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Tuesday, 08 April 2014


Mike, why don't you do another fundraiser? I'll bet some of the people you have helped sell prints in the past would be willing to contribute a print. If you had four prints from four photographers, it could be a pretty good fundraiser.

At least your heading in the right direction!

It is tax time here in the U.S. and not everybody gets refunds. I am waiting to send my check off on the 15th, and no day sooner.

Congrats on the up coming renovation!

I'd like to make a cash donation. Can I still do that?

[Absolutely. There's a button in the right-hand sidebar. Thanks! --Mike]

Good for you, but here's the caveat: as the son of a residential contractor, be sure to (mentally) add 30% to whatever is estimated for the work you want done. Not that contractors are deceptive or uninformed, but once the work starts, things are inevitably "discovered" that also need to be done, or material choices drive costs up, or... all kinds of things. I've known residential projects that were completed on or under budget, but those are the exceptions.

Mike, put that money away and figure a another way to raise the rest of the money for the new place. You will quickly outgrow the small space you are thinking of adding.

Perhaps if you let us know how much you fell short we might all pitch for an upgrade to our order

In my opinion, you should save the money, do another fundraiser in a month or two, and then buy the house. If you only remodel, I think you'll always be disappointed.

Well! Exciting news.

And while the builders are in, you'll be out, testing cameras & lenses, making more photos for us to admire.

Sounds like we all have benefitted here.

You started a business that consists of writing and reading about things that interest you and other people. Now and then, they buy stuff. And you get to eat and pay for stuff with the money you make. No big corporation involved. No office politics to give you ulcers.

Is that neat or what?

[Better than neat. Best job in the world if you ask me. I get the sense that the site itself could be better, which is the main reason I'd like to move forward. But I'll never complain about earning a living at this, that's for sure. My only worry is for it to last. --Mike]

Mike, congratulations on the successful sale, and I'm sorry that you didn't raise enough to buy the house down the street.

My two cents though, are that if you've hit goal #4, you should seriously consider a "part II" fundraiser in a month or two (or maybe just the next regularly scheduled TOP print sale) to see if that puts you over the top, or maybe just gets you close enough that you can finance the rest. Being a self employed sole-proprietor blogger means no bank will ever loan you $55k, but they might loan you $15k.

Congrats again, and I hope you can find a way to make it happen.

Hey Mike -- congratulations on the Print Sale, great news.

As you might remember, I do a lot of fixin' in old houses. If you have anything in mind, I'm happy to be a sounding board for your ideas.

--Timo, an architect in Brooklyn

I don't know the numbers, but have you completely abandoned the idea of making an offer on the other house? If you can put together something that's reasonable to you, why not put it to the seller? There's no harm in asking.*

*Most of the time.

Great! But how far are you from the next tier? Housing prices are depressed enough in most of the country that it might not make sense to renovate. At least make an offer on the house down the street. The current owners might well be more desperate than you think, and a (relatively?) small extra expenditure could give a lot more space as a result.

Indiegogo and/or Kickstarter are two additional options.

Good luck to you, Mike. I try to make a donation each year because TOP is better than any print magazine I've subscribed to so far.

Congratulations. Good that you got what you need. No reason to feel bad about the house down the street. It would have been quite a miracle that you sell prints for a few days and can buy a house with the proceeds. Ansel Adams couldn't do that when he was at the prime of his life. And he was one of the very few commercially successful photographers during his time.

[Right, and isn't it amazing that I was able to do as well as I did...amazing, and a thing to be grateful for, forever. --Mike]

I just want to add my agreement to all who have urged you to hold out for the larger house, rather than upgrading your present one. We understand that your site is not about money, other than your need to make a living, so no one is going to think ill of you if you should have another fundraiser, Kickstarter campaign, or whatever. Just do it.

As I said before, I think that many of those who have profited in the past from selling their prints through your site would be more than happy to contribute a print for sale for this cause.

I've got to say I agree with those who advise you to make this a "two-parter" and have one more fund-raiser to get you all the way to the new house. Of course, we don't have to figure out what that fund-raiser will be, or how to implement it. Maybe readers could donate 1 print, and you and Ctein could pick a handful to offer for another print sale? Anyway, best of luck whatever you decide. And I'll go make a donation just in case this is the last chance (when I get home from work, that is).



Please think about holding onto the money you've raised and try something to add to it in a few months in order to get closer to buying that other house.

