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Friday, June 30, 2006

Mike Eats...It

Okay, time for me to eat some well-deserved...crow. (Read: a more vivid, scatalogical word.)

More than three years ago, I got a book, my first, ready for publication. Called The Empirical Photographer, it was a collection of the best of my published essays on photography, plus a few unpublished ones that I liked.

When it was all ready to go, I offered it for sale in advance of publication. Several hundred individuals bought it that way.

Some of those individuals, I am thoroughly ashamed to say, are still waiting for their copies.

There's really no excuse for this, and please don't think I think there is.

What happened was that the first publisher totally screwed up everything, so, over a period of some eight months, I wrestled my money back from them. And then the second publisher I lined up (which was supposed to be better than the first) took all the money and went south with it—everything I had collected from the advance orders and then some. I have not yet been able to get it back, and the possibility that I ever will has diminished almost to nothing. My loss, though, not that of the people who ordered the book.

Eventually, I did put out the book, on a "print-on-demand" site called

Naturally, I still owe the book to all the people who paid for it. And I would have sent it to them long before now, except that I've been so short of ready cash that I just haven't been able to. No excuse, but there it is.

Anyway, mainly thanks to the lovely sponsors of this very blog, I have now filled about half of the original pre-orders for the book, and I have another 90-odd copies here which are in the process of getting packed and mailed. After that, there will be only about 100 more people who I owe books to. So I'm getting there. You know what they say: "Better extremely, outrageously, excruciatingly, indefensibly late than never." (Something like that.)

The Empirical Photographer, Second Edition

Meanwhile, I'm about to put out the Second Edition of the same book. Entirely revised and re-set, is about 235 pages long (the First Edition was 166), includes five additional essays and a bunch of illustrations (I think about 15; I haven't actually counted them yet. The First Edition wasn't illustrated), and it's available in hardcover as well as softcover.

I hope to have the Second Edition available for sale...soon. Watch this space; I'll announce it. I did learn my lesson, at least: all my books now have to be ordered directly from Lulu, and Lulu fulfills all the orders. I never get the money until you get the book, and nobody depends on me to get the orders filled. Makes good sense to me.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

IF YOU preordered the First Edition, still haven't gotten it, and still want it…well, I'm still working on it. I know you don't believe this (and you shouldn't until you have the darn thing clutched in your very own paws), but you'll get one, if'n it kills me.

IF YOU preordered the First Edition, still haven't gotten it, and would rather have the expanded Second Edition, please e-mail me at mcjohnston[at]mac[dot]com and I'll tell you how to order the second edition with the money you've already paid deducted from the price.

IF YOU think I'm a scam artist and just want your money back...well, I'd love to refund your money, but I don't have any money. That's been pretty much the whole problem right along. But e-mail me anyway and I'll put your name on that list. It may be a while, but I want this monkey off my back, so it'll happen eventually.

IF YOU preordered the First Edition and already received it (all the preordered copies were signed, so that's how you can tell), but now you're thinking you've been ripped off again because you'd rather have the Second Edition, please e-mail me and I'll tell you how to get a discount on the Second Edition.

I hope that covers all the possibilities. You'll let me know if it doesn't?

Mike Johnston


Blogger beezerboy said...

Doesn't there seem to be a pervasive theme here? Mike takes your money, for books or the 37th Frame and then gets so busy he forgets to follow through......
I love your writing, but you need organising on the business side. It's shameful.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Roger said...


It's clear from this blog and your articles in various magazines that you're someone who loves the art of writing. Your grocery lists are likely a good read.

And it's clear from this post and your previous revelations regarding this effort that getting your book published has been a labor of love. That it's unrequited love is just life.

I continue to look forward to my copy of the 1st edition and I'll pick up a copy of the second edition as well.

I suspect the process of getting your book out is a book in itself.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Uh, Beezerboy, the whole point of this is that I AM following through here.


10:44 PM  
Blogger John M. Setzler, Jr. said...

Keep up the good work :)

Does the "Sunday Morning Photographer" still exist? If so, where can I find that? I used to enjoy reading it on betterphoto...

10:46 PM  
Blogger David A. Goldfarb said...

How about offering the book at a reduced price as an e-book in PDF format (presuming you're not locked into some sort of contract with I love printed books, but maybe evidently, it hasn't been practical to self publish this book on paper. It would be much easier and cheaper to distribute in electronic form, and you could use the revenue from the e-books to finance the printing of paper copies for those who prefer them, and you could offer a PDF and a partial refund for those who have been waiting and would accept it. I'd buy one.

Yeah, there would probably be some bootlegs, but I think most people will pay for something of value.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Hi David,
Many people who pre-ordered the book have already received a PDF version. Most seem to still want the printed version. Thanks for your suggestions, though.


1:44 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Does the "Sunday Morning Photographer" still exist?"

Hi John,
The old ones are still archived at The Luminous Landscape, but there have been no new ones for a while. I write a monthly column for BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY magazine in England and oversee the blog here, and that's it at present.

Thanks for your kind comments, however.


1:45 AM  
Blogger bokeh said...

Repeat after me:
"My Name is Earl"

7:02 AM  
Blogger Richard said...


I guess I'm among the lucky ones who purchased the first edition and actually received it. I've read it and shared it with friends, who agree with me that it contains some of the best writing to be found on photography. My only criticism is that it needed a good copy editor to catch spelling errors, hyphenated words in the middle of lines of text, and similar mistakes. I hope you've managed to fix that in the second edition. Best wishes.


3:16 PM  

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