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Microcosm is an independent, punk-inspired book publisher. We're about to turn 20. This is our story.
Microcosm is an independent, punk-inspired book publisher that turns 20 in 2016. Good Trouble tells our story. You can buy the book now directly from us!
Microcosm is an independent, punk-inspired book publisher that turns 20 in 2016. Good Trouble tells our story. You can buy the book now directly from us!
231 backers pledged $7,825 to help bring this project to life.

About

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Making Room for Good Trouble

$7,825

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Once upon a time, a teenager named Joe Biel started going to punk shows and began dreaming about applying the same do-it-yourself, community values of the punk scene around him, to other pursuits in life. He applied all his passion, his intellect, his difference, his weirdness, his prodigal math skills and floundering social skills to build what would become Microcosm Publishing, and a movement along with it.

Twenty years later, Good Trouble is his story and the story of Microcosm. When you back this project, you'll help get that story out into the world and support the biggest small indie publisher you've never heard of ... until now. 

About Good Trouble

Good Trouble is a tale of screwing up, trying again, and always finding a way to do it better. It's about developing a toolkit for turning your difficulties into superpowers, building the world that you envision, and inspiring others to do the same. This is the story of how, over 20 years, one person turned a litany of continuing mistakes and seemingly wrong turns into a happy, fulfilled life and a thriving publishing business that defies all odds.

The book has a foreword by Sander Hicks, founder of Soft Skull Press, and an introduction by Joyce Brabner, co-author (with Harvey Pekar) of Our Cancer Year.

You could read the book as a small business case study, a manual for turning your oddities into strengths, a primer on growing up, or as a history of a movement—from the DIY punk scene of the 90s and early 00s to the related explosion of zine culture in Portland during that time.

About Microcosm

Our Portland Headquarters
Our Portland Headquarters

Microcosm Publishing is a traditional-format paperback book publisher. We use tried and true methods, like offset printing in large quantities, selling to stores, and working with a distributor. We work closely with our authors and staff to develop awesome books that take a couple years (or more!) to publish, and then we pay royalties. In those ways, we're basically just like Penguin/Random House but at a much (much!) smaller scale. We're also a lot different. We are still 100% independently owned. We put all profits back into the business, striving right now to keep our wages up with the rising cost of living in Portland. We publish only books that we believe in, almost all nonfiction with a focus on self-empowerment and the DIY ethic we were founded with.

We've now published over 350 books and have nearly three million books in print. They're all vital parts of our history and our DNA. We love them all, and we want you to read them. But some books sell like wildfire, others go more slowly, and with some we've made mistakes in development that lead them to sit in our warehouse like a bunch of brilliant, hilarious, undiscovered paperweights. 

What's all this "making room" about?

Which brings us to... this project. See, they don't tell you this when you're a starry-eyed young publisher just starting out, but the way you count your beans and manage your space and maintain your company culture turn out to be just as important—if not more important—than the glamorous parts everyone knows about, like discovering genius writers, editing their manuscripts, and meeting with reporters over cocktails to share your views on weighty literary matters of our time. In fact, Good Trouble is as good a parable as it gets about the problems of running a business without properly managing all of its parts and not having many resources to begin with.

But no matter how prepared you are, you still may find yourself walking into your warehouse one day and seeing a scene like this:

Boxes: an underappreciated part of the means of production
Boxes: an underappreciated part of the means of production

Here's the thing: we're printing a lot of copies of Good Trouble and the 20 other books we have coming out this year. In the same way that we need money to print them and staff to edit, publicize, and sell them, we need to make room to store them. We don't want to throw older books out or sell them for a penny, which is what most publishers would do. Instead, we'd like to redistribute their contents...to YOU. 

Rewards

- Our 20th Anniversary sticker! 

Every reward level gets this!
Every reward level gets this!

- Good Trouble:  It's here at last—for us, this is the book of the decade! It's Joe's story of learning everything the hard way, from relationships to the publishing business. We're really proud of this book. We think you'll like it, too.

 -So many books: We've gone through our boxes and our spreadsheets, and come up with 24 books that we have waaaaaaay too many of for a variety of reasons, all of which are unrelated to the awesomeness of the words and pictures within. We can't say enough nice things about these books. They're amazing and life-changing. We're super sad that they're sitting in boxes. Back this project and set them free! 

