In the latest in our vlogcast series, publishers Elly Blue and Joe Biel discuss challenges that they’ve overcome with doing their jobs, being organized, and how workflows interconnect
For many years, new publishers and authors have posed questions to us about distribution. They want to know why distribution is so expensive and exclusive. It’s a much more complicated answer than they were expecting so we’re going to break that out in a weekly video series over the next few months.(more…)
Are you angry enough to start throwing milkshakes? Well, yeah. So are we. It makes for a fantastic statement – while making the opposition look like a fool – but it sometimes feels like it’s the only thing you can do.
It can be easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about the world right now – but honestly, that’s what the people in charge want you to think. Take a look at these books and zines and learn how to fight back and make a difference in your community. (But I’d keep buying milkshakes – just in case.)
Do you not even know where to start? This book will give you inspiration by telling the story of previous activists who made a difference in their communities. Learn from the best of the best when it comes to learning how to protest and become an activist.
Resist! How to Be an Activist in the Age of Defiance by Michael Segalov
Want more straight-forward advice and have things broken down step-by-step? This book walks you through organizing protests, talking to politicians and playing the long game when it comes to creating change in your community. Each section also has a real-life case study so you can read about what it looks like when the advice is put into practice.
Want to get your kids involved? Try Girls Resist! By Kaelyn Rich for a young adult-friendly version!
Just as important as organizing protests is getting accurate information out there. Corporate media is corrupt and, while they aren’t quite as bad as Trump claims, they certainly aren’t the unbiased view of the world they claim to be. Learn how to cover the news in your communities and fight back against corporate media with this easy-to-follow guide on how to become a journalist.
We talk about boycotts a lot and how they can force change, but how do you do it effectively? What does it mean to organize a boycott – and how do you follow through? Read this zine to learn about the intricacies of boycotts and their long history – and why just refusing to shop at a specific store isn’t necessarily a boycott.
Keep Marching: How Every Woman can Take Action and Change Our World by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
Are you upset about the attacks on women’s rights? Did you march in 2017 during the Women’s March and don’t know how to get that momentum going again? This book dives deep into how to take that momentum and keep the protests going.
When you’re gearing up for your protests, grab some of the zine How to Plan for Action to pass out – it helps protesters understand their rights and how to be a more respectful protester in their community. (Or brush up on How not to get Arrested at a Demonstration.)
And don’t forget to tell your elected officials exactly what you think of them trying to take away your rights with the easy-to-write postcards found in Make Your Voice Heard Postcard Book.
Need more than 40 postcards? Check out other postcard designs – teach them something with Art of Instruction or have a woman be the face of your protest with Rad American Women. Sending angry letters to politicians has never been easier!
Remember those book fairs in elementary school? When your sterile school cafeteria or gym was briefly transformed into a book-y wonderland, where you could browse for a whole period and make your careful selections?
We still get a little dreamy remembering those days, so we decided to bring the book fair back, this time for grownups who need a break from work to get lost in books.
If you’re in the Portland area and have at least 30 workers, drop us a line (elly at microcosmpublishing dot com is your person) and ask us about bringing a Microcosm Book Emporium to your workplace for an afternoon.
Our books are mostly nonfiction and they all turn on self-empowerment. We have fun DIY projects, mental health power-ups, hard-hitting histories, inspiration for everything from cooking to bicycling to punk rock, and even books for kids.
We’ll be selling books, but there’s no cost to have us there—we just ask that you provide a few tables, let your staff know about the bookfair, and give them a bit of time to browse and shop. We’re happy to bring requested titles and topics from our catalog.
Here’s a testimonial from one of our hosts:
“Microcosm brought a Book Fair to our office and it was amazing! The expressions on a few staff faces were priceless – I think we all were expecting some books laid out on office tables, but the displays Microcosm brought in really made it feel like we stepped right into a book store. Their team was also great to work with logistically and made the event a breeze to set up.” -Stephanie Fudge, Zapproved
It’s time: We’re requesting stories for the seventh volume of feminist bicycle science fiction series Bikes in Space.
The fifth volume, Bikes Not Rockets, is funding on Kickstarter through August 8th. The sixth, with the working title Dragon Bike, is in edits. This seventh volume is scheduled to come out in early 2021.
For the first time we’re excited to welcome a guest editor to the series: Lydia Rogue, who stepped in to edit the most recent issue of the Taking the Lane zine, True Trans Bike Rebel, pitched the theme for this volume and we couldn’t resist.
Without further ado, here are the submission guidelines:
The theme for this issue is: trans and nonbinary characters and writers. Working title: The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride
Recently we were approached about starting a new thing on a new platform that was all very top-secret, and we jumped at the chance (we like shiny things). That platform is Drip, Kickstarter’s new subscriptions program, and our project launched today in its inaugural class of creators.
We’ll still be using Kickstarter to fund the production of some of our individual books. Meanwhile, Drip is a little different: it’s about monthly support—it’s similar to Patreon, which we also use. It offers various levels of support; you can get ebooks or credit for our online store. By backing at our core level, you can have access to regular posts with advice about all aspects of our publishing work. You can ask us anything and we’ll do our best to talk you through it. And we’ll share regular windows into the life of our office.
Some posts we have planned for the near future include:
- How to judge a book by its cover (and make sure yours has a good one)
- How to run an effective publicity campaign in an era when traditional review outlets are dwindling and reviews don’t work as well as they used to anyway
- When you SHOULD self-publish and why (spoiler, we don’t think it’s very often, but it’s definitely not never)
- How our marketing department informs our editorial decisions (controversy alert!)
- Regular “from the desk of” diaries
- Whatever YOU want to know!
We’ve been doing this a long time, and we love sharing our books with you. Now, let us share our knowledge and lore, too.
Thank you for your support!
One thing I love about my new position at Microcosm is that now I get to give away books — free! I mean, not all the time… but a lot, and it is becoming one of my favorite things to do.
Here’s the deal: This year I’d like to spend time telling the story of not Microcosm but the people who work here, make us what we are, and helped build this business along the way. But for each month I’d like to host a great big book giveaway of past books! Each giveaway (hosted on Goodreads) will offer up 50 copies of one back-list title.
For the first, though, we start at the beginning:
Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business with Asperger’s is the memoir of Joe Biel, Microcosm’s founder, and the story of Microcosm itself; how it came into existence, the troubles it (and its members) faced along the way, and how it became what it is now [a thriving indie publishing house with books and zines all over the world, of course]. The history involved is deepened by Biel’s rocky childhood and (at first un-diagnosed) place on the autism spectrum. Published one year ago to mark Microcosm’s 20th anniversary, Good Trouble dives into all the shit and splendor that’s gone into making us who we are, from the very beginning.
Check out this book trailer from a kickstarter project launched for the book’s release:
So, starting today and ending March 31st, just before the start of Autism Awareness Month, enter to win one of 50 copies of Good Trouble, and get a nitty-gritty glimpse behind the Microcosm curtain.
Stay awesome and good luck!
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.
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!
As 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.
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.