I also recommend you think about trying to keep your current house and rent it out. If you could swing this then you would end up with a bit more of a financial cushion for the stuff that comes up in life as well as a bit of a dependable monthly income. You would also live right down the street from your rental so you could keep an eye on it as part of normal life. I think all of us who read your site would be happy for you if you could swing this.

Thank you for your most excellent site.

"The ideas originated when I was designing a house for a divorced parent, and will work well for that application as well in case it applies to a future owner of the house."

I can't help wondering what this idea might be and whether it will be any comfort to the divorcee that moves in at a later date.

Count me in for another vote for Sale II. Reason: I wanted to buy a print to help out... But the only print I wanted was the Soo Line print, or the winter night photo. But the Soo Line wasn't for sale (I'll now never be able to own a Soo Line print since you'll never put it up for sale again), and the Winter Night photo was way out of my budget. I buy a print a year from TOP as my contribution but I'm getting married this year so my contribution this time will be limited. If you do a Sale II, please consider making all prints available in all sizes so we have choice? Thanks!

FWIW, I suspect my WAG on the likely outcome may be close to reality. Retrieving my envelope from the bin, I read on the back:

TOP has 30K visitors per day.
Probably 5% are real regulars (1500).
Of those, 50% are probably in well-paid employment (750).
To those well-paid supporters, an average donation or purchase of $50 feels right: total $37500.

The thing is, I suspect you could repeat this exercise annually, with or without prints, and tap the same constituency for a similar amount. I mean, fifty dollars? Come on, fellow wage-slaves! We love TOP, don't we?


Here's another vote for a second fundraiser. I like the idea of more prints, perhaps solicited from readers as has been suggested. (Of course, that would require extra time and effort on your part and Ctein's, so one would have to weigh all of those considerations carefully). Kickstarter seems like another good option. I imagine if you polled those who have contributed already, the overwhelming majority would say they are disappointed you didn't reach your goal of buying the house down the street. I know I was looking forward to "owning" just a tiny portion of the new house, and seeing what you would do with it. Of course, we can do the same with your remodeling effort, but the next goal level seems tantalizingly within reach with perhaps just one more push. MarkB makes a good point about hidden costs with remodeling, too; would you still choose option #4 if you knew the cost would turn out to be $50K instead of 40K?


I respect your desire not to make the site all about raising money for you and your desire to "get back to normal". You feel like your obligation to your readers is to provide them with content, not distractions.

At the same time, consider this: everyone who bought a print did so hoping that you would be able to buy the house down the street. I think you also have some sort of obligation to respect the goal we were shooting for (at least until that goal becomes unattainable - e.g., because the house is sold).

Let me ask you this question...if you take the amount of additional money you would need to buy the house, and divide it by the number of people who bought prints, what does that work out to? Are we talking $50/buyer? $100/buyer? $250/buyer? I think it would help us to have a better understanding of how much additional money you would need on a per person basis to get over the hump. (Obviously, not everyone who bought a print would be willing to contribute additional money, but I bet a large percentage would if they had some comfort that it would allow you to reach your goal. Also, I expect that some people who did NOT buy a print would donate, but for purposes of this calculation, it seems reasonable to start with those who have already demonstrated that they are favorably disposed toward the project.)

Last question...have you thought about selling "coupons"? You could give people a credit that could be used to reduce the cost of prints sold in future print sales. The discount would come out of your share of the proceeds in future sales. So for example, you sell a $50 coupon. In the future, you have a print sale where the print costs $300 and you are splitting the proceeds with the photographer so you get 1/3 and s/he gets 2/3. In that case, the buyer could buy a print for $250 and the $50 coupon would come out of your $100 from the sale. The photographer would still get their full $200. I think this is something that people would be interested in buying, it wouldn't cost you anything out-of-pocket, and could help you raise money in a hurry. Yes, the record-keeping would be tedious, but isn't it worth it for a new house?

Best regards,

One more thought...Have you ever considered having some sort of "yard sale" or auction, where readers contribute items for sale and the proceeds go to TOP? I imagine hundreds of us have photography-related items (or even non-photography items) that are gathering dust in our closets but might be sought after by others. These items would find happy homes with other TOP readers, the people donating could clear their homes of clutter, and TOP might reach Goal #5. I'm daydreaming now of all of the interesting cameras, lenses, personal prints, photography books, etc. that might be offered up. (I should stop that, though, as I'm one who really needs to de-clutter. Anyone want my spare Yashica TLR or one of my duplicate photography books?)

