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Friday, 01 October 2021


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Oh sure, I decide to come back after a long, long break and now you're cutting back. Just my luck. Well, maybe you'd consider some of my offerings to fill space. Next stop Patreon.

Solid plan! And I'd be motivated to read what the the-online-photographer behind that great rainbow shot has on his mind.
But I still suspect that an Instagram (or similar) account would help attract more readers to the books... (I know it's a lot of work to keep engagement going in social media - but what if balancing the books depends on it?)

Thanks for the update. This is great to hear, and the best part for me, is that you seem to be finding joy in what you are doing.

Hi Mike,

Happy to see that you’re happy and at full steam.
Good luck.


You might like to read the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

I've published several textbooks, so I understand a fair bit of what you're going through.

"I love to revise. (I live for it.)"

I really identified with this, and try to get my students to take the same approach. In my experience, editing takes at least twice as long as the original draft!

Best wishes, and good luck with your new writing endeavours.

Go to the writing, Mike. I wish I could average 1,700 words per day or even come close with my own writing.

Hope you have done the maths. Royalties on books are usually between 10% and 15% (typically sliding scale going up as sales go up), less for trade paperbacks. Let's assume 12.5% which is very high I think as this will presumably be paperback at $8. So you get $1 per sale: you need to sell 20,000 copies.

Not sure what Amazon self-publishing royalty is: perhaps you might make 50% though suspect that is very optimistic. Then you only need 5,000 sales.

[Last I checked or knew, which admittedly was quite a long time ago now, Amazon gave the author 70% of any e-book priced above $4.99, so a $7.99 book would yield $5.60. That's 3,571 sales needed, but add the inevitable fees and expenses and then taxes and I'd probably need to sell an average of somewhere between 4,000 and 4,500 of each book.

While that's being optimistic, it also doesn't seem outside of the realm of possibility. Several things help, which is that once readers read one and know they like you, they are predisposed to buy others. John for example tells me that many readers "discover" a new thriller author they like, binge-read all of his or her existing work, and then the author becomes one of "their" authors, so they'll more or less automatically buy his or her new offerings as they come out. Would this happen with me, when not all the books would be on the same subject? I don't know exactly, but there probably would be *some* synergy anyway, because one book could be enough to get me on the reader's radar. There are many authors I feel kindly disposed toward because of having really liked one of their books--Michael Pollan, Alain de Botton, Bill Bryson, S.C. Gwynne, etc., etc.--and even if I don't buy everything by them I always look at what's on offer.

Another positive possibility that is not guaranteed but is nevertheless common is the "bestseller" idea...i.e. that one book will stand out as being more popular and better-selling than all the rest. So if I write a book called "Classic 35mm Photography" and half the photo sites discuss it and it sells, say, 12,500 copies, then one or two others can be excused for selling 2,500 or 1,500.

I guess I won't know until I try, but it doesn't seem unreasonable. To begin with, I'd probably sell 600-800 of each book to TOP fans, which would be a leg up. And don't forget that there are a LOT of people out there who no longer read TOP but who used to. I even have several hundred people who used to contribute through Patreon who no longer do. While all those people are not involved in the website any more, all of them have heard of me and know who I am. I admit that a few of them are pissed off at me for one reason or another. One former supporter left because he thinks I'm a Nazi sympathizer (because I did not denounce Fred Herzog) and one said in their "Exit survey" on Patreon that "He let his stie [sic] become a megaphone for misogynist hate speech." To which I say: !!!! ???

But I digress. The point is that there are more former readers than current readers and many of those know who I am and still have a positive impression of me, and might investigate a book to consider buying it if they heard of it. --Mike]

You're a good writer. I look forward to the books.

I see you've read the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing pages :-) ! Self-publishing does indeed pay much better royalties. (Amazon gets a HUGE cut for the services they actually provide, but it's basically the only game in town.)

Don't spend too much time or money on cover design! It matters a good deal less for ebooks, and most of it is avoiding being really bad. And the last couple of ebooks I bought had really bad covers—but I'd read that author before and want to read the story, not look at the cover.

I have no useful advice, no words of wisdom, but good on you Mike! If a proof reader would help as you get close let me know.

