Tagged books

The History of Microcosm in 10 Books

Essential titles for understanding who we are, what we do, and why we do it

Some of these books hold the key to the Microcosm ethos; others are books that marked a turning point or opened significant doors for our publishing operation. Each is a damn good read selected by Elly for your reading, learning, and DIY-ing pleasure. Shop the collection or read on to learn more about the role each has played in the life of Microcosm!

Making Stuff and Doing Things: DIY Guides to Just About Everything by Kyle Bravo
When Tree of Knowledge folded their publishing operation in 1996, this was one of the first books we published and still one of our perennial bestsellers. 28 years later, this cut-and-paste zine-style compilation of how-to guides on subjects ranging from crafts to health to community is still capturing imaginations and turning 20-somethings away from consumer culture.

Make a Zine: Start Your Own Underground Publishing Revolution by Bill Brent and Joe Biel
The late, great Bill Brent started this guide to the ultimate, original form of self-publishing. Brent invited a young Joe Biel to be involved with the project as a way to appeal to younger readers. As zine popularity waxes and wanes, so does this little book, now in its fourth edition and almost completely rewritten for modern times. Is there anything more punk than putting out a zine?

Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs
This friendly, handwritten book came out in 2007. In 2008, just as the recession hit, it got a bunch of great blog write-ups and sold thousands of copies overnight. It was our bestseller by a mile until Dr. Faith came along.

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever: Ridiculously Complete Edition by Tom Neely and Friends
This little comic began as a joke scribbled by cartoonists on napkins in a bar. We never sought out a lick of publicity for this book, but it quickly went viral and has escalated from there into more comics and much astonished laughter. If you get it, you get it.

Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy by Elly Blue
We’ve long published books about bikes, starting with the iconic Chainbreaker. Elly Blue wrote Bikenomics for Microcosm in 2012 and then got hired three years later, proving that you actually can leverage writing into making a living, sort of. Elly Blue Books and Microcosm merged companies in 2015, and we continue to publish feminist bicycle books and zines today.

Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life and Business with Autism by Joe Biel
Joe Biel’s honest, earnest, and sometimes harrowing memoir from 2016 also tells the story of Microcosm. Its publication deliberately marked a transition to new era and new culture for the company, in which we grew up and professionalized a bit while holding on tight to our values and spirit.

Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-outs, and Triggers by Dr. Faith G. Harper
Dr. Faith appeared in our office one day in 2015 with what looked like notes for a powerpoint presentation called “Your Brain Is an Asshole.” Over the course of the next hour and a half, we developed it into the seed of a book (and series, and line of books by other authors about mental health and healthy relationships) that’s changed millions of lives around the world.

A People’s Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business From the Ground Up by Joe Biel
We made Joe sit down and write notes on everything learned about publishing in over the last quarter century, primarily so we could unlock that knowledge for ourselves. This one caused the book industry to really take notice of the work Microcosm has been doing, and, more important, has helped countless new publishers get their start.

The Practical Witch’s Almanac by Friday Gladheart
Around 2017, we had a salesperson on staff who discovered that witchy stores really, really like to buy books, so we started looking for witchy books to publish. Our turning point was meeting Friday Gladheart, who began publishing her almanacs the same year Microcosm started. It only took us 20 years to find each other. We started out distributing her 2018 almanac and became her publisher in 2019—the 2025 edition is now available for preorder!

How to Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future! by Danny Caine
Danny Caine, owner of The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, KS, started publishing this zine during the height of the pandemic. Our publicist at the time found it on social media and reached out to see if Danny wanted a hand with production and distribution. We helped free up his bookstore team from stapling zines in their back office so they could focus on other groundbreaking initiatives, while we were able to help bring this ray of resistance to indie bookstores around the world.

Bookstore Solidarity! Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Print: A Bookstore has been a triumphant, bright light in envisioning what a bookstore could be. Both as a brick and mortar that is a champion for information and reading, but also holding up its staff and creating entertaining skit videos with its staff! This week on the pod, we feature co-owner Josh Christie about the store in our ongoing Bookstore Solidarity project!

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

In Interview with Karen Finlay, owner of Alibi Bookshop in Vallejo, California

Welcome to the next installment of the Bookstore Solidarity Project! Every month, we’ll be highlighting indie bookstore owners and booksellers across the country. This month, we’re featuring Alibi Bookshop in Vallejo, California, owned by Karen Finlay.

Your name and pronouns?
Karen Finlay, she/her

Tell us a little bit about the store and your community!
We moved to Vallejo from Oakland in 2017, and there was a tiny used bookstore with a small selection; I was disappointed that we didn’t have something *more.* Some people can’t live away from water, and I can’t live far away from a bookstore. One day I said, “I wish I could open a bookstore in Vallejo!” Well, be careful what you wish for — we wound up buying the store and opened in 2019. Not the greatest timing because a pandemic was looming, but our community has kept us here and we are so, so grateful.

Vallejo, the most diverse city in the US, is an interesting and historical town with its share of issues, but the best community anywhere. It was a navy town , but the navy left in the late ’90s and the city declared bankruptcy in 2008, and our downtown still reflects that. But we are working hard to bring back some vitality, and it’s been fantastic! The pandemic derailed our initial efforts, but we’ve been ramping up again. We’ve had sold out events at the local movie theater, two active book clubs, author events, a writing group, partnerships with local businesses… And anchoring downtown to bring in more businesses. We love it here so much. We try very hard to explain that shopping locally is one of the best things you can do for your city, and the message is starting to take hold. We have a ways to go, but the baby steps are getting bigger.

We don’t have a shop cat — we have two enormous “kittens” who are useless at shelving, so they have to stay home.