Here's the list:

The Magic 24
The Magic 24

The basic 3 (selected to represent our range of interests and themes!):

  • Scam - Down and out in Miami: squatting, train hopping, bike riding, putting on street corner punk shows, and getting by every old way
  • Grow - A practical guide to turning your DIY passion into a business
  • White Elephants - Getting through grief by going to thrift stores and yard sales, making zines, and rebuilding close relationships

And the rest of the amazing books:

- DVDs: For a while, we published documentaries, too. Then that industry tanked hard. So we have 5 excellent stories in DVD format that we'll be sending out with some of the rewards. Here are the 5 documentaries:

- Hurt books: Our books travel a lot. They go from the printer in the midwest to our office on the coast and our distributor's warehouses in Tennessee; they get shipped from these places to various wholesalers and stores and whatnot; and then sometimes they get shipped back again. Things happen. Sometimes they get a little banged up—anything from the tiniest scuff to a bent corner or torn pages. Then we keep them on a shelf waiting optimistically for someone to come love them. Maybe that someone will be you. If you get a reward with hurt books, they could be any book we have ever published, old or new. Who knows!

- BFF subscription: You'll get every book we publish, shipped monthly, for the next six months

- Books and movies by Joe: Joe's been a prolific author. Two of his books (Bamboozled and Beyond the Music) are part of the magic 24. His documentary $100 and a T-shirt is one of the 5 DVDs. Here are the others that remain in print: 

Thank you!!

Thank you—whether you've been supporting Microcosm since the beginning, are just discovering us now, or have found out about us somewhere along the way—we couldn't do any of this without you the readers. We're very glad you're out there. Please accept these books as our thanks. And whatever you do, keep reading books!

And wow, you made it this far! In case you don't want this project description to end, here are twenty photos representing twenty years of Microcosm. Enjoy!

1996: The closet where it all began, with a friend of Microcosm posing for the camera
1996: The closet where it all began, with a friend of Microcosm posing for the camera
1997: Speak in Tongues, the Cleveland DIY music venue where Joe sold zines out of milk crates at the bar
1997: Speak in Tongues, the Cleveland DIY music venue where Joe sold zines out of milk crates at the bar
1998: The zine operation at Speak in Tongues grows and an early moment of conflict arises: If no one is in charge, who cleans the kitchen?
1998: The zine operation at Speak in Tongues grows and an early moment of conflict arises: If no one is in charge, who cleans the kitchen?
1999: Microcosm catalog produced shortly after moving to Portland. We still have that "temporary" PO Box!
1999: Microcosm catalog produced shortly after moving to Portland. We still have that "temporary" PO Box!
2000: Now settled in Portland, Microcosm acquires its first "truck"
2000: Now settled in Portland, Microcosm acquires its first "truck"
2001: For a time, our office was in a stairwell in a group house
2001: For a time, our office was in a stairwell in a group house
As we accumulated more and more, storage solutions became as creative as the writing.
As we accumulated more and more, storage solutions became as creative as the writing.
2003: We opened our first public store where people could come browse our zines and patches and stickers and books in person
2003: We opened our first public store where people could come browse our zines and patches and stickers and books in person
2004: Accounting in action involved iced tea, coke bottle glasses, and endless spreadsheets and charts
2004: Accounting in action involved iced tea, coke bottle glasses, and endless spreadsheets and charts
2005 is the year this shirt was made; but we met this man wearing it in Memphis in 2012!
2005 is the year this shirt was made; but we met this man wearing it in Memphis in 2012!
2006: For our tenth anniversary we had a big event with a lot of our authors and artists. These flying idealists were drawn for us by Sarah Oleksyk
2006: For our tenth anniversary we had a big event with a lot of our authors and artists. These flying idealists were drawn for us by Sarah Oleksyk
2007: Unable to find a new hq in the midst of Portland's real estate boom, we opened an office and warehouse in Bloomington, Indiana
2007: Unable to find a new hq in the midst of Portland's real estate boom, we opened an office and warehouse in Bloomington, Indiana
2008 saw us publishing Make Your Place, which would go on be our bestseller and our first book to sell over 100k copies. We published a huge number of books that year, and went on tour
2008 saw us publishing Make Your Place, which would go on be our bestseller and our first book to sell over 100k copies. We published a huge number of books that year, and went on tour
2009: Our omnibus author tour involved bike maintenance, singing sea shanties, a vegan buffet, a film screening, and a screenprinting workshop. Not your typical book tour.
2009: Our omnibus author tour involved bike maintenance, singing sea shanties, a vegan buffet, a film screening, and a screenprinting workshop. Not your typical book tour.
2010: The Zine Trike joined Microcosm and brought us to all sorts of fun new places, verrrry slowly
2010: The Zine Trike joined Microcosm and brought us to all sorts of fun new places, verrrry slowly
2011: As we began to outgrow our SE Portland storefront, we lofted the office workspaces above bookshelves and storage
2011: As we began to outgrow our SE Portland storefront, we lofted the office workspaces above bookshelves and storage
2012: Our Dinner and Bikes tour gained steam, bringing us all over the country with bike films and conversations, vegan food, and of course the traveling bookstore
2012: Our Dinner and Bikes tour gained steam, bringing us all over the country with bike films and conversations, vegan food, and of course the traveling bookstore
2013: Owner-operated once again, and we're on a roll, excitedly publishing books and making them look great
2013: Owner-operated once again, and we're on a roll, excitedly publishing books and making them look great
2014: We manage to buy a falling-over building in Portland, just blocks from the space we were displaced from in 2007. A new foundation, a fresh coat of paint, and we're already ready to start growing out of it!
2014: We manage to buy a falling-over building in Portland, just blocks from the space we were displaced from in 2007. A new foundation, a fresh coat of paint, and we're already ready to start growing out of it!
2015: We merged with another publisher this year, spent 18 weeks on the road, and everything seems to finally be fitting together
2015: We merged with another publisher this year, spent 18 weeks on the road, and everything seems to finally be fitting together
2016: We turn 20, we publish a list of super exciting books, we are ahead of schedule, and all of these years of hard work amount to something we're really proud of. Thank you for being part of our next two decades!
2016: We turn 20, we publish a list of super exciting books, we are ahead of schedule, and all of these years of hard work amount to something we're really proud of. Thank you for being part of our next two decades!