Another possible voice for a second fundraiser.

Mike, can I ask you: ignoring the TOP space you need, how does the rest of the house compare between the two?

Life is not always about work. You should evaluate the remaining house areas, and if the new would be a major improvement for you, I'd also urge you to wait and embark on a second round of funding.

[The upstairs living space would be an improvement, no question. It's not much bigger, but it's much better arranged--I could have the pool table in a dry room with windows instead of in the basement, and Zander could have a bedroom and a second room for gaming with his friends (he uses his bedroom for both now). So it would be a little better. We would basically both get better gaming rooms [g]. But if it were just a matter of switching my current house for the other house's living space, I wouldn't even think about it, probably not even if the price were a direct swap. It's really the office space that I covet so much.

Of course there's another related issue--remodeling my current house would increase the office space but also decrease the living space. Since I'm starting out with 1000 sq. ft. overall, making the living space smaller will be noticeable.

Hmm. I'd never thought of that before. Thanks! --Mike]

I wrote a comment here yesterday when there were none yet posted under this topic. I deleted it, deciding to keep out of the move/remodel debate. But that genie is out of the bottle, so I will join the fray.


OK, I know it's your call and I don't know all the particulars that you are dealing with, BUT remodeling is usually a losing proposition IMO. Even remodeling kitchens only returns a few percent on the cost of the remodel, but the rest is usually a dead loss.

Now this doesn't matter if you're dead set on "expiring" in place. The heirs will just get a smaller windfall.

Perhaps with the proceeds of the print sale and the sale of the current TOP world headquarters (assuming there's equity), you'd have significant enough down to drop on the next place. A good mortgage broker can usually find a way to make it happen (or they don't eat). Also, small, local banks are good to work with.

Just to give a little credence to my comments, I flip a few houses every year, so you could say I'm sort of in the remodeling biz, though everyone on the job site gets tense when they see me holding a power tool. Things are clearly calmer when I'm crunching numbers and not fingers and toes.


Dear Mike,

I throw my two cents in with Paul. I have no more wall space for prints but if a 100 dollars from me would be of help as a miniature step on the last stretch to getting the house I am more than happy to pitch in.

Another vote for the house down the street. Like LCK I was only interested in the Soo Line and the Winter Night shots, cost and lack of availability blocked those choices. If you do another sale I think I would just make a donation to reduce your cost and gives you the total revenue.

Unless you're doing it yourself, just buy the space you need. Working with contracters is always a special experience. And if you decrese the rest of the space in the house you might hate that eventually as well.

So if that means one or two more special print offers from you, so be it. I dont think anyone really minds. Im with a few others who have said nothing really jumped out this go round, but I know I would like to support you on the next go round.

If you DO decide to go for a Round 2 print sale, you just HAVE to put the lonely scarecrow photo in there (can't remember the exact caption, but something like "Waiting for Spring"). I would buy at least two, one for me, one for a gift (and maybe even two for gifts ...). I was really hoping it was going to make it for sale Round 1, but obviously it was just not in the cards.

1. TOP is better than any print magazine (about photography, anyway), as Mark Hespenheide stated in his comment.

2. I'm in the demographic segment that Mike Chisholm appealed to in his comment.

3. I had a refund via PayPal, didn't know how to extract it from them and get it into my hands, and didn't want to spend the time to figure it out, so instead I "re-applied" it to TOP.

Hoping for a second fund-raising print sale, maybe of reader-donated images.

I could only afford the lowest tier if I bought a photo so I did a cash donation instead, figured you do better with that by not having to print and mail anything. I'm glad I took part and my only request is that you post photos of the remodel as it progresses.

+1 for the idea of a second round. And something else. The reporting on how close you had come to a goal level created a desire to help push towards the goal bit created in me, at least, a feeling of "ownership" in the goal, and success for you ferlt like success for me, despite the direction of cash flow. I think its important to do that in any future round. If you do go that way, we'll all feel a sense of accomplishment in hitting the next level.


I didn't want a print so I donated. I would happily do that annually. There are a lot worse pay sites around. I was subscribing to TOP a few years back until I got an email telling me that my subscription was cancelled. I assumed that you had cancelled it as I certainly hadn't

I agree that you shouldn't abandon the dream of getting your new house. How about choosing a few images from the Quiet Colour collection. If it were chosen, I would happily donate its use.