Hi Mike,
Glad to see you’re off to a fine start. All the best in keeping it up.
One more thought after reading the above comments - up to Zyni - you may need a marketing plan for your first few books, just to help get word out. I’m not suggesting going on a tour, speaking / interviews etc. More working out who are the ‘influencers’ (sorry for use of this modern word - reading over breakfast & still waking up) that will be willing to help spread the word - other photography-related sites, we’ll known photographers, or generally been in the biz. Maybe give them advance copies, and if they like the read, be willing to publish a review, or even do an interview or two for their sites.
Need a few irons in this fire, and plan to allow the time to put in the hard yards spruiking, when the time comes.
Just my $0.02 worth - with no guarantee as to whether I have under or over estimated :~)

LOVE your last line!

Excellent! Exciting stuff, Mike.

I remember when we paid off our mortgage. Went to the credit union that held the mortgage and had them withdraw the money from our checking account. No balloons fell from the ceiling and no ticker tape parade as we pulled out of the parking lot. Rather anticlimactic overall. Still felt good.

First: I wish you the very best for your work and well-being!
But when I read your current text, your plans and your current mood, I became a little uneasy, because it sounded a little too optimistic, a little too energetic to my ears and mind, especially because you have a very long marathon ahead of you and need staying power for a long time,- in addition to TOP.
Recently I heard that it is supposedly good to be an optimistic pessimist.
I apologize very much for not writing, "Yeah, great, go for it," although I actually wish you that.But as my American girlfriend sometimes said to me in these situations, "Don't be so f***in' German."

Well, I am extremely predisposed to buy your books then. I own a signed copy of The Empirical Photographer. And a set of The 35th Frame. Looking forward to your book(s).

I'm looking forward to spending that $7.99.

I want to reserve the first (preferably signed) copy of your many books.

The journey of a thousand miles start with one step.

I'd prepay for a Mike Johnston book.
Even at the Aussie dollar's current exchange rate.

I'm really, really enjoying it. I feel energized and happy.

I can't wait to wake up tomorrow morning and get back to work!

Well, that's something we all dream of. If you can manage this, enjoy it. I can actually read it in your writing how much you're enjoying it, and find it inspirational. Let's see if I can make a similar switch.

Mike, thanks for doing what you need to do in order to keep TOP alive and well; in a way that that will keep you happy, alive and well! I think reinvention and hope are essential to staying productive and young in spirit. Thank you for continuing to share your talent with us.

While I have enjoyed this blog from the very beginning, and while I also wish you all the best, I think your blog is deteriorating. What used to be a blog mostly about photography, is now looking more like a blog about your own current activities. Your longest articles are about diet, neighbors, buying new phones etc. Not to mention how much you write about not havingng the energy to write.

Also, you often spend so much time on comment moderation that you are unable to produce content. I understand that you think the comments are the best part, but to me the best part is your content. I may read a couple of comments now and then, but it is the article I am paying for (yes, I am a patreon).

So my hope for this blog is that you once again focus on your core product. Quality photography content. And since gear review is not your thing, go for the stuff about photography you can't buy. The stuff that is behind and in front of the camera.

All the best, and good luck

Are you sure that "living to revise" is the right approach for producing 8 or more entertaining books to reach your economic comfort zone? I noticed that Kirk Tuck a day or so ago took six hours to pound out 11,000 words on everything he knows about the L-Mount family of cameras and lenses. It was quite coherent. He has a strongly held one-draft methodology.

[I think Arthur Conan Doyle was a one-draft writer too, although I may be wrong about that--I'm remembering a museum placard at a library exhibit 40 years ago. Wallace Stevens wrote on his way to work and remembered what he composed to write it down after he got home. On the other end is Dylan Thomas, who used to toil at his seaside cottage while doing battle with bottles of whiskey and end a day's work with dozens of crumpled balls of paper and two satisfactory couplets. Some writers write long and cut; others write the bones and add more on each of a number of passes. Takes all kinds. --Mike]

You are probably already onto this, but I reckon a book about your "diet & health journey" could be a goer. Plenty of people interested in that topic, you have done the research & lived it.

There are non-fiction writers who write about a range of topics that have become "my" authors, to be bought pretty automatically. Stephen Jay Gould and John McPhee come to mind. Oh, and Barbara W. Tuchman.

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