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An accessible, unconventional guide to the business and art of publishing books that matter.
An accessible, unconventional guide to the business and art of publishing books that matter.
199 backers pledged $7,902 to help bring this project to life.

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A People's Guide to Publishing: Build Your Own Media Empire

$7,902

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Update: Stretch goals!

$6,000: If we reach this amount, every backer who is getting a physical book will also get a nicely-designed blank book for note-taking as you read

$8,000: At this funding amount, we'll make workbooks for your planning purposes. We'll send pdfs to backers who are just getting the ebook, and both pdfs and paper workbooks to backers who are getting physical awards

On to the main event:

  • Do you have a burning desire to publish books but aren't sure where to start?
  • Do you already publish and want a better grasp of the business so you can grow sustainably?
  • Do you work in publishing and want to explore where the industry is headed?
  • Are you an author who wants to better understand the language and landscape of publishing?

Consider this book to be a resource, a mentor, and a power boost. 

About the book

We're entering a golden age of independent publishing and bookselling, with more people reading than ever, large monopolies falling apart, and readers actively looking in unexpected places for curated selections of good books. Joe Biel's A People's Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business From the Ground Up is your handbook for jumping into the game and successfully developing and selling books that are meaningful to you and your readers.

Publishing is movement building. What is the world that you envision bringing to life through your books?  

This book cuts through the massive amount of misinformation out there and provides you with a path to success, whether you're self-publishing your own work or casting a wider net in pursuit of your meaning and purpose. 

Here's some of what's covered in these chapters:

  • The too-often-neglected art of title development 
  • How to choose what to publish
  • The even-more neglected financial side of publishing
  • When to work with a distributor (and why you might not want to)
  • When to start paying yourself or hire someone else
  • The case against caring too much about editing
  • Decoding the language of printing
  • Telling the world about your books
  • Unexpected places to sell your books
  • And so much more, including book design and layout, dealing with mistakes, dealing with success, and what to do with all those dang boxes of books

About the author

The author at work!
The author at work!

Joe Biel started Microcosm Publishing in his bedroom closet as a teenager. Twenty-three years later, it has grown into a scrappy, successful midlist independent publishing company that employs 15 people and publishes 20 books a year. Our mission is to publish books that help you empower yourself to create the life and world you want to see. Our vision is to change the face of publishing to reflect the real world of readers. 

Microcosm's co-owners in front of their bookstore and world HQ. Photo by Laura Stanfill
Microcosm's co-owners in front of their bookstore and world HQ. Photo by Laura Stanfill

Microcosm is different than your stereotypical publishing house. It's based in Portland, not NYC. The owners can often be seen moving books around town by bicycle. Our staff and leadership doubles the industry average in marginalized workers. We're entirely funded by the books we sell, with no source of outside money. We skip literary conventions and create small, affordable, practical, beautiful books that put your power in your hands. And we try to have the most fun, every day, in everything we do. 

Representing our books at an event -- read about the importance of your ground game in the book!
Representing our books at an event -- read about the importance of your ground game in the book!
Ultimately, we're in it for the books—and there's a constant rotation coming through our store and warehouse
Ultimately, we're in it for the books—and there's a constant rotation coming through our store and warehouse

About the rewards 

The main event is your own copy of A People's Guide to Publishing, several months before its official publication date in December 2018, signed by the author. It's a 5x7", 416 page brick of a paperback book, with illustrations and helpful infographics scattered throughout. 

Zine-Maker Power Pack

Zines are a bit like booklets, chapbooks, or pamphlets—they're usually photocopied and stapled and focus intensely on a single topic. One option that A People's Guide recommends is beginning your publishing operation by making zines. This reward level will provide both how-to and inspiration.

