experiences, new voices, new books, things that hadn’t been done before. I don’t have much experience within the corporate world, but it was touching to see how this company truly focused on things that mattered. I felt this in every single aspect of the company, from the books I saw being edited and published, to their outreach with the community, to every single detail.

And the company cares; about its readers, about its employees, even about the lowly interns. They wanted my experience to be positive; they wanted me to feel that my contribution was valid, that I wasn’t just doing busy work that no one else could be bothered to do. There was a purpose for everything I worked on. I got a hands-on learning experience that I would never have expected normally. I was able to work on and help edit actual books, and do tasks that I would never have dreamed of with normal intern duties.

I want to thank all of my bosses and co-workers for making me feel so safe and welcome – when I struggled or was confused they were there to support and teach me. I was able to learn with some great teachers, and I truly feel that I have grown and learned a lot over this summer. I know I am incredibly lucky in this aspect, many people simply do internships for the small line on their resume, they send meaningless emails for a couple of months, and then leave with no true impact being made. I hope that I have been able to leave my footprint in this company, and cannot express my thanks and gratitude enough to everyone working here for their support, the work they helped me accomplish, and the world-view they allowed me to see.

This internship, most importantly, succeeded in doing what all internships aim to do: showing me what it was truly like working in this industry, and showing me that it truly was what I wanted to do.

 


 

If you want to know more about volunteering or internships at microcosm, check out the FAQ and send us a message.

A Day in the Life, last day edition

This piece was written by our wonderful intern Kedi on her last day at Microcosm. We asked what she’d enjoyed about her time at Microcosm, as well as what she didn’t. Her response is quite charming and passionate, like her. Find Kedi and follow her work on twitter.


Hanging out at PRIDE

My internship with Microcosm Publishing began on June 4th earlier this summer, and my final day, August 10th, has officially caught up with me. That’s 10 weeks for those of you who weren’t counting, or, in internship measurements, 249.07 hours. And yes, I am the type of person to measure hours in hundredths of a decimal.

There are a lot of things I’d say I’ve learned over the course of my internship, though I’m not sure I could exactly say what those things are. I think this might be the easiest to express: there is a difference between liking something and thinking it’s a fit. There are certainly lovely and well-written zines and books out there in the world waiting to be published that will never fit with Microcosm. There is a humor and an energy in Microcosm that is missing in a lot of things. I’ve also learned that there are times where someone can be slow and take their time to make sure a project is finished with the utmost care, but also times where smaller details must be let go in the wake of an oncoming due date.

I’ve learned that the people working at Microcosm enjoy working here, and that they each have a level of dedication that keeps them all pushing forward on their projects, whether they come to the office or not. Most days, of the fourteen people who work here, I’ve seen four or five. Sometimes there were as little as two people in the office, besides the interns. Following that, I’m certain I’ve learned almost nothing of any of them. I’m positive there’s at least three people who work here that I’ve never actually met. But even of the ones I have met, the only last names I know are Joe’s and Elly’s. That being said, I’ve learned that the people working at Microcosm are kind and patient and fun. No one has gotten frustrated with me for asking too many questions (or at least no one who showed it), no one has acted as though I am “just” an intern, and not only do they ask for my ideas and my opinions, they listen. They follow through and dig deeper to see what could work. They also work to keep me included. What I have learned of the people who worked here, I learned from the times they invited me to have lunch with them, or the from game night the company hosted. I think my favorite memory of Microcosm will be when my manager Sidnee and I left the office in the middle of the day to meet Cyn, the publicity director, at a snow cone truck on the next block.

And though that will be my favorite memory, it will not be my proudest. I am proud and honored by the trust placed in me by the team of Microcosm during my internship. That same urging which made me mark the last .07 of my hours here at Microcosm helped me make a name for myself within the office. In my midterm meeting, my manager likened me to a duck. On the surface I am often quite passive and serene, but under the water I work quite diligently, with great care for where I’m heading. She meant that I’m a bit of a slow worker, but I pore over each word, each mark of punctuation, each spacing and pattern in writing until every mark of ink on the page is exactly as it should be.