 Thank you again. We couldn't do this work without you.

 <3

Risks and challenges

If this project is unsuccessful, we will sit sadly, alone and cold, in our warehouse bunker, surrounded by teetering stacks of boxes. Eventually we will become motivated to find another solution, such as building a new building around our building with boxes—laminated heavily with waterproof sealant to keep out the elements, of course. When that outer building fills up with boxes, we will build yet another shell. Eventually, we will encroach far enough into the street that all car traffic will grind to a halt and only cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, and people in wheelchairs will be able to get through. So perhaps we should hope to fail. But we really would rather make your year awesome by sending you a bunch of books.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    One Microcosm book! Choose one out of these three of our (very different) favorites: Scam, White Elephants, or Grow. Plus, you'll get our 20th anniversary sticker.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Three great Microcosm books that represent our range of self-empowering books: Scam, Grow, and White Elephants. And a 20th anniversary sticker!

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Good Trouble, please! One book, signed by Joe, comes with a shiny 20th anniversary sticker.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    Good Trouble and an ebook! You'll get an ebook download link (we have pdf and epub) and one paperback book, signed by Joe, which comes with a shiny 20th anniversary sticker.

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    Pledge $24 or more About $24

    Sticker lover: A signed copy of Good Trouble and a big ole grab bag of 25 Microcosm stickers! Including the 20th anniversary one! Stick them everywhere!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Good Trouble signed by Joe, a copy each of Grow, Scam, and White Elephants, and a sticker.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    All the books! A signed copy of Good Trouble + all 24 books listed here! Enough to get you through the year, or at least the rest of the winter! Aaaaand... a sticker.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Movie lover's special: Good Trouble + all 24 books + 5 documentary DVDs!

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    8 backers
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $99 or more About $99

    Ebook Enthusiast: Love to read your books in ethereal electronic form? We make e-book versions of most of our books. This reward nets you every ebook we have made (that we can find), including the one for Good Trouble of course. We don't even know how many that is, but it's almost certainly over a hundred. Maybe way over. When this project is over, we'll figure that out and send you a huge list of pdf and epub download links so you can read your heart out. Don't forget to blink!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Can't get enough books! A signed Good Trouble + all 24 books + 5 documentary DVDs + 5 random slightly damaged books + a sticker

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Books by Joe: A signed copy of Good Trouble + all the books + movies by Joe that we've got + the magic 24 + a sticker

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Holy crap, I really love books! A signed copy of Good Trouble + all 24 books + 5 documentary DVDs + 5 random slightly damaged books + all the other books Joe's written + a BFF subscription to everything we publish for the next six months. Whoa! And a sticker!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    No, seriously I never ever want to stop reading! A signed Good Trouble + all 24 books + 5 documentary DVDs + all the other books Joe's written + a BFF subscription to everything we publish for the next year + 1 each of every damaged title we have that you aren't already getting one of here. And a sticker, of course. Yikes. Wow.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Fellow publisher: Everything at the $500 level, plus Joe will consult in-depth on your publishing business—development, accounting, marketing, production, whatever you need—for 4 hours.

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Funding period

- (23 days)