What got you into bookselling?
In high school I got a job at Upstart Crow, was an English/Creative Writing major in college and grad school, worked in publishing for nearly 20 years (a year of that with THE GREAT ANNA-LISA), and voila, now I own a bookstore!

What’s something about your store that you think will surprise people?
There are continual surprises and delights in this store — sometimes I think it MUST be haunted. For years this space was a legendary cigar shop, but it was also a jeweler, an egg store in the 1930s, the Democratic Headquarters for Vallejo for Robert Kennedy’s campaign so Teddy Kennedy was here, but my favorite incarnation was that it was “Foxy Lady Boutique” that specialized in hot pants. And I just discovered that the movie star Raymond Burr lived in this building as a child!

I think the thing people are surprised about that there’s a bookstore here at all! People think that bookstores are a thing of the past, and we gladly prove them wrong. Just now a woman was in here — she drove here from a different town because she had heard about us and wanted to see what the “fuss was about,” and said that I proved them all right! Take THAT, Amazon.

What are some of you favorite ways your community supports your store?
Vallejo SHOWS UP for us. We have a dedicated core group of customers, and they try to support by buying books/gifts, sharing on social media, spreading the word or even bringing us strawberries or flowers from the farmer’s market, and today a lady brought me a donut because she was thinking of me. But my favorite are the people who stop by to make sure I’ve gotten something to eat! I love our community so, so much.

What are two books you can’t wait for people to read, or your current favorite handsells?
My favorite handsells are “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” and right now, “The Great Believers” and “Just Kids.”

How can customers who aren’t local shop your shelves?
On our Bookshop.org page!

Be sure to follow Alibi on Facebook and Instagram, and check back in a few weeks for their podcast episode!

You can read our other Bookstore Solidarity Project posts here!
And click here to get a copy of How to Protect Bookstores and Why.

Which Publishers Grew 12% Over The Past Three Years? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)


The pandemic was an unexpectedly magical time for the publishing industry. Sales went up when they were expected to go down. Printing slowed to a crawl due to the paper shortage. But four years later, we have some clear, emergent publishers who seemed to have permanently claimed an additional piece of the market share. This week we take a closer look at them!

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

What is ONIX and do small publishers need to use it? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

How does the entire world get information about what you are publishing? It’s from a feed called ONIX, that propagates every detail about your titles. This week on the pod, we take a deep dive into ONIX and its role for small publishers.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

How Should Publishers Create Budgets and Predict Finances? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Many publishers find money to be very unpredictable and scary. So this week we take a look at how to create budgets and predict cash flow as well as how to plan a financial future. It’s not as difficult as it seems!

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Can Book Publishers Vertically Integrate? w/Blackstone’s Anthony Goff (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

So much of book publishing is about distributing tasks, so how can publishers take more of these operational aspects in-house? This week on the pod, guest Anthony Goff, President of Blackstone Publishing, walks us through many of their aspects that are vertically integrated, from recording studios to rights sales to printing and distribution—to performing these services for other publishers.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

An Interview with Josh Christie, co-owner of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine.

Welcome to the next installment of the Bookstore Solidarity Project! Every month, we’ll be highlighting indie bookstore owners and booksellers across the country.

For January, we managed to wrangle Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine. Fun fact about Print— it’s where Abby the Marketing Manager was first really introduced to Microcosm, thanks to Print’s awesome selection of zines and books!

Your name and pronouns?
Josh Christie, he/him

Tell us a little bit about the store and your community!
We love being the most progressive, most queer-friendly bookstore in our already lefty little city. We’ve been a store for 7 years in November (!). No store cat, through four of us have dogs and one of us has pet bunnies.

What got you into bookselling?
I couldn’t figure out what else to do with a degree in political science. This is my 20th year as a bookseller, so now it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.

What’s something about your store that you think will surprise people?
Our store has been many things prior to our tenancy, including a furniture designer’s workshop, hardware store / scuba shop, and girls school. Plus, the store is haunted.

What are some of you favorite ways your community supports your store?
The community is super-supportive of all our social media antics, which is loads of fun. They’ve also really latched on to our book clubs – we’ve got four now, and each pulls at least a dozen attendees for every meeting.

What are two books you can’t wait for people to read, or your current favorite handsells?
How to Be Multiple: The Philosophy of Twins by Helena de Bres and Black Punk Now, edited by Chris L. Terry and James Spooner

How can customers who aren’t local shop your shelves?
Our website! Printbookstore.com.


Be sure to follow Print: A Bookstore on Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok (you definitely want to check out their Tiktok). Check back in a few week’s for Josh’s podcast interview!

You can read our other Bookstore Solidarity Project posts here!
And click here to get a copy of How to Protect Bookstores and Why.

What is the Value Chain? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Peter Workman referred to it as “The Three Legged Stool,” meaning that if one stakeholder wasn’t benefiting in some way, a book would fail. And that’s a catchier way to explain the concept that publishing a book has to add value to everyone who touches it at every stage. This week on the pod, we unpack the idea of what makes any organization successful.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!

How did we become the distributor for the new Lydia Davis book? (A People’s Guide to Publishing)

Popular author Lydia Davis decided that she no longer wanted her books sold on Amazon. So she tasked her agent with finding a publisher who could do this for her. Everyone said that it was impossible. But through a unique partnership between Microcosm and Bookshop.org, we found a way. And it wasn’t even hard. This is how it turned out. Over 10,000 books sold in the first month and growing!

Check out our interview with Sarah High here.

Get the People’s Guide to Publishing here, and the workbook here!
Want to stay up to date on new podcast episodes and happenings at Microcosm? Subscribe to our newsletter!