I have edited three books in these past 249.07 hours, and each opportunity was more difficult and more demanding than the last. The first, a book in Dr. Faith’s This Is Your Brain series, was a simple (simple for people like me who read about comma rules for fun—have I ever told you about the Oxford Comma?) typo search. The second was a read through of Joe Biel’s (the owner and founder of Microcosm) own book on publishing. It was my responsibility to make sure all titles, subtitles, headers and subheaders were appropriately capitalized, as well as looking for typos. The amount of time I spent researching capitalization rules to complete this task would make a math major cry, but it paid off. This research helped me to impress Joe and Elly, so that they trusted me with editing on the master document directly. I shared this with my mom (so she would be proud of me too, of course) and she was proud enough to share it with my grandmothers. The last project will stick with me even through the ending of my internship—literally, because I’m still working on it! For my last project they have trusted me with a developmental edit, and the work I have put in for the past three weeks has been frustrating, agonizingly slow, often bewildering, and completely satisfying. I enjoy the slogging through of information. I feel almost like an archeologist making a discovery with the ways I’m helping to pull a book out of the mess of ideas. (Is that too silly a comparison? Don’t tell anyone I said that.)

Kedi and the spring/summer ’18 intern crew.

 

There are things about this internship I won’t miss. I won’t miss the hour drive between the office and my home. I won’t miss the publicity projects I am absolutely terrible at (Sorry, Cyn). I won’t miss that the very nice woman working in the NICU still hasn’t called me back so we can finally give them their free books—and after we talked three times, no less!

But I will miss eating lunch out on the patio of the office. I will miss the friendly atmosphere. I will miss texting Sidnee to let me in, only for Ben to open the door. I will miss gif conversations with my manager, and I will miss the other interns, and the frustrating, bewildering, satisfying work I have done here. I think I’ll even miss the mailing.

Regards,

Kedi

 


Are you interested in volunteering or interning for credit at Microcosm? Let us know with this form and be a part of the punk rock publishing revolution!

Guest Post : The Case for Calling In

Past intern and 2x guest editor Lydia Rogue is a freelance writer and editor who made quite a few improvements around here in our office and editorial standards. In their last post as a volunteer with us, Lydia explored why inclusive language is so important in open calls for submissions, for a better, more diverse publishing world.

 

If you take a look at Microcosm’s submission guidelines, there’s a sentence inviting people who aren’t well represented in the publishing world to send in their manuscript.

People of color and transgender or gender nonconforming people are particularly encouraged to submit, as is anyone whose experiences are not well represented in the publishing world.

In the same vein, when I put out a call for submissions for True Trans Bike Rebel, and now that I’m looking for pieces for The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride, I’ve made it clear I’m looking exclusively for submissions from trans and nonbinary people.

Just a few days ago I was digging through submission guidelines for a variety of lit magazines, as well as trawling job boards for listings. Both in my job hunt and in the perusal of submission guidelines, I was surprised to find more and more magazines have been saying that they’re especially interested in submissions from women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people and other minority voices.

Not just “Equal Opportunity Employer” statements, as required by law, but actually stating that they’re looking for minorities.

Let me point out that this has not always been the case, and I am glad to see it.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to be wary of these calls, especially when it comes to jobs. It often feels like they’re trying to get diversity points without actually following through. This thought is fueled by the countless stories I’ve heard of hiring managers tossing applications (regardless of legality) because someone listed their pronouns as anything other than he or she, or because their name doesn’t match their gender marker. And often I do wonder, when I send an email with “Lydia Rogue they/them” to hiring managers or editors, if that isn’t part of the reason I never heard back. It’s nerve-wracking.

So why do we do it at all, then?

Why not just let the implication of inclusivity stand?

Why call people in?

It’s easy to pretend that the default of equality is enough, especially if you’re coming from a place of privilege. If the laws dictate you can’t discriminate, and people are wary when you explicitly state you’re inclusive, why do it at all?

The answer is that regardless of what the laws say, the reality is we often aren’t welcome in these spaces.

The default attitude is not welcoming – the default is we’re shut out of many industries. We’re told no one wants to read our stories. Sometimes it’s just implied, other times we’re outright told no one wants to hear them. If we’re welcomed at all, we’re shuffled off into a corner, pigeonholed into a genre that defines us by our minority (or the minority of our characters).

But we’re more than that.

Microcosm Publishing has always focused on relating the experiences of what it’s like to be a marginalized person, and has worked to make the publishing world more representative of how diverse the real world is. We are constantly asking the question “How can we remove barriers to success for marginalized people in our industry?” and open calls for submission are a big part of that.

When putting out a call for submissions like this you’re opening the door to others. Regardless of whether someone explicitly states “I am that minority” when sending a manuscript or a story or a job application, you may find yourself with more minorities sending in applications regardless, because while we may be wary of making our minority explicit, it’s still nice to be invited in.

When all the submissions for True Trans Bike Rebel came in, Elly and I were amazed at what we saw. By telling people “You have a story and we want to hear it,” they submitted stories that represented the diverse range of experiences trans and nonbinary people experience.