Congratulations on a successful sale!

Having read the other comments here, I tend to agree with those suggesting another fundraiser. I think the readership will tolerate it well enough, especially when the goal is well publicized and an obviously exceptional—and worthy—expense.

I also like the idea of a print sale featuring reader contributed work. I think many amateur photographers would feel well compensated to receive a beautiful print of one of their own images and to have the pleasure of knowing that others are willing to pay for one—I know I would. I expect your experience with the "Quiet Color" submissions gives you a pretty good idea of whether this is workable.

I hope Ctein is going to have post on how he printed the various prints. That would be fascinating and so educational.


I missed out on the sale. I will donate soon, but could make it more if I thought it was going to help you get into a bigger place. Don't ever equate yourself with a charity. You give honest value with so rarely pestering us. You have given me hours of thoughtful respite from the cares of the world. What more could one ask.


Me too for another fund-raiser. Remodelling will throw your life into chaos and prevent you working. Three month's time, we'll all be ready with another $52 ($1 per week is a good unofficial sub). Besides, everyone who gave will have access to your guest room. Did I forget to mention that?
C'mon Michael. You know you want that other house….

Mike, Re: you not wanting TOP to be all about you raising money, like a perpetual PBS pledge drive...how often are you planning to buy a new house in the next few years? If it's just the once, I don't really see your point--you're trying to raise X dollars to pay for a one-time purchase.

It might take another fundraiser (or even two), but your readership seems to be very understanding and supportive of this endeavor.

Go for it! Please!

Having grown up the son of a landlord, no, focus on what you do best. The pain and suffering of dealing with tenants will never be compensated by the monetary gains, though maybe I was at the wrong end of the equation. (Cleaning up after tenants). I am however, a firm believer in making an offer on property you are interested in. Low ball is good; don't let the broker tell you it's insulting. My wife and I halved the asking price of the house we are in; I knew they could never sell it the way it was, except to somebody like me, and all of the problems were surface. Mike, make an offer based on where you are now, don't take any BS from agent, their job is to present offers, and don't worry, let them counter. It is possible to insult sellers, but again, the agent needs to do something for their commissinon, convince the sellers this is a serious offer based on your position, not an insult!!!
We remodeled, but we are 1 mile from my wife's museum, and 50 feet from my studio, (though there are zombie raccoons and snow drifts), and we like our home. We can fit a lot of kids in here.

It just sounds as if the other house is better; and don't hesitate to let everybody involved know your situation; it might be a factor.

I made a small donation and would be happy to make another if there were a second round of fundraising. I agree with the several commenters that moving to a larger house will likely be much better than extending your present one.

I notice that Jeff Grant wrote that he had a subscription returned without explanation. When we make subscription or donation there is no certainty that you have received it. I trust PayPal to take the money out of my account but I do not trust them to give it to you!


You could make TOP's Capital Fund Drive permanent by affixing a separate "Donate" button for small voluntary capital contributions from regular readers. (Going out on a limb, this is the non-market equivalent to a small cap IPO listing.)

TOP is a public good.

Reading TOP's freely accessible articles doesn't make them less available to others. Unlike an article in subscription sites which is a private good not available to non-subscribers.

Because public goods are non-exclusive, they are available for everyone's consumption including by "free-riders". (In economics, "free-riding" defines a rational choice, not a value judgment.) Non-exclusivity begets "market failure" which in turn leads to under-provision of public goods over the long haul.

As I understand it, TOP's capital drive is intended precisely to ensure its long-term availability to its readers in its current or expanded form.

The Editor's Print Sale (the initial offering of TOP's Capital Fund drive) is a market-based solution. So are "Kickstarter" campaigns. (What could be more exclusive a private good than a limited edition MJ print which will no longer available to others? Well bought and well sold. Congratulations, btw! And since the Print sale was a market transaction, you can do whatever you please with the proceeds. It's your hard-earned money.)

Which brings me back to the bespoke Capital Drive donation Button. I think regular subscribers, and new ones, will be willing to subscribe to the Capital Drive Button in addition to (or in lieu of) what they are already contributing to the current "generic" button. Not least because a successful Capital Drive reassures them of the continued availability of TOP over the long run.

The current Donate button is unconditional. Readers subscribe to it out of the goodness of their hearts. As such, it's unlikely that it (Donate button) will be crowded-out by a
Capital Drive button.

I think my free-riding days is about to end soon. ;-)

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