Zine power!
Zine power!
  • Make a Zine is also by Joe and walks you through all the how's and whys of zine-making, with illustrations and comics -- good for all ages.
  • Zine Yearbook #9 is a collection of excerpts from the best zines of 2007 -- a golden age for the art form!
  • two back issues of Xerography Debt -- a zine full of reviews of other zines and essays about zine culture.
  •  

The Business of Publishing Level-Up Pack

Need to spruce up your business acumen?There's some good biz knowledge in A People's Guide, and if you're looking for a firmer groundwork along with it, these business books can help you level-up: 

Business of Publishing
Business of Publishing
  • Grow is Eleanor Whitney's guide to the nuts and bolts of starting a small, creative business from scratch, full of sound advice, practical steps, and inspiring examples of others who have succeeded.
  • Punk Rock Entrepreneur is Caroline Moore's overview of the attitudes and strategies that can help you succeed in business even—or especially—if you don't have any cash to start with.
  • Good Trouble is Joe's story of launching Microcosm as a broke, disaffected teenager, and growing it through many pitfalls into a thriving midlist publishing company; he dishes much practical advice along the way.
  •  

The Potential of Publishing Super Pack

Nobody gets into publishing because they care about spreadsheets, shipping manifests, and Pantone books—though many learn to love these things along the way. The books at this level speak to the meaningful personal and cultural reasons we love this work:

Potential of Publishing
Potential of Publishing
  • Notes From Underground is Stephen Duncombe's history of underground publishing in the last century. It's funny, informative, and will give you a proud sense of your place in the world of upstart publishers.
  • New Girl Law is Anne Elizabeth Moore's reportage of her time spent in Cambodia working with a class of college women to literally rewrite—and publish—their country's gender norms.
  • The Book Bindery is Sarah Royal's sometimes harrowing, never glamorous tale of working in a print and bindery shop—a good parable about why publishers usually outsource printing.
  • Beyond the Music is Joe's collection of interviews with punks who've grown up and applied their DIY ethics and values to other pursuits—including several having to do with books.
  •  

All the Books

All the Books level!
All the Books level!

 At this level, you'll get all the books listed above—a colorful shelf-full! 

Consulting reward levels

Real talk: This is what a publisher's desk looks like.
Real talk: This is what a publisher's desk looks like.

If you're starting up a press, or trying to take your existing company to the next level, and could use some expert advice, custom spreadsheets, or general experience and accountability, we've got a couple reward levels where Joe will dig into your operation's details with you, for one hour or more in-depth over the course of six months. Consulting can be about budgets, printing, book development, business strategy, or whatever you most need an extra set of eyes on. 

And some days, publishing looks like this.
And some days, publishing looks like this.

Risks and challenges

We've been getting to know our way around this particular block for the past 23 years. There are many risks in publishing, and we've faced down pretty much all of them—you can read a lot of those stories in this book, and learn from our mistakes. In the meantime, there are a few things that could delay this book for as much as a few weeks, but nothing that can stop it entirely! And your support helps us make it right. Thank you.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $14 or more About $14

    Digital version

    At this level, you'll get a pdf of A People's Guide to Publishing (not ebook formatted).

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    A People's Guide to Publishing

    One book, mailed to you.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Zine-maker Power Pack

    Start small and dream big! Get a signed People's Guide to Publishing, plus two books and two zines about zines -- Make a Zine and the Zine Yearbook #9, plus two back issues of Xerography Debt.

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    The Business of Publishing Level-Up Pack

    Want a deeper dive into the business side of publishing? You'll get a signed copy of A People's Guide to Publishing, as well as Joe's publishing memoir Good Trouble, and two good boots-on-the-ground business guides: Grow and Punk Rock Entrepreneur.

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    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    The Potential of Publishing Super Pack

    Books can change the world! At this inspiring level, you'll get a signed copy of A People's Guide to Publishing as well as other Microcosm books-about-books Notes From Underground, New Girl Law, The Book Bindery, On the Books, and Beyond the Music.

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    Pledge $95 or more About $95

    All the books!

    A signed copy of A People's Guide to Publishing, plus each of the books in the $35, $40, and $55 reward levels.

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    Publishing consultation

    A signed copy of A People's Guide to Publishing and a one-hour consultation with the author about your publishing business or plans

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    Extra consultation

    A signed copy of A People's Guide to Publishing and five hours of consultation with the author across three months.

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    Super consultation

    You'll get a signed copy of A People's Guide to Publishing and ten hours of consultation with the author across six months.

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Funding period

- (26 days)