By calling people in, we made them feel at home, like they had a place here.

We didn’t have to list every possible combination of minorities and story types, people drew conclusions and submitted their stories to us.  It doesn’t take much to enact change, you just have to be willing to do it.

By holding the door open and saying ‘You’re welcome here’ we saw positive change in the types of stories submitted to us.

Try it out sometime and see the changes you too can enact in your community.

 

Pre-order True Trans Bike Rebels at Microcosm.pub and check out Lydia & Elly’s next team-up, Bikes Not Rockets, on kickstarter now. Follow Lydia Rogue and all their awesome work on Twitter and their Patreon.

We are Breaking Up with The Big Boys


We’ve been holding on to a bit of news lately, and we’re excited to finally share it with you all! Here’s founder Joe Biel with the details…

Joe & Ruby deliver books by bicycle.

Starting January 1, 2019, we will be managing our own distribution just like we did for over ten years. Not only will we no longer need to move thousands of books back and forth between warehouses, creators get paid more for each book sold. And we won’t be selling to Amazon. Why. you ask? Well, my grandparents were German immigrants who came here in the 1800s for labor unions and worked to achieve the 40-hour work week…which was then abolished in our lifetime. When Microcosm was just getting off the ground in 1997, I interviewed Ian Mackaye of Dischord Records. He explained that a publisher is only as independent as their distribution is. He was seemingly taking a jab at “independent” labels who handle all of their manufacturing and distribution through a major but his point sticks. 

Microcosm has always tried to work with independent companies, because they feel most comfortably aligned with our mission, values, and goals…but we’ve watched over the past dozen years as each independent distributor gets gobbled up and responds to the demands of the increasingly demanding monopolies.

We’ve watched as our peer publishers either throw in the towel or sell to one of the monopolies, neither of which we are willing to do. We feel that independents need to be independent and the best way to do that is to build an outpost of our own, a shining star where we can continue to thrive instead of relying upon the whims of any global corporation.

So we are returning to our roots to create the world that we want to see within our weirdo clubhouse. 

We will be parting ways with Legato/PGW/Perseus/Ingram in January and have already built new warehouses and software to make this possible. Few events in the history of Microcosm have improved our morale and brought our staff together like this has. As always, our intent is to expand our distribution at the same time. Our new sales people (now a team of four) excitedly understand our books and have more time and focus to dedicate to them. For the first time ever, our back catalog will receive as much attention as our new releases. Within a few years, we intend to begin offering these services to other publishers.

This isn’t as staggering a change as it sounds. Reviewing the numbers, we have come to realize that we know better how to distribute our books than anyone else that we’ve tried to partner with. We’ve handled roughly 75% of our distribution even across these past seven years. The simple fact is that the underground is much bigger than the mainstream.

To ensure that we are still actually serving all of the stores and readers that are interested in our books, we’re bringing on Book Traveler’s West (West Coast), Como (East Coast), and Fujii (Midwest) to actively visit and solicit our books to stores. We will continue to be distributed by Turnaround in Europe and will be working with the same distributors in Australia, Canada, and the rest of the world as well. Readers and stores can still buy books directly from our website, microcosmpublishing.com.

​We are redoubling our efforts to sell direct and to independents instead of helping monopolies like Amazon continue to grow at the expense of others. Perhaps more importantly, we will not be accepting their terms that increasingly just serve to crush everything in their path. If you want to help support the indies during this crucial time, go to your local shops and buy books, and encourage your friends to do the same. They will remember moments like this forever.

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. There’s an unspoken rule in the underground that what we do is secret but when these rules don’t serve the goals, we have no choice but to break them.

Joe’s next book, A People’s Guide to Publishing, can help anyone inspired by our journey learn the lessons and wisdom that got us here today.
Check out the kickstarter project here!

Read the more industry-jargony version of this news with more details on Shelf Awareness.

Or, if you want to know more about what this’ll mean, check out Elly’s breakdown.


If you ever need help with ordering, please contact Sidnee Grubb | Customer Service (1-503-799-2698).
For press questions, interview or sample requests, contact Cyn Marts, publicity director, cyn@microcosmpublishing.com.

A Day in the Life of… Intern Edition

Every few months a batch of brave young creatives joins our crew for a while to learn, explore, and help out around the office. Some volunteer for fun, experience, out of boredom, or for school credit, and every year we get more and more requests for “how can I help!” and “do you take interns?”.
So I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to what being a volunteer here is actually like, from the volunteers themselves. It’s been a while since I was one myself, so I asked a few others to talk about their average day.
Check out the juicy details below.

(more…)